Baroness Fairhead: Marketers are key to unlocking overseas trade for the UK

Almost 90% of UK businesses don’t export their goods and services, something marketers and bodies such as the CIM can help change, according to the minister for trade and export promotion.

As the UK looks to the future, and creates its first independent trade policy in more than 40 years, there can be no better time to boost British exports.

Marketing professionals know as well as anyone the benefits of selling overseas. As an industry, the UK marketing sector comprises some of the most innovative firms, whose world-leading expertise has made them substantial and successful exporters, and the returns are clear.

Exporting, typically, drives business growth, productivity and innovation – and an impressive 48% of UK exporters have reported a significantly higher increase in return on investment when compared to non-exporters. Evidence also indicates that exporters are more resilient and durable.

British firms will know that the UK is already the world’s fifth-largest exporter of goods, the second-largest in services, and home to some of the world’s most exciting and pioneering companies.

Nevertheless, there is more that we, as government, can do to support UK business to realise the benefits of exporting. Although UK exports have grown to represent 30% of the UK’s GDP, this figure remains lower than that of other nations in Europe and close to 90% of UK businesses do not sell their products and services overseas.

That is part of the reason why the Department for International Trade (DIT) will be launching a new export strategy in the coming months. The strategy will, in part, look at how we use marketing to help position UK firms to win contracts abroad. We plan to harness the significant pulling power of the UK’s unique brand – which is already the centrepiece of the ‘Great’ and ‘Exporting is Great’ campaigns – to exhibit the strengths of UK business and the outstanding range of products and services our firms have to offer overseas consumers.

Working with trade bodies, such as the Chartered Institute of Marketing, is key to achieving this. The UK government will harness the strength of the UK marketing industry, reaching out to industry leaders and experts, including CIM members, to support those businesses that are looking to grow internationally.

READ MORE: Businesses look to marketing to drive export growth post Brexit

Marketing professionals have invaluable understanding of the trends and operation of overseas markets and can help companies at every stage of their export journey to capitalise on opportunities to sell abroad. By offering their expertise, firms can support the 300,000 UK-registered businesses that either have a product that is fit to export, or have a product that could be developed to export, to break into international trade.

DIT aims to assist in this by playing the role of connector between businesses.

Through our international trade advisors, our overseas network in 108 countries, and our sector and regional teams, we direct potential and established exporters to the services they need to export. In addition, we work closely with colleagues in the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy to ensure that government is providing complete and unified assistance.

We will continue to enhance our capacity to arrange peer-to-peer support, link domestic businesses from throughout the supply chain, and direct firms with viable export proposals to game-changing financial support provided by UK Export Finance.

And instead of competing with the private sector – government aims to supplement it, enhancing connectivity between British firms and consumers outside the UK. By continuing to work with partners such as CIM, we can extend the reach of the ‘Great’ campaign to incorporate even more firms and brands under the UK banner as we present our nation’s world-class products and services overseas.

Britain’s position in the world is changing, and as a country dedicated to the principles of free trade, we must do all we can to market the value of UK goods and services to foreign consumers. We must illustrate the diversity and power that is contained within the UK’s inimitable identity and boost the export capability of UK businesses up and down the UK. After all, Exporting is Great. Marketing is Great.

Baroness Fairhead is minister of state for trade and export promotion at the Department for International Trade.