20 steps for export success in South Africa: African Brand Link

Calling all South African exporters… African Brand Link (ABL) assists members to develop into experienced, efficient export businesses…

Whether you are exporting from South Africa or providing services across borders, we help members to familiarise themselves with the export sequence and provide important information and tools that are needed along the way for easy reference.

Export business opportunities from South Africa

Here are 20 basic steps for becoming an exporter and successfully exporting from South Africa to other countries – each step has several components.

The steps to export success

  1. Verifying viability. Once you have a successful local business where local resources, sales and profits can finance your export endeavours, exporting becomes a potentially viable option. Examine the viability and barriers to expanding from South Africa into export markets – such as language, cultural and other export barriers. Use an export business viability checklist to judge whether your export ideas are viable. Furthermore, know-how needs to be developed and resources need to be allocated. Undertake an export SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses Opportunities, Threats) analysis and find out what export business capabilities are available. The SWOT analysis needs to be reviewed during the process of export business plan development. Conduct a feasibility study of export business opportunities, production, transport and financing for each export business opportunity.
  2. Shortlist and research export markets: Identify export markets. To decide which country, evaluate and narrow the list down to no more than three to five countries with the greatest potential – segment larger countries. Then from those, identify the most suitable countries – one or two, and – usually in close in proximity or culture/language or some other factor. Understand the selected foreign environment and identify potential customers and their needs to formulate an effective marketing strategy for exporting from South Africa. Segment the target market by age, or income or other segmentation to focus marketing efforts.
  3. Commitment to export mission statement: It is best practice to put decisions down on paper. Once you have established whether your current business is viable and export-ready, from all stakeholders obtain written buy-in and commitment to export. This commitment to the export mission needs to include a broad export mission statement that outlines the export plan in general terms. Include interim export objectives such as: the reasons for export, major deliverables, timelines, budget, intended export strategy. Next, establish and approve an interim export budget needed for research and create a formal export plan. This stage is about export planning and preparation.
  4. Export trainers: Engage in export training to understand and prepare for exports. Learn all the ins and outs of exporting. Export trainers also support you in achieving your export goals. At ABL, we provide critical information and training needed for navigating the complexities of exporting from South Africa. We supply training and reference resources.
    • Export tools: Export checklists, export readiness checker, export business planner, export SWOT analyser, country risk evaluator, export trade map, product and service maps, translation resources, currency conversion, export document completion guide, South Africa and foreign tariff databases, export software & technology solutions, export tracking tools.
    • Export referencing: Information such as industry, international trade agreements, specific export regulations, export documentation libraries, country information and codes, port codes, telephone codes, electricity standards, cargo types and symbols, product categories, electronic marketplaces, export law, exchange control, export articles, export glossary, export acronyms.
    • Export Q&A: We collate Q&A based on our expertise in export issues, events, export content and questions from our members.
  5. Develop an export plan: One of the most important steps in the export process is preparing an export plan – which needs to incorporate an updated export SWOT analysis, export objectives and export marketing strategy. Developing an export business plan is an important step in entering the international marketplace from South Africa. Many export associations offer step-by-step guides and worksheets on the process of creating components of an export business plan and export marketing plan. Links for export plan guides and useful export planning tools are provided to members. The export strategy needs to answer to unique challenges experienced by South African businesses who export to international markets.
  6. Export marketing strategy: The export marketing mix is about understanding and meeting the dynamic market requirements efficiently and effectively, based on the objectives of the export business, while also considering and minimising risks. The final step of the process is sales, whereby offering the products and services at a price that customers can afford to and are willing to pay. The marketing effort brings awareness to the customer and convinces them to buy. Once purchased, the products/services are delivered in a way that is convenient for the customer. Some of the external export risk factors include social and cultural norms, economic patterns and competitive activities.
  7. Costing and pricing strategy: Negotiation helps to determine whether to lower or raise the price or to change other terms of the sale. Review the costing and pricing strategy on a regular basis.
  8. Export financiers: Arranged by worldwide trade bodies to create awareness of export financing of products and services, as well as investment and other business opportunities abroad. Always register and book early for export events to avoid disappointment.
  9. Implement export plans
    • Financing: It is very likely that financing will be needed. Staff, facilities and other resources may also be needed to support export activities. How much is needed, who will finance it?
    • Manage risk: Responsibilities and assumptions present risk. An export contract commits the business to responsibilities such as delivering on time and to standard and assumes receipt of payment. All risks need to be managed.
    • Export marketing: Various promotional channels can be used, including advertising in trade magazines, e-mail marketing or trade fairs. Choose a channel that best suits your marketing strategy.
  10. Export marketing: Export marketing channels, sourcing export agents, trade fair opportunities, trade fair preparation, in-bound export trade missions, out-bound export trade missions, export marketing internationalisation, embassies and consulates, export marketing financing. We urge members to use professional, trusted advisers and register for trusted service provider portals where appropriate.
  11. Networking and sales: Approach customers and convince them to buy through direct or indirect channels. Establish contact with prospective customers through export and other networks in South Africa and abroad – trade representatives, trade missions, export councils, export consultants, customs clearing agents, trading companies, chambers, bilateral chambers, government trade departments, trade associations, export freight and couriers, export trade translators, universities with international expertise. ABL provides contact list of South African Export Councils & Associations. We collate useful South African export contact information, such as lists from the dti, South African Export Councils, Industry Associations, Wesgro, World Trade Point Federation and Joint Action Groups.
  12. Requests for quotations: Respond to enquiries by supplying a quotation. An agent can help to negotiate terms of deals and price with your prospective buyer, once the latter has accepted the quote and is ready to place the order.
  13. Pro-forma invoice: Prepare and sign a pro-forma invoice containing all terms of the contract of sale.
  14. Export order contract: Upon receipt of a confirmed order/sale from an importer or agent, acknowledge receipt immediately and prepare a contract of sale with agreed terms and payment method or letter of credit. Arrange for all parties to sign the contract.
  15. Fulfilment: This involves arranging finance, insurance, production, inspection, and logistics such as freight. With a signed export contract, produce the products or services according to the terms, package and label the products for export and despatch the product from the factory to the customer. Export agents can also assist with getting products and services to their export destinations.
  16. Export arrangements: If needed, arrange pre-/post-shipment finance, book most suitable freight, get products inspected and obtain inspection certificate, take out export cargo/credit insurance, package according to export market requirements, comply with all export exchange regulations for exporting from South Africa.
  17. Export documentation: Provide the freight forwarder with copies of all relevant documents – a lot of paper work will accompany each order.
  18. Payments: Getting paid is a vital part of the export process! Ensure that your export documentation is in order so that you can effect export payment for your products.
  19. Feedback: Offer support to customers all along the process. Provide them with ways to find assistance if something goes wrong with the delivery, products or services. Include sufficient warranties, guarantees and after-sales support.
  20. Continuous improvement: Review the export process to ensure that you establish a successful export department. Always monitor, review and improve the export process. Develop expertise in export management – always evolving the efficiency of the export department.

‘Go International’ by entering the export market.

Through the African Brand Link exclusive export network we offer members the full spectrum of know-how needed – from starting out and understanding what’s involved in exporting to achieving export success. We also offer marketing and other support through a trusted network of trainers, agents and other important industry contacts.

When new to exporting, consider what are the reasons for wanting to export, what export marketing would be needed, which international trade environments would be encountered and what export and trade challenges and barriers may be encountered in the global context.

Exports may offer lucrative growth, sales and business opportunities for companies with something special to offer, especially when local market conditions are subdued.

African Brand Link Contact Number: +27 21 797 8845
African Brand Link Email: info [at] africanbrandlink.com