Small business: Exporting - Jill Brinsdon

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Jill Brinsdon, director of the branding consultancy, Radiation agency. She is a speaker at the Path to Market programme run by New Zealand Trade and Enterprise

Jill Brinsdon owner of a creative shop Radiation. Photo / Richard Robinson
Jill Brinsdon owner of a creative shop Radiation. Photo / Richard Robinson

How can New Zealand businesses go about finding opportunities to speak to overseas customers about their product and its story?

The principals of connecting with your customers don't really change wherever in the world you are pitching. You have to accept that they're not out there looking for another you and go hunt them down! Knowing your customer intimately is mandatory, so knowing where they hang out is too.

There will always be a robust research component to gaining understanding of a new marketplace, and trial and error should be accepted as a part of the learning phase. Identify their media channels and infiltrate.

Don't assume their media channels are all ones you can buy your way into either. You have bought, owned and earned media in your artillery, and the earned media is the most powerful of all - the story you pull off on breakfast TV, the slot you earn yourself speaking at an event they might visit.

What sort of storytelling skills should SMEs use?

The power and persuasion of a good story is universal. No matter what country you're working in, your brand story should sit at the crossroads of what's unique and compelling about your offering and what your prospective customers aren't getting from anyone else in the marketplace.

You can't inform people into action; you have to inspire them. So no matter what you're selling, make it personal and meaningful to them. "Let me tell you about me," is never going to be as compelling as: "Let me tell you about you."

How do they take their product story and incorporate it into every experience that overseas customer has with them?

A recurring mistake we see businesses make when it comes to building their brands is firmly placing it in the marketing box. If you want your customers to get the full picture of your brand difference, put it squarely at the centre of your business from day one. You need to walk the talk.

Every touch point should reflect and represent your brand. Does your personality come through with every customer interaction? If you want them to start believing your story, you need to believe it yourself first, and then live it. Branding is not a project you give to an expert then house in the marketing department. It's everything you do, every day.
If you know your brand story from the word go, you can hire "on brand" people from the beginning too. Your people should always be your best brand champions.

Where have you seen a New Zealand business tell their story well to overseas markets?

Our business world is rich with examples of smart Kiwis getting it right for the global marketplace. Icebreaker and Karen Walker, for instance. Icebreaker has turned a yarn into a yarn, emotionalising merino and transforming it into a compelling point of difference for their customers and therefore their business.

Karen Walker has been extraordinarily consistent with their brand from the earliest days.

I remember four infant labels heading off to London Fashion week around 15 years ago.

One was already telling a unique global story for the global marketplace. It's a testament to how clearly and succinctly they have positioned themselves, and how rigorous they have been with their vision that they have been able to take their fashion story into so many categories.

Where do New Zealand businesses make mistakes in marketing overseas at the beginning?

The biggest mistake, and I hazard a guess that it is the most common one, is to assume the customer is the same in every marketplace. Even between New Zealand and Australia, there are enormous differences in the way our business worlds work, and the way our consumers make their choices. Assume anything at your peril.

Next week, we are taking a look at the changing workplace health and safety landscape in corporate New Zealand triggered by the Pike River tragedy. With a new Crown agency, Worksafe NZ, being set up to regulate workplace health and safety by the end of 2013, and much more stringent enforcement measures including heavy fines and corporate manslaughter, it's time all businesses checke that their house is in order.

- NZ Herald

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