Name / Title

Steps to export

Case Study Region

Övre Norrland, Sweden

Geographical coverage

The county of Norrbotten


Training scheme

Main activity / focus

Support to SMEs in preparing for internationalisation and during internationalisation processes

Target beneficiaries / market

SMEs all over Sweden

Year established


Current Funding source(s)

National public funding mainly.


Swedish trade council 





Steps to exportis a tool that the Swedish trade council developed in a search to enhance their support to SMEs interested in approaching new markets.

Helping smaller firms with exporting is part of their public assignment and Steps to export was developed as a response to a request from the government.

The aim of Steps to export is to become aware of the needs and questions among SMEs all over Sweden, to support them in developing new knowledge and an individual export strategy, to find suitable export markets and potentially also to mediate contacts to actors in other markets.

This is done through individual meetings at the firms or in meetings with a number of firms in the same sector located close to each other geographically. 

In order to reach firms in all parts of Sweden the Swedish trade council has established regional offices. In the case study area Övre Norrland there are two offices. Both of these are located in towns by the coast. In the interview with the only employee at the office in Luleå, the county of Norrbotten the ability to reach out to firms in all parts of the county was discussed. The interviewee did not see any problems in making contact with the firms in the inland also, and spreading information to them. He stressed the importance of taking the time to drive out to the firms and establish personal relationships through visits. In addition he cooperates with municipal business development offices with good knowledge about the firms. (Interview with Erik Hagenrud, Swedish trade council, 2010.12.02)

Within the initiative there are eight steps that the SMEs are guided through. First an analysis of the current situation and the way towards reaching the goals is carried out. Then the reasons behind the goals are discussed. After that the prioritised products/services are singled out and an idea about who the potential end users/customers might be is developed. After this potential markets and segments of customers are defined. Later the question of how and when to carry out the plan is set. In a last step strategy and method for handling the export process is developed.

Hence the initiative does in some cases help develop regional or local networks among firms in the same sector if these join and take part in the Steps to export process commonly. It does also develop the relationship between SMEs and the public/private actor the trade council. The aim of the initiative is however to prepare the firms for international relationships and in some cases also help SMEs find suitable international contacts and support them in the development of the relationship.


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