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16 November 2015

Doing Cross-border Business for the First Time

Posted By: AIB Business
Doing Cross-Border Business

One of the biggest challenges currently facing small business owners is dealing with the decrease in demand in their home market. Exporting is clearly one option, which can significantly help increase turnover and enhance business performance. For a first-time exporter, trading in Northern Ireland is the perfect place to begin, writes Thomas Hunter McGowan from InterTradeIreland.

Northern Ireland holds many advantages for businesses based in the Republic of Ireland (and vice-versa). It is geographically closer than our other European neighbours, and there are no language barriers. Cross-border trade is currently valued at €3.048bn – so substantial opportunities exist in both jurisdictions.

Here are some tips to get you started:


1. Take stock of your performance in your home market

  • Identify the challenges and opportunities (SWOT analysis).
  • How do you perform at home?
  • How well have you the home market covered geographically?
  • How do you compare against your competitors?
  • Do you supply all the multiples – are any markets closed to you?

2. Discuss with your team the opportunities and challenges of entering a new market 

  • Lead the exercise yourself unless you really believe someone else in the team is better equipped to do this.
  • Discuss why you want to extend and grow (have facts and figures to hand).
  • Identify your readiness.
  • Fix any blockages.
  • Identify all challenges.
  • Set ambitious but achievable targets.
  • Identify rewards that will arise from new markets.

3. Visit your target marketplace

  • Spend time in your target marketplace.
  • Meet and talk to as many relevant people as possible, even if they are unlikely to be immediate clients or customers. They are all sources of invaluable market information.
  • Understand the retail or distribution channels for your product.
  • Examine competitors closely.
  • Get as much detail on “price” as possible: End or retail price, wholesale price, discounts
  • Understand the marketing and promotional approach of suppliers and retailers.
  • Estimate volume.
  • Size the work (the scale of the task in hand).
  • Note any differences from your home market.

4. Engage an experienced market research consultant based in the target marketplace

  • You or your team are best placed to carry this out and will learn a lot from the research process.
  • However, a professional marketer based in the new market can assemble facts and figures and reach sources quicker than you may do yourself.
  • An independent professional can also provide realistic feedback on the opportunities and challenges.
  • InterTradeIreland’s Acumen programme offers a number of tailored supports to help you with this research.

5. Pull together all your information and research

  • Collate all the information and material you have assembled.
  • Draw up a research analysis report – this will clarify many issues and needs, and present possible opportunities for you.

6. Proceed to draw up a market entry plan

  • A formal market entry plan will establish your date of readiness.
  • It should clarify the dos and don’ts and identify priorities and must dos.
  • It will identify the physical, human and financial resources required to achieve your objectives.
  • It will give you the opportunity to test likely outcomes, before serious money and resources are committed.
  • Having a market entry plan increases the likelihood of success.

 Supports available from InterTradeIreland

InterTradeIreland can help your business capitalise on the extraordinary possibilities that exist right here on our doorstep.

  • If you own an established business, and you want to explore your export options within the island, Acumen can help fund key sales and marketing personnel in the cross-border territory.
  • If you have a micro-business looking to identify cross-border markets and customers to win new business, funding for specialist consultancy support is available through Elevate.
  • The Trade Accelerator Voucher scheme provides small businesses with financial support towards professional advice in relation to cross-border trading and regulation, such as legal, accountancy, marketing and other business services.

If you would like more details on any InterTradeIreland export supports, including eligibility criteria and application details, please visit


Written by: Thomas Hunter McGowan, CEO, InterTradeIreland


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