Proserve specialises in marine construction systems using concrete structures. Their team of engineers designs solutions to overcome marine conditions using a range of underwater construction techniques. Based in Kenilworth, Warwickshire, the company was established over 40 years ago by Ernest W. Cannon and was taken over by Martin Hawkswood some 20 years ago. Proserve have a wide range of products, services and applications which have been used on both large and small projects around the world.
From reactive to proactive
Proserve had been exporting successfully to many countries throughout the world but had had very few enquiries from potential markets such as Brazil and Argentina, and they were keen to find out what opportunities may be available with a proactive approach. George Hawkswood, principally a Design and Project Engineer at Proserve and son of the Director, explained their thinking, "We’d been reactive to enquiries, either direct or from the sales networks of a key supplier in Brazil and other parts of the world, so we wanted to determine whether this was the best route to market for us or if a more proactive technical sales approach from our side could increase our opportunities. We also needed to know whether our pricing structure was appropriate for the market and the level of support that would be expected by our potential clients."
George recalled his father using a UKTI scheme supporting Proserve’s launch into North America many years previously. "Back in the mid 90’s, my Father used a scheme called the Export Marketing Research Scheme [EMRS] which was very successful in helping us work out how best to launch in the USA." The EMRS is a UKTI scheme providing professional advice and funding to help businesses understand the dynamics of a potential overseas market before creating an appropriate strategy for launching in this market and there is a nationwide team of professional Research Advisers to work with individual companies.
George contacted Anne Williams, his Research Adviser, who helped him structure a market research visit, pinpointing the information he would need to find to make these key decisions and helping him to work out which types of people he would need to speak to. Early in 2011, George travelled to Argentina and Brazil and spent three weeks interviewing a wide variety of people including marine engineers, large contractors, suppliers, and key industry regulators. Being fluent in Spanish, George was able to conduct all of the interviews himself in either English or Spanish. He was pleasantly surprised with the simplicity of the EMRS, "I really liked the fact that it was so easy to use – there was no red-tape or ‘hoops’ to jump through. I was able to concentrate on finding out what we needed to know, reporting the results to the scheme once completed."
Local base, local support
The research uncovered some very interesting results. A significant finding was the loyalty shown to local suppliers: George discovered that his potential Brazilian and Argentinian customers were very serious about using local goods and services wherever possible. To be successful in this market, Proserve would require a local base offering local technical support to potential customers, which is a large expense for a small company. On a more positive note, it was apparent that the Proserve pricing structure was appropriate for the market.
The findings of the research led Proserve to conclude that, to significantly grow business in Brazil and Argentina, strong local support would be required. Given that their current route-to-market, supplementing existing supplier sales-networks, allows them the potential to make sales into these markets, Proserve took the decision NOT to focus any further support on the Brazilian and Argentinian markets, but to continue to rely on their existing sales strategy. As George explained, "We know that these markets, especially Brazil, are up-and-coming with around one third of the total coastline of South America shared between both Brazil and Argentina. However, our research gave us the confidence to continue to rely on our suppliers to come to us, thus freeing us up for other projects."
George was very happy to have been re-introduced to the EMRS, "It made it possible for us to find out what we needed to know in a market that would otherwise have been out of our reach. I think it’s great that other businesses can continue to benefit from this long-established Export Marketing Research Scheme!"
Countries: Argentina, Brazil, South West England, and West Midlands