By Lara Morgan, Author Of 'More Balls Than Most'

Should you wish to discover more about the possibility of expanding to an export market, the cheapest way these days is to get on a plane and visit it. Here you will find a list of suggestions to pre-plan your trip to make it as useful as possible and some ‘in country’ hints and tips for maximising your success on arrival.

Prior to visiting a new marketplace it is necessary to make sure that your time will be utilised fully while there, so the more research that is done prior to visiting, the more cost- effective the actual trip. Here are some questions you should be asking yourself.

- Do I have appointments arranged which may lead to orders? Aim for eight solid appointments each day – some of these may only be catalogue drop-offs, pre-prepared the night before. In a strange place, it is interesting and fun getting around and, after all, if you maximise your exposure and opportunity potential you may have a good reason to come back.

You should have a target sales figure in mind which more than covers the cost of exploration and market research. Here is a clever way of appearing slightly more sizable than you are – have your PA (a luxury I could not afford in the early days, and you could do this yourself) fax or email in advance of your global tour announcing your arrival days and availability. This shows that your time is limited and, when done in advance of trips, it is a powerful way of filling up your diary.

- Do my products require any particular licences or special paperwork for importation into a new market?

- Are there any barriers to entry? If so, what are they? Are there any leading suppliers native to the particular marketplace that have monopolies?

- What is the customer’s response to the potential of my visit?

- Is my industry in growth or decline within this market?

- Is there financial stability?

- Are there any potentially difficult currency issues?

- Is there a sample tax? For example, two of the islands in the Caribbean have a US$400 sample tax, which you have to pay in order to take samples and brochures in.

- Will there be adequate mobile coverage? Will there be facilities for email or fax? Check to see if communications are OK.

- Should staff security issues be reviewed?

If these questions point to a negative and unprofitable outlook, then a trip to that particular marketplace may not be viable. If the answers are positive and the market looks encouraging, the next path would be to contact various organisations who can help.

I have always found asking for assistance and advice easy. You are meant to be able to get assistance from government funding and organisations, and of course these days there is a huge amount of information – and useful check lists – available online on any subject you care to imagine. So use these sources, they will save you hours of pointless thinking and planning and allow you to concentrate on content and adding value.

Do you trade in other countries and do you want to raise the profile of your company? Then apply for the 2012 International Trade Awards and propel your business into new markets and accelerated growth. Now in their fifth year, the 2012 International Trade Awards sponsored by American Express Foreign Exchange Services is the only UK wide business awards to exclusively recognise the success of exporters, importers and those trading overseas.

From More Balls Than Most by Lara Morgan, www.companyshortcuts.com Published by Infinite Ideas