Simple desk research

Welcome to Simple Desk Research 

  • What areas do you need to research?
  • How do you go about it?
  • Where can you find the information you need to make informed decisions?

You may have developed your UK business successfully based on your own understanding of the market. However, making assumptions about overseas markets can be risky and export advisers report that the Number One pitfall for new exporters is not doing enough research.


Focusing your Early Stage Research


Selecting a Market

If you have already completed the lesson on ‘Your Ideal Market’ you will have started to think about where you might want to focus your research effort. If not, you will need to do a bit of thinking now. There are two big things to think about:

  • How EASY is it to access the market?
  • How much POTENTIAL does the market have to offer?

In finally making your market selection you will seek to balance these in a way which is right for your proposition and your business.

For each of the above two – ease of access and potential – you will need to create a set of criteria which indicate the market-place features that will tell you that a market is not too difficult or risky for you at this stage and that it has sufficient potential be attractive for your business.


Do you need to understand the trend?

Political: What are the key political features of relevance?
Political stability, government attitude, policy and funding, government structure, local government organisation.


Economic: What are the important economic factors?
Overall economic growth, sectorial growth, regional growth, business and enterprise directives, budgetary restrictions.


Social: What are the main societal and cultural aspects?
Aspiration and attitudes to education, general lifestyle changes, changes in population, wealth, geographical distribution and demographics, take up of leisure activities, the impact of different mixes of cultures.


Technological: What are current technology needs, changes and innovations?
Major current and emerging technologies of relevance to your sector/business. Societal changes that can be facilitated by technology. Use of personal devices, social networking, internet.


Legal: What current and impending legislation would indicate an opportunity?
Regulatory changes. Other changes affecting buying behaviour.


Environmental: What are the environmental considerations?
Legislation, attitudes. Climate, climate change, seasons, geography of territory.


The internet offers lots of research opportunities. Try some of the sites suggested here as a starting point.

All links will open in a new tab


  • Check out the websites of competitors too.
  • Get in touch with any relevant Trade Organisations.
  • Check out Linked-in groups as a source of networking.
  • Don’t ignore face-to-face networking opportunities. Scottish Enterprise, Chambers, Banks and other commercial organisations all run export-related events.
  • Do you know anyone who is already exporting to an area you are interested in? Don’t be too proud to ask for some advice.


Briefing a Third Party Researcher

You may want to brief a third party to do some research for you. The clearer you are in your brief to them, the less time they will waste and the higher the standard of information you will get back. A third party might be a student or other contact, a member of your staff or a professional researcher.


Creating a Clear brief

Getting your brief right is vital to getting the best out of your researcher and therefore to getting the best research outcome. If you are briefing someone outside the company, they don’t yet know you or your business, so the more information you can give them about your company and what you are looking for, the better.


You may want your researcher to establish “4 ‘P’s” information:

Price: end-user prices, discounts and special offers
Product: USPs and benefits (which customer groups do they mainly target?)
Place: Distribution structure operating in the marketplace. Which competitors are using which routes to market. Who is serving which key customers?
Promotion: How active are competitors. What promotional activity do they engage in? Which exhibitions do they attend?

You may also want your researcher to look out for softer information: what is the reputation of the competitor in the marketplace. How good is their service? What are their perceived strengths and weaknesses?


  • Think about who will be carrying out the work for you.
    Think about the task from their point of view. You are putting them at the sharp end of your business. What will they need to understand you. They aren’t mind-readers! Write your brief accordingly.
  • Begin by specifying your business objectives.
    • Define your target market geographically.
    • Describe the kind of end-users you are targeting in detail. It can be useful to think of examples of existing customers to do this. If your end-users fall into different market segments e.g. some are in aerospace and others are in automotive then explain this.
  • Explain the research outcomes you are looking for:
    • Market background: use the PESTLE criteria you have worked on and their ‘What do you Want to Know’ list.
    • If you are seeking to identify distribution partners specify in detail the kind of partners you are looking for. You can get some help with this in the ExportSavvy ‘Bitesize’ section ‘Find a Partner/Create a Partner profile’.
    • Assume nothing, so double check that your researcher has ‘got it’. .


Managing your Researcher

Set clear start and finish dates with clear project milestones at the outset.

Include the delivery of a draft version of the final report so you can be involved in final adjustments before being asked for a sign-off. This avoids messy to-ing and fro-ing which can delay the end of the project.

Keep in contact with your researcher. Don’t just rely on email. Use the phone to keep up to date and build the working relationship. 


Check out The Export Flatplan in The Tool Kit.

Let's do it - Action Zone!

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