Top tips from UK businesses for international trading success


SMEs are the lifeblood of our economy, accounting for 99.9% of all UK businesses and generating around 50% of turnover in the UK private sector1. They also account for an increasing amount of the UK’s international trade, either directly or as part of wider supply chains. So, if you’ve never considered exporting as part of your business strategy where should you start?

To help you take that first step, we spoke to 1,000 UK business owners and decision makers2 to ask them about their top tips for success. Here’s what they told us.

  1. Make sure there is a market for your product/service before you start – there’s no guarantee there will be a demand in every overseas market, so to maximise your chance of success, think about what research you’ll need to carry out.
  2. Make sure your UK business is doing well first – establishing your home market is an important step, especially as it enables you to develop key processes before embarking on expanding your market.
  3. Invest in obtaining market intelligence on your sector in the country you want to trade in – this should save time and money in the longer term and will help you mitigate against any potential barriers to entry.
  4. Have a plan B – your chosen market might not turn out to be the right one, so while you’re doing your research explore one or two alternatives. That might also include diversifying at home through reaching a new audience or developing a new product or service.
  5. Hire employees who speak the language of the country you’re trading in – don’t feel you need to restrict your ambitions to English-speaking markets. Having language skills in your team could help enormously when breaking into a new market. That applies across websites, marketing and even the currency of the ecommerce platform.

The business owners we spoke to also shared the adaptations they made to their business to ensure success abroad. These included:

  • Increasing social media presence in the market.
  • Marketing and advertising products or services differently.
  • Changing the pricing structure.
  • Offering more products or services.
  • Hiring local staff.
  • Introducing new products or services.
  • Adapting the product/service to suit the local market or comply with in-country regulation.
  • Working with a local partner or distributor.

If this gives you the confidence to take your first steps towards exporting you can find out more about the support we can provide to you on our trading internationally webpages.


  1. Source: UK Small Business Statistics | FSB, The Federation of Small Businesses
  2. The statistics and insights are drawn from research commissioned by Santander UK and undertaken by OnePoll of 1000 UK business owners and decision makers on 14-25 January 2022.