SMEs face different challenges than big, well-resourced companies. While it is relatively easy to establish personal networks in the domestic market, it may be expensive and difficult for an SME to establish suitable, trustworthy relationships in overseas markets. For many, the prohibitive costs associated with launching a new product or service in an overseas market are a serious limitation. In addition, the emphasis on personal networking in SMEs means that areas such as marketing communication, branding, digital marketing and localization may be underdeveloped or not fully understood. In fact, for many SMEs, the decision to go international may be the first time they have considered these aspects of marketing in any detail.
An additional factor affecting Irish SMEs in particular is that foreign language skills are lacking and their value is not fully appreciated by management. In a recent EU Eurobarometer Report, which surveyed companies across 27 EU countries employing more than 50 employees, only 9% of Irish companies surveyed considered that foreign language skills would be essential for future graduates over the next five to ten years, compared to a 31% EU average. The only country to score lower in the survey was the United Kingdom. This is in no doubt due to the fact that 38% of Irish trade is with the United States and the United Kingdom, both English-speaking countries, while the next most important trading partner is Germany, with only 7% of trade. However, there is increasing emphasis in Ireland on trading with partners in “stable currency areas” like the eurozone. The new challenge for Irish SMEs is that stable currency areas are by and large not English speaking. . .