Breaking barriers: cultural differences

Cultural differences are a big part of exporting and vary from country to country. Researching the business culture of the country you want to trade with could be the difference between landing a successful deal or walking away empty handed. But it can be daunting to think about marketing your product to a new audience, with so many things to take into consideration. That’s why we’ve pulled together the business culture essentials you need to know to win over international buyers.

Language is one of the main cultural barriers to exporting
You need to be able to effectively communicate with buyers to win them over. Before a face-to-face or verbal meeting with a new client, do your research on who you’re meeting and on the company itself. Find out which language the buyer prefers to do business in and hire an interpreter if you’re not fluent. Working with an interpreter or translator means you won’t miss out on any key discussions during your meeting due to language barriers. Keep in mind that tender documents, as well as your website or product information, may also need translation.

Cultural factors to look out for
Before attending an overseas meeting, take into consideration greetings, body language and what to wear.

For example, in Chinese business etiquette, certain gestures convey different meanings, so it’s best to stay away from these. And in Ethiopia, it’s considered bad manners to start a business meeting without greetings and informal questions. Information about business etiquette in foreign markets can be found in our country-specific guides to exporting.

In some countries, such as Iran, gifts are exchanged as part of business meetings. This is seen as a tradition when visiting associates. And in Dubai, business cards should be two-sided – one side should be written in English and the other side in Arabic to show respect to buyers.

To find out more about differences in business etiquette abroad, our in house culture and communications adviser, Gerti Willis can help with tailored support and interactive workshops. You can contact her on or call 0121 607 1942.

Researching the business etiquette of a country gives you a good idea of what to expect from a meeting and makes it easier to spot any potential warning signs. There are always risks with exporting abroad, but being able to identify them early on means you can avoid any difficulties.

A few things to look out for include:
– a politically exposed person (PEP) as they could be more prone to accepting bribery from others
– reluctance or refusal to sign written contracts from buyers
– buyers who are unwilling to follow legal export procedures

Want to know more about business culture and the impact of exporting? Begin your export plan today. For expert advice, email or call us on 0345 222 0159.

A key part of selling your products and services overseas is winning over international buyers. In some cases, this is done through a face-to-face business pitch where you meet with potential buyers and negotiate a price. Business pitching for exporting differs from a standard pitch – for a start, there’s more to consider. Let’s take a look at the ways to pitch successfully and what to keep in mind when trading internationally.

Before any pitch, it’s important to know your prospective buyer. Do this through researching the company, finding out which sector it operates in and how similar businesses are performing in their various markets, financially speaking. This allows you to market your product to the buyer in a way that meets their needs. Often, business culture varies from country to country. Language, customs and values are can make business culture in foreign markets challenging. We regularly run country-specific Business Culture Workshops to educate UK exporters and overcome these differences.

Provide metrics
Paying attention to buyers’ needs means you can position your product or service as a solution for them. Another key aspect of winning over a buyer is establishing trust. Providing examples of metrics for past successes with other companies reassures buyers and gives them more confidence in your product. Presenting this information clearly and concisely helps to establish credibility. Demonstrating that consumers have bought your products in existing markets highlights the potential success in bringing it to a new group of consumers in foreign markets.

Know the facts
Practice makes perfect. Rehearsing your pitch means that you’ll be able to recall various facts and figures that will aid your presentation. If you have a slideshow or other visual elements, this aids a natural delivery. You don’t want to be reading from the screen, you want to be interacting with your buyer. Really knowing your product and projected outcomes emphasises your expertise and may help you secure the deal. Again, by practise pitching to friends and family, you can help preempt difficult questions that may arise and have a wider range of answers ready for the actual pitch.

Negotiation styles
First and foremost when negotiating the price with a buyer, you need to believe in the value of your product. Before you meet the buyer, set a price bracket that you’re willing to negotiate within. Sticking to the price range you have in mind will mean you won’t lose out on any revenue in the business deal. Really believing in what you’re selling means you’ll be able to confidently justify the price to buyers. Even if your product is more expensive than a competitor’s, a confident pitch highlighting what makes your product superior can win you the deal.

Focus on the product, not the price
Presenting the benefits of your product and how it meets buyers’ needs before negotiating price will help you get a better deal. Getting buyers to believe in your product and see it as a good investment will mean they’re willing to pay a higher price.

Buyers sometimes test your certainty in a product by asking for a much lower price than what it’s worth. This is a way of them testing your confidence in the product and sensitivity to price. In this scenario, as mentioned earlier, it’s best to stay within a predefined price negotiation bracket you’ve set. Likewise, negotiation is a two-way street. You can counter a lower price offer with a request for a higher volume of order. Although it’s important to be resilient, it’s also important to remember that if a buyer is asking for too great a compromise in any area, you can walk away from the deal. With economies around the world growing, there are many international markets that you can tap into.

For specialist advice, email us at or call us on 0345 222 0159.

We always have lots of wonderful export opportunities available in a variety of sectors. Currently, there are over 23,000 export opportunities live across the globe. We’ve picked out some of the unusual opportunities that are open right now, so if any of these sound like a good fit for your business, start applying – they’re sure to bring in big profits.

Spain – Reagents for blood tests
Perfect for UK businesses in the science and medical industries, this export opportunity will be highly profitable. The Blood and Tissue Bank in Spain needs supplies of reagents for blood tests, specifically cell culture media and supplements. Can you help out? For more information on trading with Spain, read this guide.

Argentina – Photovoltaic solar energy
Argentina is seeking a UK project partner for a solar energy project. If your organisation specialises in renewable energy, this opportunity is waiting for you. The company is looking for a technology company with experience in photovoltaic solar energy. The firm will be required to provide a range of equipment supplies. Does this sound like you? Apply now. To learn more about international trade with Argentina, take a look at our helpful guide.

Costa Rica – Toys, puzzles and games
Toy blocks, chess sets and model cars are a few of the items needed by a company in Costa Rica. They’re looking for a UK supplier of these products and more, so if this opportunity jumps out at you, start applying now. Our guide to exporting to Costa Rica will help answer any questions along the way.

India – Cheddar cheese
A firm favourite in the UK, cheese is also in high demand in India. A distributor is looking for 12 tonnes of cheese made with microbial rennet. If this opportunity sounds like a good fit for your business, apply now. For an in-depth guide to exporting to India, click here.

USA – Electronic devices
Ideal for IT hardware suppliers, this opportunity to export to the USA will bring in lots of revenue for your company. A government agency based in the States needs a UK supplier of items such as earbuds, headphones and pocket radios. If that sounds like music to your ears, then learn more and apply here. Have some questions about trading with USA? Read our insightful guide.

Norway – Sacks and bags
This high-earning opportunity is waiting for a UK business. Norway wants a large supply of green and blue plastic bags for sorting food waste. If this opportunity sounds good to you, find out more and apply now. Learn more here about exporting to Norway.

If you like the look of these opportunities and want expert advice and guidance, get in touch with us today. We have a dedicated team of International Trade Advisers on hand to provide you with support and tips along your exporting journey. We also regularly run events focusing on the different aspects of exporting. Call us on 0345 222 0159 or email us at to get started.

A business based near Rugby that makes, supplies and installs surveillance and security equipment – including covert devices – has grown its global market share after receiving a decade’s worth of support.

Pace Systems, which is based in Thurlaston, provides everything from technology to training in the field of security and surveillance and has expanded into offering technical surveillance counter measure inspections (TSCMI), or bug sweeping, for clients.
The company was established in 2001 and, over the past ten years, has been supported by the International Trade Hub at the Coventry and Warwickshire Chamber of Commerce with its export market.

Pace now works around the globe including across Europe, the Far East, Middle East and South East Asia.

The company has recently enjoyed significant business wins in South America for its TSCMI sweeps and it is a market that continues to grow with major corporations and states as well as high net worth individuals.

Robert Dyer, of Pace Systems, said: “Our international markets are growing all the time. Obviously, because of the nature of what we do, we have to be careful about saying exactly who we work for and where we operate but we are active in countries right across the globe.

“We are renowned for our exceptional design and engineering expertise in the security and surveillance market and have been since our foundation in 2001.
“On the back of that, we have developed the TSCMI side of the business to help us to diversify and grow. It basically offers a wide range of clients – from individuals to multi-national companies – products and services that can protect them from industrial espionage threats.

“We’ve worked in offices, boardrooms, private homes and even super yachts on behalf of clients who have concerns that they are the subject of espionage. We work comprehensively and confidentially and clients appreciate our high levels of professionalism.

“Working with the Chamber has helped us to grow our overseas markets, including utilising the contacts of the Department for International Trade all around the world to help us to grow in those places.

“We would encourage other businesses in the area to make the most of that help.”

Parminder Hayer, of the Coventry and Warwickshire Chamber of Commerce’s International Trade Team, said it was vital that businesses in all sectors looked to broaden their horizons.

He said: “Pace Systems is a very interesting company in an exciting field that is growing significantly.

“The firm has worked with us here at the Chamber for ten years and have developed a strong presence around the world. That is expanding even further with its new range of products and services.

“It’s a great example to other companies across this region of how to grow a business through overseas trade – something that is becoming more and more important – and how it’s important to access support with that.”

Based in Shrewsbury, Shropshire, PomPom Galore Ltd was launched by Marisa Harrison and Kat Bright in 2014. They specialise in decorative pom pom accessories such as garlands, hair accessories, fairy lights and stationery – all traditionally hand crafted using high quality wool yarn…

The challenge
Its pom pom products are stocked in retail outlets across the UK, and Kat and Marisa have also attracted the attention of overseas buyers at UK trade shows. However, they wanted to put in place a more strategic approach to their overseas sales and turned to DIT for help. In particular, the company wanted to exhibit at showUP in Amsterdam – a two-day trade homeware/ gift and interior accessories fair that showcases young design talent alongside established, international brands.

How DIT helped
The international trade adviser (ITA) it was working with suggested ERDF funding and after supporting the application, PomPom Galore received £1118, which paid for half of its costs in attending the exhibition, flights and hotel accommodation.
It also received guidance on exhibiting, which helped Marisa and Kat make the most of their time at the fair and boost their confidence about exploring new markets.

The result
At showUP, PomPom Galore introduced itself to a number of important contacts across Europe. Since then, it has achieved additional sales of £5000 from more than six countries, with the largest orders coming from Ireland and France. Its turnover has already increased, which has enabled it to employ an extra member of staff in the operations department, and orders worth tens of thousands of pounds over the next four years are anticipated.

“Securing the ERDF funding enabled us to attend showUP, which was a really important, niche trade show for us, but for which we didn’t have the working capital to justify it,” said Marisa. “Since returning, we have quickly increased our European stockists and customers and we have already seen an increase in turnover as a direct result. We wouldn’t have been able to do this quite as quickly had we not had the funding. We would advise any business to see if they are eligible for an ERDF grant because it could be the catalyst for growth.”

Want to find out how we can support your business?

We have an experienced team of International Trade Advisers ready to help you become a global success story, get in touch today.
T: 0345 222 0159

Rachel Simpson are beautifully unique shoes, worn for weddings and special occasions across the globe – it’s a dream come true for the Birmingham-born shoe designer, who began her company from a room at her parents’ house in 2008…

Putting her heart and sole into vintage-style shoes…
Rachel describes herself as “an accidental businesswoman”, having organically grown the company from very small beginnings. After she graduated with a degree in footwear design from De Montfort University in Leicester, she spent several years working with several high street brands and also undertook private commissions for shoes – most of which were for wedding shoes.

She quickly spotted a gap in the market because she found there was little choice for discerning brides in the footwear department: either high-end designer or very traditional styles. Rachel wanted to do more – her love of vintage design and her passion for beautifully made shoes came together and the Rachel Simpson brand was born.

Demand for her unique, hand-crafted shoes, which are made by highly talented shoemakers in Spain, grew and before she knew it, she was fielding enquiries from overseas from women who were keen to wear her shoes on their wedding day. It led her early on to contact the Department for International Trade (then UKTI) for help in growing her business overseas.

A step up…
Rachel had attended trade bridal shows in New York, which led to her products being sold in selected stores in the USA. But when she began to get more orders and enquiries in Europe, Rachel decided to adopt a more proactive approach to selling on the continent, especially Germany, where the vintage trend exploded as she earmarked two shows where she knew her shoes and accessories had to be seen: Interbride in Dusseldorf, Germany, and Bridal Fashion Week in Barcelona – but finding the funds for two international shows was too much for a small company that employs just 10 people.

“I knew I had to go to Europe because business was starting to soar – it was crazy,” she said. “There’s no way we could have done both shows because they are expensive. It was too much of a gamble.”

Her international trade adviser (ITA) recommended that she applied for ERDF, which would match-fund the company’s outlay. Her application was successful, which meant it was financially viable to attend both.

Head over heels…
The gamble paid dividends for Rachel. Not only did she consolidate relationships with existing customers – many of whom she had not met before – her unique wedding shoes and accessories caught the eye of myriad buyers from across the globe.

By the time the doors closed at Interbride, Rachel had picked up 10 new customers – all German buyers wanting to stock her products – and made immediate sales of €26,000, with significant further orders in the pipeline.

In Barcelona, she signed up a further 10 customers, including buyers for the first time in Italy and Japan, and sold €30,000 worth of orders while still in Spain. On her return to the UK, she took another €10,000 worth of orders – and counting – resulting from her attendance at the show.
And weeks afterwards, she continued to follow up a number of strong leads.

The result…
A stronger order book, a newly created customer services post to look after wholesale customers, a part-time member of staff has been appointed full time, and Rachel appointed her first creative assistant post – all within weeks of the two shows.

“Exporting has always been a huge part of the business but we’ve experienced accelerated growth over the past two years,” she said. “The ERDF funding meant I was able to attend two huge shows in Europe and as a result we have won a considerable amount of business and it has put us in an even stronger position for growth. I’d recommend any business to apply for the fund – you never know where it could take your business.”

Want to start walking the walk on a global platform?
We have an experienced team of International Trade Advisers ready to help you become a global success story. Get in touch today to find out about our ERDF SME International Growth Project and the support that you could receive to grow your business overseas…

T: 0345 222 0159

Wow Zone positions itself as a global digital agency with specific expertise that covers everything from eCommerce platforms to online development and social media to full-scale digital projects. Since founding what was then a web design business in 2002 from his Birmingham living room, Qasim Majid has gone on to merge with another business and has also acquired another. He now has 25 staff in Birmingham and London.

Success is just a click away…

Wow Zone specialises in developing eCommerce and transactional web applications, providing clients with design and development services, as well as support, integration and marketing activation.

It has worked with household names and big brands to help them become more efficient online and to ensure their customers have a better online experience when navigating their websites or buying products.

Since the company launched in 2002, it has created more than 1200 websites and has undertaken more than 1800 digital campaigns, which has resulted in sales totaling more than £100 million for its clients.

Wow Zone’s highly talented team has much sought-after coding skills and they build websites from scratch, which enables them to create bespoke websites for businesses with very complex digital needs. “We’re not just technologists,” says Qasim. “Our USP is that we have a deep understanding of marketing techniques, which provides another value-added level of service for our clients. We’re able to build eCommerce or transactional websites from our client’s customers’ perspective.”

A global space…

The digital sector is, by its very nature, already heavily integrated into the global market, which makes the leap from working within the UK market to exporting services and products a natural step.

In 2016, Qasim was ready to take his business to the next level. He had already merged with another company and went on to buy London-based Raw Jam, a leading agency that specialises in Python, the programming language, and Django, the free, open-source web framework. With the new teams in place, he recognised Wow Zone now had the technical expertise to bid for increasingly complex and big projects.

Qasim knew there was potential for his company to succeed in the USA and he was also keen to further foster relations in the Middle East, where he had undertaken a number of digital projects.

“British digital expertise is in demand and we knew that with our technical capabilities, we had the opportunity to spread our wings further,” said Qasim. “I knew I could get help and advice as I’d already been in touch with international trade advisers, so I had no hesitation in going to them again to see how I could go about it and if I could get any financial assistance.

“We’re a successful company, but to head out to on a fact-finding mission to see the lay of the land is a financial risk. Funding is hugely helpful.”
On the advice of his ITAs, Qasim applied for ERDF funding to help fund the trips to the USA and to Dubai, where Arab Health, the largest gathering of healthcare and trade professionals in the Middle East and North Africa region, was being held. The company received £2070.99 ERDF funding for the US trip and a further £450 to participate in the Midlands Engine market visit to Arab Health, where there were more than 4,200 exhibitors and 103,000 visitors from more than 150 countries.

The result…

Qasim said the visit to Arab Health went better than he expected – signing off a deal worth £15,000 with a member of the same Midlands Engine delegation and he returned with a number of leads to follow up.

At the same time, other members of the team headed to Las Vegas and Boston to follow up on conversations about a web-development project.
Its decision to fly out to meet an organisation it had been courting for some months also paid off: it signed a deal for a £100,000 project to deliver an online patient management system for a large health organisation. It had also lined up other prospects and by the time the Wow Zone team was back on the plane to UK, it had won another substantial project to build a website for a financial company and its franchises.
“There aren’t many companies with the right level of technical competency and understanding as the Wow Zone team, even so we were very pleased to have won the business,” said Qasim.

“Getting the match funding was a huge help for us and thanks to the business success we have had in the USA on our first outing there, we are actively marketing the company strategically at specific sectors because we are confident that the potential for more business is massive.

“The ERDF funding helped to soften the financial blow when we went out to Dubai and the USA but the investment was definitely worth it and I’d encourage any company to apply because it could help to turn around your prospects. The funding is one step in the process it’s then all about building relationships.

Want to start your own journey?

We have an experienced team of International Trade Advisers ready to help you become a global success story. Get in touch today to find out about our ERDF SME International Growth Project and the support that you could receive to grow your business overseas…

T: 0345 222 0159

Birmingham-based bridal wear brand Rachel Simpson is making its mark on Japanese weddings, with the company now selling its products across Japan with support from the Department for International Trade (DIT).

Rachel, the designer behind Rachel Simpson, established the brand ten years ago after studying footwear design at university. After spotting a gap in the market for less-traditional bridal shoes, she set-up a workshop in her garden to start producing her unique looks, which remain available at an affordable price without compromising on quality. The brand, which designs all of its products in the UK, now has a collection that incorporates occasion and evening shoes as well as handbags.

Rachel Simpson initially started working with DIT in 2010 and has since received support to attend two bridal wear trade shows – Bridal Week in Barcelona and Interbride in Dusseldorf. By providing the business with international exposure, it has helped it secure 18 new business deals Europe and now in Japan, increasing annual turnover to £1.2million.

The business started exploring opportunities in Japan after noticing the growing demand for western-style wedding ceremonies in the country. However, before it entered the market, the business ensured it undertook substantial market research, with DIT also supporting through translation services.

Selling to Japan is just the latest step in the brand’s export journey. Alongside its Kings Norton showroom, it has an international-facing website, with stockists across Europe, the Americas, Japan, New Zealand and Australia now selling Rachel Simpson stock.

Rachel Simpson, Founder of Rachel Simpson, said: “It’s so exciting that my shoes and accessories are now part of weddings taking place as far away as Tokyo. Seeing my business grow in this way makes me realise how far it has come from when I first started out.

“DIT’s support has been invaluable. From funding our trip to the trade shows to finalising the documents we needed to make it all happen, it’s been incredibly helpful knowing that support is available. I am positive that if we can do it, other businesses can as well.”

Ian Harrison, Head of Exports for the Midlands at Department for International Trade, said: “There is a global appetite for luxury and quality British goods, and Rachel Simpson is a great example of a business that has made the most of this – first in Europe and now further afield.

“Exporting does not come without its complexities – translations, finding the right suppliers or meeting the right contacts being just some of them. We have a number of International Trade Advisers on the ground in the West Midlands who are here to support aspiring businesses as they learn more about new markets. We also hold a number of workshops and events that are built to find solutions to businesses’ concerns when it comes to exporting.

“I would encourage any business owner inspired by Rachel’s story to get in touch with a local trade adviser today – that first step in your exporting journey might just be more accessible than you thought.”

Companies can find information and a current list of opportunities through visiting or contacting:

DIT West Midlands
T: 0203 314 1289

West Midlands furniture manufacturer Boss Design has boosted its presence in the Middle East after securing a £500,000 order with support from the Department for International Trade (DIT).

Boss Design, established in 1983, designs and manufactures high-end furniture including seats, chairs and pods for workspaces and the hospitality, retail and leisure sectors. Its products are featured in universities, businesses and airlines across Europe, the US and the Middle East. The contract is to supply one of the world’s biggest Middle Eastern banks with £500,000 worth of branded and bespoke seating and furniture. It is one of Boss Design’s most valuable contracts in the Middle East to date and its products will appear in the bank’s branches across the country.

Boss Design has a well-established local presence in the Middle East, with a manufacturing facility located in Dubai. Exports currently account for approximately 15 per cent of its £40million annual turnover and the business expects this percentage to increase significantly by the end of 2018.

Philip Duggan at Boss Design, said: “We pride ourselves on being pioneers in design, with the aim of creating innovative solutions for commercial spaces that are attractive and functional. From design to manufacture, our products are British-stamped, and this has been crucial to our success in the US and the Middle East where there is real demand for British goods of high quality and design.

“We have inevitably faced some challenges when increasing our exports, such as preparing for and navigating changes to tax and currency fluctuations. However, teaming up with the advisers at DIT has made things less complex. They offer a really clear explanation of exporting for our target markets and have also introduced us to key contacts. If we can successfully get our products to the Middle East, so can other West Midlands businesses.”

Ian Harrison, Head of Exports, The Midlands, Department for International Trade, said: “Demand for and desirability of British products in locations such as the Middle East is growing. The contract with a large Middle Eastern Bank is a huge achievement for Boss Design and represents a significant opportunity for the business.

“Businesses looking to tap into the opportunities in the Middle East should get in touch with us at DIT, where we have 31 international trade advisers in the West Midlands committed to helping local businesses expand to new locations.”

Companies can find information and a current list of opportunities through visiting or contacting:

DIT West Midlands
T: 0345 222 0159

Birmingham-based cyber security business, Forensic Pathways, is poised for international success after securing new contracts in South Africa and Latin America with support from the Department for International Trade (DIT).

Established in 2001, the business develops forensic software, products and services for clients in law enforcement, security services, and legal and financial sectors. The company also provides due diligence, fraud investigation, cyber security services, and dark web monitoring and investigation services to its corporate and private sector clients.

Forensic Pathways has been working with DIT since 2003 to help capitalise on international demand for sophisticated, British-made forensic software, products and services. The business has already established a strong presence in overseas markets including France, America, Canada, Zambia and South Africa.

Exporting currently accounts for 60% of the firm’s annual turnover and this is expected to grow by 15% in 2 years, with new contracts in Latin America and retention of contracts in South Africa. The business is also expecting to capitalise on potential opportunities in Slovenia and develop a greater presence in the US market.

The success of Forensic Pathways’ international expansion is being celebrated in DIT’s Exporting is GREAT campaign. The campaign is currently showcasing 30+ UK businesses – from a range of sectors and regions – to inspire and support firms up and down the country to export.

Deb Leary, CEO and founder of Forensic Pathways, said:

“Forensics is a small but global market, meaning that exporting is fundamental to what we do. When branching out to new regions such as Latin America, we have been able get in touch with DIT representatives in the area who have helped us establish a clear exporting strategy and in some instances introduced us to buyers.

“Throughout our exporting journey, DIT has given us the information and guidance to export confidently and avoid any costly errors. If we can do it with support from DIT, so can other businesses in the Midlands.”

Ian Harrison, Director of Exports, The Midlands, Department for International Trade, said:

“Forensic Pathways quickly recognised that there was strong international demand for its software, products and services and by working with our advisers, was able to establish an exporting strategy across a growing number of countries.

“Businesses looking to export shouldn’t hesitate to contact one of our many teams located across the West Midlands. Our advisers can offer a whole range of exporting support to help businesses capitalise on the many international opportunities that are out there.”

Companies can find information and a current list of opportunities through visiting or contacting:

DIT West Midlands
T: 0345 222 0159