I’m Tony Small, the founder of Innocent Packaging – a disposable food packaging made from plants and plant waste – and a tree-free launched, we’ve had success in the New Zealand market with having a unique product but when we take this idea overseas, that opens us up to should we change about our approach when - Tony Dear Tony, Your basic premise is correct – taking a product to an international market is a big step up from taking it to market in New Zealand. This is for a number of reasons, all of which then lead to some clues about how to adjust when you take the step.
Firstly, at the risk of stating the obvious, New Zealand is a small market. That means it’s relatively well-connected – the ‘distance’ between you as a manufacturer of a product and the end consumers of your product is probably pretty small. You probably sell direct to a retailer, who sells direct to a customer. Overseas markets might need you to work with a distributor, or a sub-distributor, or perhaps have an agent working for you. You might need to deal with regulators or quality assurance, or other government agencies in your target market. You may need to deal with logistics, freight forwarders and customs agents to get your product into the market. Essentially, with the increased market size, there often comes and increased level of complexity to contend with. What this means is that you are likely to need help and advice from people or companies who have done this before and can navigate you through new challenges. This might also mean extra costs or delays to be factored in.
Similarly, you are likely to encounter more competition. Many companies think they have a ‘unique product’, and that may be true here in New Zealand, but get overseas and suddenly there are lot more companies playing in your space. The chances are much higher that there are other companies with similar products competing for the same customers. So you may need to highlight your uniqueness more overtly and clearly, and in the target customer’s terms. This might mean a re-think of your marketing strategy, your brand positioning, your key messages.
If you truly think yoyou have a unique and valuable point of difference being from New Zealand, then I’d encourage you to leverage the work of the New Zealand Story. I’ve mentioned it before in these columns – this is an initiative between government and industry to create a unique ‘story’ for New Zealand on the world stage, so that New Zealand companies can get the benefit of a larger body of work. The NZ Story team have done analysis of the sentiments of consumers in various markets around the world, and they know what messages work for different audiences. They then have content you can use to add to your marketing messages to reinforce those messages, allowing you to appear bigger than you might be. This is all available for free at nzstory.govt.nz.
One other factor you are going to consider is staffing and resourcing. The number one reason Kiwi companies fail when heading overseas is that they don’t get the people part of it right. They might try to manage it all remotely, or only have a fly in/fly out model, instead of actual feet on the ground. They many hire poorly or not put the processes and structures in to ensure remote workers are successful. I met a company representative in South America once whose organisation only gave him business cards in English, not in Spanish and Portuguese – the languages of the markets he was serving. If you can’t afford business cards – or more importantly, if you can’t pay market rates for sales people – then don’t bother. Trying to do it on the cheap inevitably leads to failure, and often it’s the worst kind: the long, slow failure that appears like success for a while but just burns cash and time. You know the sort, ‘The customer is going to buy next month; they seem really keen’ only they never do and before you know it, six months have gone by.
There are lots of lessons learned from other businesses, so my final and probably most important piece of feedback is to seek others’ advice. Learn from others’ successes, and failures. Get our team and NZTE to work hard for you, and get yourself some good company advisors to help guide your journey.
I hope all this hasn’t put you off – there are many New Zealand companies who have made the jump to be an international company and are doing it really well. I hope the same for you. - David No.8 Recharged. By day (and the occasional night) David Downs is general manager, projects, at NZTE. Last year, while battling cancer, he released a book with Dr Michelle Dickinson on New Zealand technology called