Green Energy Options Ltd (geo), based in Cambridgeshire, designs and produces solutions to help consumers and utility companies manage their energy and water consumption. Since its incorporation in 2006, the company has become one of the leading manufacturers of in-home displays and online services worldwide.
geo began to expand their export business four years ago: after meeting their region’s International Trade Advisor (ITA) at an industry exhibition, they were invited to join UKTI’s ‘Passport to Export’ programme and then progressed to the ‘Gateway to Global Growth’ support.
Business was growing well, but with the European economic slowdown, geo was keen to identify new markets with development opportunities. Their background research had indicated that Australia and New Zealand could provide interesting options, and geo’s International Trade Advisor recommended they investigate UKTI’s Export Marketing Research Scheme (EMRS).
The EMRS is a UKTI scheme to help businesses understand the dynamics of a potential overseas market before creating the optimal strategy for launching in this market. Rachel Bennett, VP of the company, admits she was sceptical, "I think people get put off ‘Government Schemes’ assuming they will be encumbered with red tape; far from it, this really is their best kept secret!"
After an initial meeting with the region’s Research Advisor, Alice Mamier, Rachel and her team were able to put together a considered plan to identify the key decisions geo needed to make before developing their strategy. They needed to decide upon their route to market, pricing strategy and, very important, whether their products and services should be adapted, and also how they would promote themselves in the market.
With Alice’s support, Rachel prepared a visit schedule, involving a wide range of people from relevant businesses and regulatory bodies in Australia and New Zealand. The objective of these meetings was to understand the market, confirming that there was sufficient potential in the Australian and New Zealand markets and identifying any regulatory issues, opportunities and hurdles, thereby providing geo with the information to make those key decisions. The EMRS was also able to help by funding part of the research trip.
Rachel travelled to Australia and New Zealand in October 2010, and interviewed 18 people across her 13 day visit. "Whilst initially it felt a bit odd not to sell our products, setting the trip up as a ‘research trip’ did take away that awful pressure to ‘sell’, and the people I met were really impressed that I was interested in understanding their market, and took the time with them." Rachel was also able to connect with the local UKTI teams whilst on her trip.
The market research trip was a success, as Rachel explains, "Although the market might appear similar to ours, it’s really very different, with different regulations across the region, and different tariffs. Even the language, tone and style of our user guide needed to change!" The findings provided geo with the confidence to enter the market and the knowledge to gain the correct accreditation; they developed a strategy for finding suitable business partners, and realised their products would need some adaptations (including approved power supplies and smart plugs). The findings also helped to create the more appropriate messages for their marketing materials.
geo now enjoys significant revenue from their Australian and New Zealand businesses, with a first order of over £250k, impressive regional business plans and talk of establishing an Australian subsidiary. Rachel was delighted, "It’s fantastic – the business in this region is really taking off! I wouldn’t hesitate to use the EMRS again, and I would strongly advise people to keep it in the forefront of their minds when developing plans for export expansion"