With 195 countries in the world, research is essential for construction firms seeking to identify those markets offering the greatest potential.

Needless to say, one of the first considerations is to find out which individual countries might have a market for any given product or service. Initial online research can help to establish if the type of product/service to be exported is already in use and if there is any successfully operating local competition. Thereafter, more focused research will be best served by visiting the market, and construction trade exhibitions are an ideal first step (see International Exhibitions for a calendar of around 900 events – not including those in the UK).


New exporters might find more success by beginning with those markets closest to home or focusing on those markets that use English as standard in business. Also, consider that many countries work to British Standards and this might prove advantageous.

Once a shortlist of potential markets has been decided on, research is likely to focus on other considerations, such as the prospects for the local economy and its impact on construction, demographics, the project pipeline and planned spending, both public and private. In order to help finalise a decision, The Institute of Export suggests creating a 'Weighting Table' as a technique to help quantify the various factors to consider and focus on the best candidate market(s).

Other considerations might include practical issues, such as time zones - will your potential agent/distributor/client be working at the same time as you and can you talk to them - and also what are the normal working days? For example, in much of the Middle East they work Sunday to Thursday and the weekend is Friday and Saturday. Other issues to research should include:

  • Transportation costs and impact on competitiveness
  • What import duties, if any, will apply?
  • Regulatory requirements, such as product certification

Understanding cultural differences in any potential export market is a prerequisite, and the DIT’s Exporting is Great website provides individual country guides with pointers to local customs, as well as information on regulatory frameworks, working practices, etc.

Also see Sheelagh Mahoney's (Farnham Castle Intercultural Training) article Why Cultural Glasses are a must when going Global.

Construction Industry Identifying Suitable Markets