Australia accounts for only 2.5 per cent to the world’s high-tech exports compared to Switzerland’s 20.8 per cent. We have no excuses to be 10 times less proactive. Hell, even little Denmark is five times more export focused than us!
Believe it or not, you can export your product or service directly from your Australian base to the wider world and take your business global. Exporting does not mean you have to travel overseas at great expense. Here are 10 tips on making it big overseas from Daniel Boland, who’s been mentoring small businesses for over 30 years…
Identify one key trend, customer or country profile. Look what is selling well in the country you’d like to expand in and the characteristics of your customer’s buying habits. Study trends to see what your potential European, Chinese or Japanese market are generally doing, wearing and eating. For example, are health-conscious Chinese consumers eating more red meat? If so, why not convince them to start eating kangaroo meat by pointing out it’s nutritional features through education and marketing. And if it’s meat you’re selling, can you push the message that Australian meat is superior to its international competitors and steal away a bit of the market? The idea may not be as far fetched as it sounds with Shanghai retailers who import Australian beef as a luxury pre-packaged product reporting that it has huge potential to take off in China – read more at http://trendwatching.com/freepublications.
Highlight your country of origin. I am amazed how many Australian-made products hide their provenance in the fine print. What have we got to hide? Compared to Switzerland, Germany, New Zealand or even Alaska we are very slack in identifying the origins of our local products. Perhaps it’s down to that daggy green and gold kangaroo triangle. Maybe you can invent a new graphic for the product you are looking to export. Brand Australia!
Deliver on customer service. Australians are seen as friendly people the world over so live up to the expectation by providing exceptional and creative customer service. It’s a competitive world and we must be more like an Australian version of Richard Branson. He copied us and just look how well he’s doing! Be out there, talk and listen to people and disrupt the public perception of who and what you represent.
Partner up with local sales agents. This might seem obvious but it’s an important responsibility to hand pick your overseas representatives or retail outlet. These should be long term relationships, not a quick sale. I know of one business person whom sells high end, top of the range quality men’s clothing and only has twenty clients worldwide. They visit each client once a year to co-ordinate the next season’s production personally.
Share Trade Fair costs to save cash. A small enterprise cannot afford all the downtime associated with attending events and often are not networking specialists so it might be an idea to partner with an industry association and look out for up coming events. In saying that, target your service to a unique niche group in a low cost setting; you could do a private viewing of your products in the hotel you’re staying at, for example. Contact www.austrade.gov.au for market research and joint event opportunities.
Piggy backing off an industry association can give you the leverage as a guest to research any new opportunities in a foreign country before committing to take your business to that next level. That way you can see firsthand the culturual differences you’ll be dealing with, different retailing methods, small manufacturing sites and whole villages devoted to one industry specialty. Join the Small Enterprise Association to find out more, www.seaanz.org.
Don’t misrepresent the product. Just as tourists want to buy reasonably priced souvenirs that are actually ‘Made in Australia,’ so too will your clients want quality and authentic products from Australia. In an effort to make a quick buck we sometimes forget the micro manufacturing options that are available to us to lowers costs, with some creative thinking and strategic brainstorming we can design and make new products here in Australia, instead of just going overseas for cheap manufacturing as a first option. Pricing is only one factor in product and service selection. The other two are quality and reliable delivery.
Be prepared to get on a plane. I once sent two young start-up business owners to Japan on a budget airline to get a $15,000 dollar order. Sometimes the cost is worth it. If Ken Done could make $100 million dollars selling a unique style of art and design to a niche market the world is our oyster so continue to be cheerful, colourful and collectable. Contact www.webjet.com.au for current ticket prices.
Have a back-up plan. Taking personal financial risks in order to be able to take a large order from a new client is very enticing but be warned… Just recently an Australian beauty product manufacturer took an order destined for Singapore, but was depending on another supplier to deliver. With a wide margin for some delivery chain hiccup to happen, of course, it did. If your exchange rate fluctuates or a third party lets you down, what is you Plan B? Paying attention to detail and having long lead times to fill orders helps, however in the end the small business owner will have to accept the risks involved. The long term rewards are worth the efforts but not the stress so be as prepared as possible. Unfortunately Australia is one of the most export adverse countries in the world but times are a changing. If we want to maintain our standard of living, we cannot afford not to export. Visit www.business.qld.gov.au for useful information.
Protect your ‘knowledge bank’. Your Australian intellectual property is what the world wants. It has a price and must be protected. Even your time and experience must be valued with a return on your investment. Customers these days are in Kazakhstan or Mali so use free copyright then low cost trademark registration from IP Australia (www.ipaustralia.gov.au) to get started. Trade secrets are a trade secret. If you do not have the cash to defend any published material or inventions with a unique Australian point of difference, be careful of your confidentially agreements. The agreement must be enforceable and audited. But this is another subject left to my professional colleagues.
Words: Daniel Boland. For more information email firstname.lastname@example.org