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The view from the 22nd floor of the PwC Tower on Auckland’s Quay Street made a stunning backdrop for the Auckland Export Expo on November the 3rd. Visitors stepping out of the elevator for the day-long mini-expo and seminar were not only greeted by the view but also the sight of every major export trade support agency in New Zealand collaborating on a unique new event concept.
NZTE, PwC, MFAT, ATEED, Kea, ExportNZ, NZ Export Credit Office and ANZ Bank were there to promote their services. Four hour-long seminar sessions were divided by breaks of an hour to allow attendees to catch up with their inboxes and to network.
A ‘Going to Market’ session kicked off the seminars. NZTE advisor Morag McCay was first up to the microphone. McCay has a long track record in building powerful commercial strategies from new customer and market insights, and delivering brand propositions to different cultures. She has worked in corporate and entrepreneurial businesses and led overseas development in the US, Japan and Hong Kong, including the development of the UK-based Pret A Manger sandwich business. Returning to Auckland in 2013, she is now in the process of investing in developing high value F&B products for Asia.
Everything she has learnt in export so far comes down to the four C’s of Curiosity, Courage, Cash and Commitment, says McCay.
Curiosity is all about being ‘market-centric’, she explains. The only way to succeed in markets is by being desirable to three groups of users – end consumers, channels and partners. 
Consumers are most important, says McCay, because they’re the only group who pay, and don’t get paid, for using your products or services. “Make sure you design your product or service to fit their needs, and not the ones you’re familiar with,” she says. “So ask, who is going to buy your product or service? Why are they buying it? What needs are they trying to fill?”
Research is paramount when it comes to finding the best distributor or route-to-market too. “Find out who the best distributors are and then do your research to learn what will make you and your product special to them.”
Partnering with someone who knows the market better than you is also critical McCay says, adding that recently she has been utilising the ability of local Chinese students to judge the suitability of F&B products, and how to market them, for Hong Kong. 
“Use local networks to channel your curiosity to learn more before you go to market. By listening to those students I learnt more in six hours than I had in the previous six months.”
McCay’s lesson around courage is based on having a product that has a compelling purpose. “Do people find that what you do is really important to them? If it’s something they care about then it’s much easier to get your product or service talked about. If you have to push harder to get noticed then you also have to spend more.”
So think about what makes your product or service unique, she says. “What gives it the legs to last in the marketplace?”
Going “narrow and deep” into market is another of McCay’s strategies. “So you have an advantage in trying to influence that market. It took us seven years to move beyond New York’s Manhattan with Pret A Manger. We had a ‘key cities’ strategy around the world, and we knew if we didn’t make it in New York we wouldn’t make it in the US.”
On the subject of cash, McCay believes when moving into a new market, it’s not just about how much money you can afford to invest, it’s more about how much you can afford to lose. It’s also about finding a partner with the experience and cash to help you get off the ground. 
“That’s why it was so important for Pret A Manger to open that first shop in New York to prove that it could be an international [business] model, and therefore attract some smart capital.”
The fourth ‘C’, Commitment, is a reminder that exporting requires a personal commitment and a passion, and finding the right people to buy into that passion. McCay talks about the ‘X-factor’, and the art of translating that X-factor internationally. As in Pret A Manger’s case, it may require the founding entrepreneur, “the person with the sizzle”, to temporarily live in the targeted market, until local people with the same passion and drive can be recruited.
McCay finished by describing the virtuous circle of exporting. “The more you’re Curious and learn about your users, the more Courageous you become; the more Cash that encourages you to find; and the more Commitment you’ll bring.”
Experiences shared
Also on the Export Expo seminar agenda was Paul O’Brien’s ‘Ten Commandments’ for doing business in China. The general manager of One Pure shared his knowledge gained from his many years’ experience in China markets through Easiyo, Good Health and Australian pharmaceutical wholesaler API.
Later in the morning MFAT’s Martin Harvey and selected panellists shared information on New Zealand’s growing network of free trade agreements and economic partnerships, and how exporters can make best use of them.
The afternoon sessions covered export credit options, accessing finance and reducing credit risk, and a useful session on how to digitalise your export strategy.
From where Exporter is sitting, this Expo was a well organised, well hosted event, and a concept worth repeating. All that free advice and expertise under one roof, and in a room with a million dollar view, is a package that should appeal to any young exporting enterprise.
Glenn Baker

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


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