The BCFA observes the impact of multiple brand tactics on its members’ value – both that perceived by the public and stakeholders, and that evidenced financially through sales and profit. In the fifth and final instalment of the series, Jeremy Stein looks at how companies can take an established brand overseas …

Brand extension is an exciting and challenging process. Of course, it is not a new concept, but these days with the world shrinking it is easier to make a commercial case for working within new markets. There is obviously a skill and discipline needed in exporting to and trading in different countries, and many reasons why even the most trusted brand names in one country can fail in others.

From implementing your expansion strategy to customer aftercare, understanding your market and ensuring you undertake extensive research is the foundation upon which to base your decisions. There are the obvious things to look for, such as competition and language barriers, but different cultural norms also need to be examined meticulously.

The internet has done so much in allowing access to a global marketplace, but filtering through the vast volumes of information to decipher what’s relevant is a huge task.

Once you’ve exhausted your research, it’s important to visit the countries in which you’re looking to start trading. It may seem like an obvious point to make, but it can be easy to get sucked into lucrative offers from local experts who may bring opportunities to your attention that “need” to be acted on quickly – before you’ve even had chance to set foot on foreign soil.

Where do you go for help?
There is no one-size-fits-all strategy or business plan template when expanding overseas. That being said, we’ve all heard the old proverb “don’t reinvent the wheel”, and this rings truer than ever here. While you may be chartering new territories with your own business, many others have done it all before, so make use of all of the expertise, resources and guidance available to you.

There are lots of resources available to support businesses that are just commencing their exporting journey and it is always a good idea to make the most of these. The BCFA, for one, offers support to all of its members, and there are Government departments keen to help incentivise exports.

“Don’t get too caught up with the differences you discover in those new markets – every product or service is responding to a want or need which is global, not country-specific”

Larger organisations are able to offer a wealth of advice, guidance and case studies on taking your business from a local to global standpoint, and many have found that tapping into this presents a fantastic opportunity to reconnect with other business owners you’ve previously networked with.

Spotting, nurturing and expanding talent within your own workforce can be an invaluable task to undertake when looking to broaden your brand. Once you have decided it’s the right time to expand your business and take it overseas – be it inside or outside the EU – one of the key things to consider is whether or not you have the expertise within your current teams to manage this change effectively.

It’s a good idea to research whether your customers will respond better to a local representative, or whether exporting from the UK is a better option. It’s worth considering that investing in your existing workforce can save costs down the line.

While there remains a science to brand expansion, the results can never be guaranteed. As with all scientific projects, investing early on in your initial research will provide the best possible outcome. More often than not, the knowledge that you gain from these in-depth research methods allows you to forecast far more accurately for the long term.

Don’t get too caught up with the differences you discover in those new markets – every product or service is responding to a want or need which is global, not country-specific. So, while cultural differences are essential to understand, when it comes to planning your brand positioning, these shouldn’t override the brand’s core values.

Remember to take your time, research the market, listen to advice, find the best people to carry out the task and, whilst being sensitive to local culture, stay true to your brand’s message – no matter where or how that message is delivered.

Jeremy Stein is MD of the British Contract Furnishing Association (BCFA), which boasts over 250 members including manufacturers, suppliers and designers.