Creating the perfect storm
Export success rarely happens by accident – it requires insight, strategic planning and a little 'X' factor.
Article published in Idealog November/December 2012.
As an exporting nation, New Zealand has some innate attributes that other countries don’t enjoy. And it’s these qualities that can provide real value to companies looking at offshore markets.
Customer experience design agency DNA has developed a ‘model for success’ that it’s used to help New Zealand businesses make their mark on international markets. Its clients are diverse but all those that export have have taken a dose of Kiwi thinking to the world and seen positive results.
So, how exactly does this model for success work? Companies should be aiming for a ‘sweet spot’ at the intersection of two vital objectives, says managing director, Grenville Main.
“It’s a combination of being able to meet the real needs of a changing market and embedding the right amount of the New Zealandness into your product, brand or way of working,” he says.
“This is about being able to leverage and address trends, sell the New Zealand story and embody our attributes in valuable ways. It’s also about being guided by the key commercial principles: hitting the market quickly and potently, focusing on customer needs, improving your products/services to suit them, and acting with integrity and openness. The more of these elements you can factor in, the greater your difference and value, and the more your prospects are enhanced.”
What makes things trickier – and where DNA can really add value – is that the New Zealandness, or NZ Inc. attributes as Main also calls it, is continually evolving.
“We see it as the amalgamation of prime attributes of our makeup, our country’s success to date and its overall appeal. The appetite for who we are and how we do things has grown, in part due to key successes, but also due to the intrigue that we keep cropping up and won’t go away despite our size and youth.”
Main believes several aspects define the NZ Inc. story. There’s our pioneering nature combined with our racial diversity in a young and ambitious nation; the physical beauty and pure(-ish)ness of our landscape; our pastoral heritage and future, which embody qualities such as innovation, drive, resilience and ambition; and The Treaty and what it symbolises in terms of the settlement process, and the indigenous culture and language we are embracing.
There’s also our sense of adventure. “From Hillary to Hackett, and Pearce to Jackson, Kiwis have been ‘knocking the bastard off’ for generations,” says Main. “It’s an attitude others want to taste and share.” The final element in the NZ Inc story is our innovation, but it’s something we need to tap into more deeply, says Main, so we can prove that our ability to innovate is hardwired and built into our way of thinking and doing business.
DNA helped skincare company Trilogy capitalise on its simplicity, purity, vitality message using the New Zealand story as validation and credibility. The product and market expansion of orthotic manufacturer Foot Science leaned heavily on the Kiwi innovation story and allowed for distinct differentiation from US and European rivals. And, naturally, the All Black brand story was a blend of the mystique of New Zealand’s location and physicality, our culture and our determination.
Making the most of our New Zealandness is important, but we mustn’t ignore emerging trends either, says Main. While responding to them can be challenging, they can also provide compelling opportunities.
“Of course, trends wax and wane, but they align to who we are and how we create, so using them to our advantage is valuable.”
For New Zealand, one of the most significant current trends is hyper-connectedness, with social media and digital channels allowing ever greater direct connection. The rise in self-determination and self-service now mean we have a two-way channel that finally defeats the tyranny of distance and the lack of scale that have so often challenged Kiwi exporters.
“This hyper-connectedness benefits us specifically, because it now enables learning, testing, dialogue and advocacy for who we are and what we do,” says Main. “We can longer blame the old blockers – distance, youth, scale and self consciousness.”
DNA’s 6 tips for exporting in the modern world
1. Stand for something. Breaking into international markets requires something compelling, relevant and differentiated. Identify your unique selling proposition and amplify it.
2. Aim high and target opportunities. We can’t compete on mass manufacture, but having an innovation and design focus provides exportable and profitable opportunities.
3. Collaborate to innovate. Connect with right people, resources and access in specialist fields to give you the greatest chance of success.
4. One size doesn’t fit all. Before leaping into new markets, understand what they need, review how your offer measures up and carefully plan your impact to that audience.
5. Create experiences. Focus not only on what you offer, but how you offer it. Hyper-connected advocates are the most viral and effective means of market validation.
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