Six ways innovation can grow your export business
By Andrew Watson.
At Efic, we see many of our clients face the challenges of growing their export business. From understanding a new market to finding critical financial support, the key is often thinking innovatively about the way your business operates.
When we think of innovation, we often tend to imagine ground-breaking new inventions and revolutionary technologies. Yet most innovations are an evolution, rather than a revolution.
A change to your processes, delivery model or even your marketing can be just as effective as a new product in creating a lasting competitive advantage, increasing margins and helping you unlock profitable new markets.
Here are six different ways Australian SME exporters are driving growth through innovation.
Product and service innovation
Adapting your products and services to the needs of an overseas market is a proven route to export success. But exporting also provides an opportunity to capitalise on innovative product features with unique appeal offshore — features often seen as unimportant in the domestic market.
Astec Paints is a manufacturer of innovative paints and acrylic renders since 1978. Their high-performance products are designed to cope with the extremes of the Australian climate and include elastomeric membranes that are intended to stretch and shrink like rubber, without cracking or flaking. These elastomeric products are designed to withstand the stresses of earthquake tremors that has underpinned the company’s recent export growth in Japan.
Finding an innovative way to distribute your product or service can mean the difference between success and failure as an exporter. Collaborating with an established overseas partner is one way to gain a head start in a new market, with immediate benefits for both businesses.
Digital technologies have also made it easier than ever before to reach out to overseas customers directly, either in collaboration with a partner or on your own.
Sydney-based digital marketing company Stackla partnered with established social media platform providers, developing strong relationships. In just four years, the company has been able to win many new clients across Europe, North America and Asia Pacific.
Business model innovation
New business models have the power to overturn established players and reshape entire industries. Australian innovators like 99designs and Freelancer.com have been said to have revolutionised their business categories, and as a result have managed to build a global presence in a very short time by sidestepping traditional distribution channels.
But sometimes the most effective business model innovations are refinements of existing strengths, rather than revolutionary new methods of doing business. Analyse your existing business model and identify the areas where you add the most value for your customers.
Melbourne-based Marand Precision Engineering responded to a downturn in car manufacturing by adapting its business model to create a new offering for clients in the fast-growing mining sector: a fully automated workshop to maintain the rolling stock that miners rely on to transport their commodities to market.
Process innovation can yield immediate results by reducing your costs, and improving customer service and speed to market.
Look for opportunities to automate and streamline your internal systems to increase efficiency and drive down costs. For example, connecting an online ordering platform directly to your accounting, stock control and order management systems can help you to reduce data errors, cut administrative overheads and speed up delivery.
An essential element of export success is the ability to adapt your marketing approach to appeal to customers in different locations. The first step is to analyse the distinctive tastes and buying behaviours of key customer segments in each destination, then adapt your brand and marketing accordingly. Digital platforms also make it easier to gather insights into the behaviours of different market segments.
When entering the Chinese market, Australian winemaker Cassegrain adapted everything from bottle shapes and sizes to labelling and packaging to create a product with unique appeal to Asian buyers, helping protect the brand’s future as the market matures.
Securing finance for new export initiatives is a key challenge for many SMEs. But innovative finance methods are becoming increasingly popular and creating new opportunities for Australian export businesses, for example crowd-funding.
Consider alternative funding sources that can help you build your global presence without sacrificing equity or control.
Help is just around the corner
The increased focus on innovation now means there is more help available for SMEs looking to innovate, with business incubation groups, government centres and other providers offering support and financing assistance.
If you’re looking for alternative export finance solutions, contact us at Efic. We can help you grow your business overseas.
Download our free Innovation in export special paper.
About Andrew Watson
Andrew Watson is head of the Export Finance team at Efic, which provides financial solutions to help small and medium-sized Australian businesses grow their export, offshore investment and onshore export-related business opportunities.
Andrew has over 20 years banking experience in a number of corporate banking, commercial banking, rural and regional, and strategy roles, including senior management roles within the Commonwealth Bank group.