5 tips for international expansion from a small business that has gone global
Jane Malyon launched The English Cream Tea Company to great acclaim in 2011. Her mission to bring the high-end cream tea experience to the masses struck a chord with customers all over the UK. But there was a problem. Almost from day one the business was also getting enquiries from further afield – much further. The challenge for this fledgling company was to meet the needs of its UK customers and somehow find a way of meeting the incredible demand from overseas.
“It’s obviously not possible to create freshly made sandwiches, scones, cream and pastries for delivery to places as far afield as the US, Australia and Japan. So we explored the creation of non-perishable products and gifts associated with afternoon tea, such as preserves, tea, cake tins and so on,” she says.
“We also wanted a lower cost range that could be posted – as opposed to hand delivery of the hampers which must include the costs of courier delivery – and that also pointed us in the direction of food gifts and treats that were longer lasting.”
Top tips for success
Jane overcame these challenges in a systematic way to expand her business internationally. A lot can be learned from her experience:
Research a way to meet overseas demand
“With our eyes set on international expansion, we explored non-perishable items – a plan helped by a new EU/government grant to develop an on-site storage, packing and packaging facility. We now have a lovely range of preserves, fine teas, merchandise and, this spring, tinware – all of which can be delivered globally.”
Research which countries you can export to
“If you’re thinking of expanding globally I’d recommend you also seek advice from the UK Trade and Investment (UKTI) – they’ll work with you to answer any questions you have around selling into specific countries.
My advice is not to try a scattergun approach targeting 30 countries but do your research and pick the top few. Look at things like exchange rate, social media engagement and demand for your product inside the country.”
Update your website to reflect a new service
“We’re altering the website soon to reflect the fact we can also offer ‘postable treats’ or non-perishable hamper boxes for delivery or retail anywhere in the world, accompanied by a new YouTube video. We also hired a professional photographer to take lots of really good quality photos. This is especially important if you have a very ‘visual’ product – it’s how people buy online. Grey and grainy photos just won’t do.”
Get involved with social media
“This exposes you to a global audience for free. Social media is a great way of getting your brand out there. There are lots of things you can do with it. We’re producing a YouTube series on the ‘manners of afternoon tea’, and the latest video up there already has over 83,000 hits. If you’re not on there you’re missing a trick.
“Our website overhaul will be accompanied with a new YouTube video, Facebook competition, e-newsletter, Twitter and Pinterest. We’re still a tiny company so being able to use a worldwide medium like YouTube or Facebook is a great business tool.”
“Closer to home, The English Cream Tea Company benefitted from joint ventures with other companies we complement but don’t overlap with. We provided clothing firm East with a hamper for a competition it was running, and in return we asked them to give customers on their site the opportunity to also opt-in to receiving updates from us. And 4,000 customers have done so far. Always look for new ways to get your name out there.”
Thanks to Jane Malyon founder of The English Cream Tea Company for sharing her tips.
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1 Survey of 2750 UK small and medium businesses, Worldpay Research 2015.