In 2011, IMS Research – now part of IHS Inc. (NYSE: IHS) – worked with UKTI to expand their research and customer presence in the United States.
Despite being an experienced exporter in the field of bespoke research to the global electronics industry, and enjoying sales across 70 countries worldwide, in 2011 IMS Research was certain that more opportunities existed in the US. Thomas Lynch, now the Associate Director of Critical Communications & Aerospace Research at IHS, described the situation, "We estimated that the United States accounted for approximately half the total worldwide communication markets and we felt sure there would be significant openings for us."
With the size of the US market in mind, but before making any launch plans, Thomas realised he needed to make some important decisions: what type of product would suit this market, what would be the best means to establish and hone a positive reputation, what pricing strategy would should be deployed and what sort of presence would be required in the market. As Thomas summarised, "It made sense to look at the US market for professional mobile radio in a more strategic way."
Making a plan
Thomas had worked with UKTI in a previous role and was aware of the array of services on offer. He’d seen the success UKTI brought to his previous company and was certain UKTI could help. Thomas decided to contact Richard Gilbert, a Research Adviser for the Export Marketing Research Scheme (EMRS). 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 support individual companies.
Richard worked with Thomas to put together a robust research plan, identifying the information he would need to find to make these decisions and the types of people he would need to interview. Initially, there was scepticism, "My boss was worried there would be lots of red tape, but actually the plan only took me half a day to put together and it became a useful part of my strategy going forward."
In November 2011, Thomas undertook a ten-day market research visit to the United States. He interviewed seven major vendors of professional mobile radio, industry specialists and recognised gurus; he also visited an important trade show to gain an overview of the market.
The research trip was a success. It was overwhelmingly apparent that a genuine requirement for market research in this specialised market existed and that competition was limited. Thomas found out about a large government investment to support a public safety broadband system, and identified a requirement for in-depth research in this area. It became clear that the IWCE (International Wireless Communications Expo) was the optimum exhibition at which to be seen. Being based in the UK, surprisingly, was found to be a positive to these potential customers, demonstrating the company’s network beyond the United States. However, to fully service the market, a longer-term aim would be to consider a US-based expert. Thomas was reassured that the pricing structure was appropriate for this market. "Another useful element," explained Thomas, "was the people I interviewed face-to-face were far more willing to share their information with me than if I’d simply emailed them, or spoken on the phone."
Knowledge is power
As a consequence of the research, Thomas has refined the product offering for maximum appeal to the US market, has exhibited at IWCE in both 2012 and 2013 and established an on-going, targeted communications campaign. He also has the confidence to maintain the premium pricing strategy to reflect the quality product, knowing this is affordable within this market.
Already, professional mobile radio research sales in the United States have increased by significantly more than the business anticipated. As well as this financial benefit, the team has forged solid strategic relationships in the market, securing an excellent outlook for the future.
Thomas was very pleased with the Export Marketing Research Scheme, "It’s a worthwhile exercise for any business that wants to establish a presence in a market. Conducting market research will make 100% difference to the product offering in the market: the old saying is true – knowledge really is power!"