Trade Commissioner Dan Taylor talks how to sell to the UK

IMG_6956The UK market presents something of a conundrum for New Zealand companies. On one hand, the UK has a buoyant economy which has rebounded better than most following the GFC, but on the other, it is a highly competitive market on the other side of the world – making servicing it a real test.

The dual challenges of distance and competition mean that remaining niche and high value is of utmost importance. New Zealand companies do best when they are able to identify and meet an unmet or emerging demand before their competitors. For example, what will the phasing out of EU milk quotas in 2015 mean for suppliers in to the agricultural sector, or the challenges being faced by the NHS mean for the health sector – and how can New Zealand companies best position themselves to take advantage of these opportunities now and into the future?

It starts with having a clear, defendable value proposition. What solution, or mix of solutions, are you providing that your competitors can’t easily offer? For example, as with most developed economies, the UK is focused on products and processes enabling efficiency and productivity gains. This is true across all sectors and remains an important selling point for New Zealand, as we are well regarded in this space. Companies like Orion and Vend are doing a good job of using their strengths in this area to position themselves in the market.

Relationships in business are important regardless of sector, but become particularly so when thinking about engaging in large scale projects or supply opportunities.  As large scale opportunities are generally beyond the capacity of any one New Zealand company, there are a couple of ways they can be approached.

1. Good traction can often be gained through partnering with reputable in-market aggregators, enabling participation in otherwise inaccessible projects.

2. Collaboration with like-minded and complimentary New Zealand companies can be really powerful – a recent example of this, of which I hold high hopes, is the Craft Beer Collective. With New Zealand companies being small on a global scale, and opportunities in mature markets like the UK being large, it just makes sense to work together to grow New Zealand’s share of the pie.

In any search for success in a really competitive market, you can’t afford to leave any stone unturned as you develop and execute your strategy. In the UK, New Zealand companies are becoming more thoughtful about where they locate themselves. For a long time London was the default option, but not the always the best choice. Getting close to consumers, both in mind and body, remains important, as does finding a location fit for purpose; there’s no doubt London is a stunning city but if you don’t actually need to be there, and can avoid the eye-watering property rental prices, why wouldn’t you look at alternatives? Whether it’s The Department of Discovery making sure they are based near their frankly stunning flagship offering at Manchester City Football Club, or Trimax locating themselves in Northampton to be closer to potential customers and to maintain control of their stock without having to pay the earth – every decision counts.

In the same vein, pleasingly, more New Zealand businesses with a manufacturing component are at least entertaining the idea of manufacturing in the UK or Europe and distributing their products to Europe or markets in that part of the world. Shorter lead times, reduced transport costs and opportunities to spread risk are all benefits to weigh up against the costs and challenges of running multiple production sites – but they are well worth considering.

Success in the UK isn’t rocket science (unless, of course, you’re Martin Jetpack – in which case it most definitely is). A clear, customer-centric value proposition; focused on an emerging or unmet need; delivered where, how and when the market wants it – if you can tick these boxes, you’re giving yourself an excellent chance of success.

This column was originally published in the National Business Review and on nzte.govt.nz.