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Daniel Taylor says any New Zealand business can consider itself a potential exporter, as long as it meets two simple criteria.

Not so long ago, most Kiwis thought exporting meant shipping bulk commodities to a market somewhere on the other side of the globe. This is no longer the reality. In 2021, technology has quite literally opened up a world of new opportunities.

At NZTE, we have seen an exciting transformation unfold in recent years. New exporters are emerging from all parts of New Zealand, and with just about any offering you can imagine.

The whole face of exporting has changed enormously in a fairly short space of time, and it is technology that is driving this change.

You no longer need to build and maintain your own physical or digital store front – there is a range of platforms you can leverage to showcase your offering to a global audience. And this has democratised exporting in a way we have never seen before.

There has also been a change of mindset around exporting. Because we are less defined by geographic boundaries, now there is almost a blurring of the lines between domestic and export sales.

The two key questions

Given this, the fundamental questions for any business are: Is my product or service solving a problem? and/or Is it meeting a need in the market?

If the answer to these two questions is ‘yes’, and you can defend your market niche, then you’ve got a really solid business base.

When you take your blinkers off and ask these questions to the world, it opens up some pretty exciting opportunities. Your customers might be just down the road, or they could be on the other side of the world – and they are very likely to be both.

Exporters from day one

The old perception was that you had to be of a certain size, scale and experience to be an exporter. You would normally have a well-established domestic business before dipping your toe in the export waters. This is no longer the case. Many of our businesses are now ‘born global’ from day one, with the world as their potential market.

While that sounds daunting, it doesn’t have to be. Successful exporters clearly define their target market and zero in on it. For one business, it might be vegan consumers on the West Coast of North America; for another, it could be equipment suppliers in the Singapore health system.

And the exciting part is the sheer scale of the global opportunity. If you have developed a unique snack product for dogs, for example, you don’t need to sell to every dog owner in the world. If you can sell to the top two percent of North American dog owners, you’ll have a very lucrative business.

The rewards can be multifaceted

New Zealand has always had a talent and passion for exporting. We are a long way from the rest of the world and we look beyond our own borders in a way few other countries do. As a result, we have a lot of great exporting role models, and their amazing stories are very motivating for other New Zealand businesses. They show that great things are achievable from our little part of the world.

I think Kiwis also relish the chance to test themselves on a global scale. We love to see our brands become internationally competitive, and to see New Zealand products on a shelf in New York or Shanghai.

And more than ever, there is the pride that comes from earning export revenue for the wider good of New Zealand. Post-Covid-19 the exporting arm of our economy will be a huge driver for our future wealth and prosperity.

It’s not an easy road, though

While the rewards of exporting can be big, it is certainly not an easy road and it is not for everyone.

Exporting takes time, commitment and resource. Unless you are prepared to make those commitments (and possibly sacrifices) this is probably not the path for you – if you’re only half in, you will struggle.

Although the digital platforms can provide a global shop window (and some also offer logistics/fulfilment services), you still need to actually deliver your product or service in-market. In the current Covid-19 environment, logistics and supply chains are presenting some fairly thorny challenges. Obviously, travelling to market and getting to know your customers is much harder right now. Having said that, there will always be challenges and headwinds. If you wait for the ‘perfect’ time to begin your export journey you will probably never start.

You don’t have to go it alone

There’s a wealth of support and advice you can tap into. Reach out to people who have been there, done that, and make use of the free networks and support. myNZTE(link is external) is a great place to start. You’ll find resources and information to guide you through those all-important planning stages and help you identify, compare and validate your potential markets.

The important things are to reach out for help, do your research, and have a really solid plan. Once you have done that, you will have the world at your feet. 

Daniel Taylor is NZTE’s head of manufacturing. This article was first published at mynzte.co.nz. To learn more go to https://nzte.takeontheworld.nz/(link is external) 

Glenn Baker

Professional writer/editor with 35-plus years experience - including radio copywriting, various television writing/production roles, and writing for business magazines. I have also co-owned a wholesale food distribution business.

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