Thankfully, there’s now much more certainty for B2B businesses – on both sides of the English Channel – than there once was.
The final days of a COVID-19-affected 2020 at last saw a UK-EU trade agreement struck. However, that hasn’t meant the end of struggles for UK companies trying to do business across borders, as shown by worrying reports of a 68% plunge in British exports to the EU.
So, should your B2B business be fretting right now, or are there opportunities for you to seize upon – even in adversity? The exact answer is likely to differ from one B2B firm to the next.
First of all… swot up on what’s changed with the deal
While many B2B businesses selling across EU-UK borders probably allowed themselves a sigh of relief when news of a trade agreement filtered through late last year – thereby warding off the risk of a ‘no-deal’ outcome – the new arrangements do still introduce meaningful obstacles to trade.
For example, as Haysmacintyre points out in its post-Brexit Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) section for B2B companies, the deal was publicised as not presenting any tariffs, when the reality is that this only applies to goods complying with certain rules of origin. So, UK businesses sending goods to the EU still need to check whether Customs Duty may be imposed on them.
With so many aspects of the technical relationship between the UK and the EU going forward remaining in a state of flux, it is crucial to be alert to any further changes that may have arisen by the time you read this.
Sage, for instance, has a useful free downloadable guide – Business After Brexit – setting out the specifics of importing and exporting post-Brexit, and even a timeline of further changes up to 2022.
How else can you help your B2B firm sell more in this new era?
Some of the strategies that will best aid your business’s efforts to record higher sales after Brexit will be much the same as those before Brexit, albeit with some possible changes in some areas:
- Consider whether your marketing messaging needs to be adjusted. While it’s almost certain that some of your clients will have been in favour of leaving the EU, and others are likely to have voted to remain, it’s worth thinking about whether you should tone down any especially “European” language or messaging in your marketing materials. You don’t necessarily need to slap the Union Flag on every page of your website, but nor might it be wise to rebel with a more “European” brand image, depending on your target audience.
- Optimise your technology and communications approach. Not everything that your B2B business does to bolster sales in the post-Brexit age will be obviously connected to Brexit. To thrive in the 2020s, regardless of the latest arrangements between the UK and the EU, you will need to ensure your brand’s website is a truly high-performance one, for example, and to keep up your investment in well-targeted search engine optimisation (SEO). This era is also seeing an increase in marketing automation solutions to replace repetitive manual processes, and an ever-greater emphasis on cloud services. Perhaps your business might look into a cloud-based digital experience platform like ON24, for optimising your organisation’s effectiveness in such vital processes as demand generation, customer engagement and product marketing?
- Hire British salespeople and telemarketers. While we aren’t suggesting here that you should in any way jettison valued European salespeople when targeting prospects in continental Europe, when it’s Britons with whom you seek to trade – whether you are a UK or EU-based business – it may be worth assigning British sales professionals to this task. Customers are known to often respond more positively to sales and customer service workers that they perceive as being of the same culture as them – although it might be too early to ascertain whether this effect could also be noticeable in B2B trade after Brexit.
Whatever your firm does to improve its chances of selling competitively after the UK’s departure from the EU, you should never allow yourself to become too comfortable. After all, Brexit is far from the only factor that will inform your organisation’s approach to trade across UK-EU borders.
New technologies, strategies and trends will emerge that could give you new ideas for how to enhance your bottom-line results in the coming months and years, and it’s imperative that your B2B business – whether in the UK or EU – remains alert to them.