Ship It!

Hardware manufacturers and suppliers, particularly those companies with few product lines, generally consider the export market to be out of bounds.

Is exporting only for the “big boys,” or is the global market a potential goldmine for small-to-medium businesses?

There is an unfortunate tendency to think of exporting as “the next step” – something to be investigated only after the local market has been tested, vanquished and saturated. But there is no reason why massive overseas markets should be the final piece in the puzzle.

Depending on the nature of the product being marketed, there are occasions when exports may well be a logical early stepping stone to sales success.

The major obstacles, in truth, relate more to a lack of knowledge about costs, freight mechanisms and trade partners than any shortcomings in the product or the size of the manufacturing company. A little knowledge certainly can take your products a very long way.

The Australian Government offers a free service called New Exporter Development Program (NEDP) to owners of small-to-medium businesses. Delivered by Austrade in association with TradeStart, NEDP is designed to introduce Australian entrepreneurs to the major issues involved in exporting.

Companies with a registered ABN are eligible to participate in the program if they have not undertaken similar programs in the last three years, and have not derived recurrent revenue from exports over the same period.

The program involves an assessment of the company’s export potential and likely overseas markets, accompanied by advice about foreign business practices. Issues such as marketing and the economic conditions of the target market are also addressed. The product is then evaluated for its suitability and likelihood of success.

The program also offers businesspeople up to 20 hours of free services in the target market to finalise preferred entry strategies, research customer needs, identify partners and even make representations on the company’s behalf to local authorities.

Ongoing assistance is offered in relation to any practical matters that should arise. Many Australian companies are dazzled at how well their products are received overseas. Given our reputation for high-quality manufacturing practices and technical innovation, there are markets aplenty that are willing to embrace conceptually original and cost-effective Australian goods.

It is worth remembering that Australia has a small population scattered over a massive continent. Companies that already distribute products across our huge nation may not realise what a head start they have on international competitors in terms of managing freight issues and creating long-distance partnerships.

Testing overseas markets, therefore, may not be as dramatic or complex as many businesspeople believe.

For more information about NEDP, call Austrade on 13 28 78 or visit the website atwww.austrade.gov.au.

By John Power