5 tips to break into the export supply chain

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Tapping into a large international market can help you rapidly grow your business. As a vital link in a strong chain of businesses, you can gain access to networks, opportunities, industries and regions that you might not be able to achieve alone.

Even if you don’t sell internationally yourself – or don’t even deal with the end exporter – you still need to understand some of the complexities of the export market and ensure you have the necessary capabilities to do so.

Here are 5 key steps to help your business succeed as an export supply chain vendor.

1. Research the market

Start by understanding where in the supply chain your product/service fits – and the opportunity it has in the global market. Consider where your product is being used now, and whether there are other potential applications for it.

Take advantage of the expertise and assistance available to you – starting by identifying any of your own staff who have experience working with export businesses, including your potential customers.

2. Assess your capability

Depending on where your product is sold, you may need to translate key information into multiple languages. What’s more, different markets have different requirements, for example, of safety standards and certifications, or use of certain component products. Assess whether you’ll need to change your product or processes before you can take full advantage of new global business.

You should also make sure that your intellectual property (IP) is adequately protected in the markets your product will be used and sold in.

Finally, consider whether your business has the management commitment, resources and financial position to take on new potential markets.

3. Develop a strategy

Before you join the export supply chain, you should prepare a strategy as part of your business plan. Your strategy should answer questions such as:

  • What can you offer potential domestic customers who export overseas that your competitors can’t – such as price point, innovation, distribution or customer service?
  • How will you market and brand your business to reach new customers?
  • What is your capacity to deliver – can you ramp up your production to meet large orders?
  • Will you need to adapt your operations to meet the needs of your export customers? E.g. warranties, sales support.
  • Can you gain financial or other support to win new work?

 4. Identify potential customers

Once you’ve established your capability and identified your competitive advantage, you will need to find potential customers. One of the ways to do this is by building your networks. A good method of making connections in your target industry is by joining its industry association, which represents the interest of its members. Most of these associations organise industry events and conferences, and other forums where members can share advice and knowledge.

5. Nurture your relationships

The success of your business still centres around relationships. Even when you’ve established connections and partnerships with supply chain managers, you’ll still need to nurture those relationships to ensure repeat business – and to make new contacts.

A PwC survey* found that supply chain managers had three main objectives in their relationships:

  • Leveraging the capabilities of their suppliers
  • Delivering cost savings
  • Reducing their risk exposure.

To build a successful supply chain partnership, it’s important to think about how your business can meet these objectives.

Government and private organisations also deliver a range of helpful workshops and resources for entering the export market that can help you understand what’s involved in being part of an export supply chain. Check your state’s chamber of commerce or department of industry to find out more or visit ExportFinanceAustralia.gov.au, business.gov.au and austrade.gov.au.

Download Export Finance Australia’s free Supply chains: building international opportunities eBook for more information and resources.1 Forbes Insights, 3 Ways To Turn Suppliers Into Partners, 2018

* PwC Supplier Relationship Management How key suppliers drive your company’s competitive advantage, 2013