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From severe disruptions in supply chains to ongoing border closures, the pandemic has had a profound impact on globalisation and trade, particularly for a small, geographically isolated country like New Zealand. Damon Kelly offers some tips for fledgling export companies.

The pandemic has changed the way people do business, including a greater adoption of remote work and virtual collaboration, which has meant some Kiwi businesses have ended up with a more level playing field against overseas counterparts.

Meeting in person or conducting business in the same country is no longer critical when it comes to securing new clients and we can compete more readily on our capabilities. This is how my own business ended up working with the largest organisation of its kind in the US – we won on our expertise alone.

If anything, the global nature of COVID-19 has highlighted that we’re an interconnected world that needs global solutions. Many industries such as AI, telecommuting, cybersecurity and medical equipment suppliers, are now sought after more than ever, and have experienced massive growth and uptake since the crisis ensued.

In this new environment, progressive Kiwi businesses have an exciting opportunity to create solutions that benefit global audiences. However, before you take the plunge and push into overseas markets, here are some things to consider:


Find your point of difference

Trading in foreign markets is nothing like competing with local business. The United States, for example, has 30 million SMEs, while New Zealand has just over half a million. To flourish in an overseas market, it’s even more critical to find your point of difference and unique selling proposition.

Before you develop your market entry strategy, take the time to really assess likely consumer demand and scope out your competition. Customers have endless options and can buy just about anything online from around the world, so making yourself stand out is crucial.

What are the features that differentiate your product or service from other companies’ offerings? Is your product the highest quality? The cheapest? Are your services environmentally disruptive? Or is your business likely to be first to market? Most importantly, which of these factors are important to your customer?

A successful USP will encourage people to buy from your business over someone else, so it needs to be clear, communicated, and deeply integrated into your sales and marketing strategy.


Connect, connect, connect

Don’t underestimate the importance of growing your network overseas. Map out some potential partners in your chosen market, which could include lawyers, accountants, regional business partners, or logistics firms – they’ll be able to provide useful insights on the environment, local customs, and flag any concerns or conflicts that might arise.

Consider utilising your existing contacts or relationships. You may have partners or clients that have international networks – they could provide an introduction which might give you a head start. Don’t be afraid to reach out.

And finally, consider joining organisations like government-run entity New Zealand Trade and Enterprise (NZTE), which helps Kiwi businesses to grow internationally. Since it was founded in 2003, NZTE has helped to export a combined value of $2.4 billion in goods and services, so they’re well worth exploring and are geared up to help.


Build your online presence

Quite simply, the most effective (and economical) way to reach your international audience is through your digital footprint. Having an updated website is a given in this digital age, but you also need a strong web and social presence that is mined for all its worth.

LinkedIn is a great platform where you can directly reach key decision makers and get in front of your target audience. And unlike Facebook, building your profile organically on LinkedIn is an option. If you can, invest in the platform’s advertising tools, which are some of the most advanced, measurable options available.

In addition, I’d suggest taking advantage of online catalogues and directories for selling your product or service and sharing a free or freemium “taster” of what you can offer. These “online supermarkets” are teeming with visitors who are actively seeking solutions like yours, and a well-crafted listing can deliver strong leads over a sustained period. We’ve had enormous success with this approach for one of our products, Power BI custom visuals, which is still receiving inbound queries from free products released five years ago.

With different cultures, laws, and policies, no two markets are the same. You may discover barriers you didn’t expect, as we did when pitching for government related organisations who by law must appoint suppliers based in the same state or country. However, if you’re patient and invest into your desired market, you have a strong potential to redefine the international business world.

Damon Kelly is founder and CEO of Enlighten Designs.

Glenn Baker

Glenn is a professional writer/editor with 50-plus years’ experience across radio, television and magazine publishing.


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