(l-r) Rob Holroyd, digital marketing manager, Matthew Beswick, founder and director and Peter Wiseman, direct sales manager
Matthew Beswick, founder of West Yorkshire-headquartered Lampshop Online, explains how exporting has helped the company attract customers from all corners of the globe...
What does your company do?
Lampshop Online is a leading web based supplier of replacement bulbs and lamps from the worlds largest manufacturers. We also stock a range of control gear and emergency lighting products, plus our own Pyropanel... a UK first in fire rated LED panels.
The majority of our clients are B2B, and we deal with a huge range of contractors, retailers, schools and manufacturers.
When was your company launched, who by and why?
We launched the business five years ago. In the early days, we literally did everything... built the website, managed PPC, issued invoices and even packed the orders.
The aim of Lampshop was to capitalise upon the huge growth in LED lighting whilst also supplying bulbs that mainstream retailers had stopped stocking.
How long has the company been exporting?
Our exporting started almost immediately. I’d like to say it was carefully planned, but it just happened.
What do you currently export, and where to?
When it comes to exports, pretty much everything from the UK is sold internationally (subject to legislation etc and voltage). I think we really benefit from being a British company plus having major brand names that are recognised internationally. Our exports literally go everywhere... from the USA and Canada, through to Sweden, South Africa and the Middle East.
What motivated you to start selling overseas, and how long did it take?
We didn’t actually think about exporting when we first started. It just happened! Once our website went live we started receiving international enquiries. I think we pretty much trail blazed into this sector. Our exports have grown dramatically ever since, and we now export to over 80 countries worldwide.
What is the easiest part of exporting?
Strangely, I think it is all pretty easy. We have French and German speakers at work, so we can manage our translations, and the paperwork isn’t that difficult once you have completed it a few times. Having native speakers also means that researching the competition is straightforward.
And the most challenging part?
We have our inhouse web team, so we manage our own website, seo and PPC. Staying ahead of PPC campaigns is always the most difficult, you can’t take your eye off it for a day! There are always prices to check, campaigns to develop and budgets to adjust.
Have language barriers, currency changes, etiquette and culture ever caused you any difficulties? How did you overcome them?
To be honest, we haven’t really encountered any problems in this area. From day one, we attended lots of different courses on exporting, so we were ready for many of the different challenges. There is always something to learn though, and we’re now looking at adapting our website ever further, so it can be personalised to every country.
Did you get any support when you wanted to trade abroad? Who from, and was it helpful?
To date we haven’t really used much government support, though we did attend several exporting workshops with the Department for International Trade. These were great, as they covered everything from branding and marketing planning, through to local cultures and adapting your brand internationally.
Over the years we have worked with external specialists on PCC and SEO, and we still work with an external web agency for tech support. We’re now working with Edward Ryder from Biskit, who is helping us plan for our future growth.
What advice would you give to someone just starting to explore overseas markets?
Firstly, I would say there is nothing to worry about. The legislation and language etc might be different, but it is just another market.
Take advantage of the free workshops and seminars available in Yorkshire. They cover lots of the key issues, and you can make great leaps pretty quickly.
I think our main piece of advice though would be to get your plans in order. If you don’t have a UK marketing plan or strategy, then anything you do in terms of export will never really be effective. You really need a plan for your business.
Where next? What markets are you looking into and where do you see the company in 5 years time?
Our business is growing by c £1m every year, but the market potential is tremendous. We’re not really looking to export to any more countries, but we do want to increase our sales per country and ultimately broaden our range of products.
We’ve now got some ambitious growth plans in place, that should see us growing by £2m per year in 2018. Our main vehicle for this will be a fully internationalised website, that allows us to cross and upsell in all of our target countries.