Ecotile: Laying the groundwork for export sales

Established in 1996, Ecotile makes eco-friendly, hardwearing floor tiles for commercial use.

The company exports to Western Europe, South America and – to a lesser extent – Asia and the Far East. Sales Director Lucinda O'Reilly had already been on a successful Trade Mission to Brazil, organised by UK Trade & Industry (UKTI) and had been eyeing Mexico. “It seemed like it should be a good market”, says Lucinda. When she was told about the Santander Trade Mission, it was a perfect opportunity to investigate the potential of the market.  

Exploring new markets

“My objective was to meet with potential distributors and customers. It was important to speak directly to the users to convince myself there was a market here,” says Lucinda. 

Delivering the goods

Lucinda was also offered the chance to attend networking events, organised by Santander and UKTI. Networking with other delegates proved fruitful, including finding areas of co-operation with “non-competitive” companies also on the mission. “We swapped contacts and one company put me in touch directly with a distributor for hard flooring products.”

Working with Santander

“We connected with some excellent businesses while on the Trade Mission – both through meetings that had been arranged in advance and at networking events,” says Lucinda. 

“We expect to receive our first orders within six months of introducing our product to the market for the first time, which is exceptional.” 

Lucinda’s Trade Mission Top Tips

  • Do your research in advance 

Make sure you understand the market, competitors and price points. We were given a report on the market by UKTI and we used that to set up meetings in advance. However, it's important to do your own research, too. Find out as much about the market as possible.

  • Be flexible 

Take opportunities when they arise. If you get the chance to meet a potential contact at the end of the day – say 10pm – grab that opportunity with both hands. 

  • Meet interested parties 

Speak directly to users to get a real feel for the potential of the market. It's the users who will be able to tell you directly whether they are interested in, or likely to buy, your product. It was important for me to establish whether there really was a market for our product.    

To be eligible for a subsidised Trade Mission Santander are looking for highly ambitious businesses who’ve been trading for a minimum of two years and have plans to increase their customer base, employ more people or expand to new markets in the next 12 months.

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John Carroll - Helping businesses achieve International success. Head of Product Management & International Business, Santander UK