Quadbeam Technologies is a small manufacturer of specialised Electronic Instrumentation, producing feature packed Suspended Solids Sensors and Turbidity Meters with a focus predominantly on the Dairy, Food and Beverage and Mining Markets. Over 80% of revenue is export.
Being a very small exporter from New Zealand can be challenging, but equally, rewarding. Many of the key and successful things I learnt from being part of a successful team in a medium sized polymer component export business have been directly attributable to a small technical instrumentation exporter.
A few tips that I have found important with the on-going development of export markets:
Reduce Time and Distance.
Even in the “Internet Age” a common objection, not always discussed openly by customers, is “how easy is it really going to be dealing with NZ?”. Especially important in the US but also important in most other markets reducing the challenge of time zone and distance when operating from NZ can mean the difference of an order or not.
Apart from the obvious importance of a good website, it is relatively cheap and simple to have in country phone numbers, the use of web based presentations and ensuring availability during the time zone of your customer have all helped reduce distance.
Another important point on reducing Time and Distance is by finding Logistic Solutions that are easy for your customer with quick market relevant delivery times. It is impressive being able to deliver before competitors when you are sending product from NZ. Through flexible manufacturing, some inventory and the use of couriers we can often have our product with the customer before our competitors’ product would leave their factory.
Be prepared to travel to support your business. If there is an opportunity or issue, show you are committed and get to where the action is.
Maximise “New Zealand” assets whilst maintaining a regional focus.
Being small means you can be innovative, flexible and quick. Where possible, by developing “partnerships” with New Zealand suppliers you can develop necessary scalability, outsource non-core expertise, whilst not over committing important cash. This means you can “package” your offer in a way that your customer is most comfortable. By not limiting them to your rules can pay big dividends.
Perseverance and Commitment
Developing Export Markets can take a long time, can be extremely frustrating and very expensive. But like many things in life the more effort you put into something the more rewarding it will be. It is very difficult to make any real traction without significant commitment, time spent in market is critical, again and again. Trying to do too much at a distance can be just that, trying. Customers and Distributors will learn that you are going to be there to support your product. Over time very important relationships will develop.
Review and Adjust
Regularly reviewing your performance against your business plans and financial measures is critical. For a small exporter this can be challenging and quite different from medium size exporters. Normally there just is not the resource within the business to pragmatically and objectively review your export performance in a small company.
If the program is working well, how can it be accelerated? If the program is not going as well as expected, why?
Using external consultants and mentors on the surface can appear to be costly, however, just one or two questions or statements during a review meeting can be extremely valuable.
In my experience even though the whole review meeting(s) may be valuable it is generally only a couple of points that are really of great value. The point of interest can have been there and evident, but difficult to see because in a small company you are often trying to cover so many bases. Once identified, you can then adjust your product, your offer, your value proposition or whatever the identified point may be to be more specific to your targets giving improved growth.