The Benelux markets comprise the countries of Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg. Although small in area, the region’s combined population of almost 30 million people presents three prosperous markets in their own right, and a huge opportunity to develop exports further into mainland Europe.
The Enterprise Ireland Belgium and Luxembourg team are here to help you prepare, launch and succeed in your export activities. We are eager to share the expertise and network gained from studying, working and living in the market. Don’t hesitate to get in touch with our team of dedicated Market Advisors to help you with your export strategy.
Belgium market tips
Belgium truly is the heart of Europe and has proven itself to be a hub of international business and networking, a large market in its own right, and also a great test market for companies with the ambition to grow and scale in the wider European region.
- Navigating the languages. As a result of its history, Belgium is broken into 3 different regions: Flanders, Wallonia the Brussels-Capital. In turn, it has three official languages: Dutch, French and German, but most speak English. It is important to understand these differences, as the business culture is different per region.
- In terms of business culture, it’s best to play it safe, so arrive on time and dressed your best. Business culture in Flanders mirrors that of the German or Dutch working culture as Belgian-French business culture is similar to that of France. In general, the culture is kept formal and meetings are structured to maximise productivity.
- Belgium is a European leader in logistics and distributions; driven by its strategic location and strong cluster of ports, with the port of Antwerp being very noteworthy. With 95 % of Europe’s consumer market reachable within 24 hours.
- Decide on a route to market: Networks are important, and it is advantageous to sell to a distributor that will resell directly into Belgium, as you can explore new potential leads and clients.
- Get involved locally: Belgian companies are open to meeting with international sellers, and although not obligatory, a local representative is advised to facilitate a smoother entry strategy. We can recommend trusted pathfinders or sales consultants to help you along your way.
- Trust the Process: Belgium is a great test market for businesses looking to dive into the Eurozone. Most often than not, a successful launch in Belgium leads to success in other EU markets. Make sure to leverage the multi-cultural and skilled workforce, these new perspectives are sure to benefit your product or service.
- Understand that the tax system in Belgium is quite attractive SMEs, and they have seen a decrease in their corporate tax rate to 20% during 2018 for the first 100,000 of taxable income Better yet, these reforms helped reduce labour costs too.
- Be prepared and know your competition: This is a highly competitive and diverse landscape, with many international and national players. Make sure to fine-tune your USP so your product or service can really stand out from the rest.
- Be Innovative: Belgium is ranked 8th in the world on the 2018 European Innovation Scoreboard, making it more open to change and willing to embrace new technologies something Ireland happens to be very good at producing.
- Finally, do your research. Explore the different resources available from Enterprise Ireland to delve deep into the market and really understand the opportunities and challenges that will occur. Our world-class Market Research Centre provides countless market reports, and MA’s are happy to help with market-related requests.
For more be sure to read our Belgium Going Global Guide
Luxembourg market tips
Luxembourg may be one of the smallest EU countries, but has become world leader in finance and administration, hosting 3,900 investment funds and fostering new opportunities for SME’s.
- There are three national languages, which are Luxembourgish, French and German. However, English is widely used in business contexts and a translator will not always be necessary.
- Luxembourg is number 2 in the world in terms of global logistical capabilities and is strategically located in the heart of the greater region. Take advantage of this, and make sure not to rule it out as part of a European export strategy.
- Decide on a route to market: A sales consultant can be attractive in Luxembourg, as they assist with generating leads and gaining certifications. We can put you in touch with trusted agents who can help accelerate your business.
- Get involved locally: As a country heavily reliant on exports itself, Luxembourg is home to businesses which are open to being approached by international companies so take a pragmatic approach.
- Trust the Process: Luxembourg is a global destination, not just for the financial sector, but has also developed high-value industries such as logistics, biotechnology, information technology and green technology. These factors make it a good test market.
- Understand the tax incentives Luxembourg has put in place, aimed towards stimulating innovation and support SME’s.
- Be prepared and know your competition: Luxembourg is home to many multi-national and EU headquarters, as well as fostering a growing number of SME’s. The financial sector particularly is quite competitive, but there are plenty of opportunities in other sectors.
- Be innovative: With a Government that makes innovation in all industries a priority, make sure to showcase your dynamic new ideas, they will be welcomed and supported.
Finally, do your research! Explore the different resources available from Enterprise Ireland to delve deep into the market and really understand the opportunities and challenges that will arise. Our world-class Market Research Centre provides countless market reports, and MA’s are happy to help with market-related requests.
For more be sure to check out our Going Global Guide Luxembourg