Research key to B2B success in Australia

First published in Fairfax Unlimited on 22 April 2014

Last week I spent several days in Auckland, presenting a talk on marketing to Australia and meeting with many different businesses that have Australia in their sights.

It’s always interesting to meet the people behind the companies and, rightly or wrongly, you get a feel for whether they’re likely to find a market here in Oz. This time around, I caught up with a number of manufacturing businesses.

I do love those well-designed widgets that cost little to produce but make a radical difference. You know, something like an aluminium hose attachment that no one pays attention to but every hose in the world must have – I love that stuff.

In fact, New Zealand companies in business-to-business may have a better time in Australia right now than retail. No doubt about it, New Zealand has no shortage of ideas and innovation, and with the right business case Australians will sit up and listen.

Australians can’t resist a good business case and any company looking to grow here should come armed with a strong one. Take Stuart Norris from Magic Memories tourism photography. Last year when I interviewed him, within a few minutes of that phone call it was crystal clear why the business was clocking up international wins.

Norris knows the numbers behind his business inside out. He can put a digit to every aspect of his trade, from the number of photographs taken each year to the expected value a tourist attraction can anticipate from the investment.

If you can pitch a case for why your customer’s customer will be buying your product or service (based on solid evidence or research) the battle is practically won. This is especially true in business-to-business, where your prospective buyer has a whole channel that needs satisfying.

Too many companies come in flogging their own features instead of proving that they’ve considered the supply chain right through to the end customer. If your product or service makes your client’s sale easier, your brand positioning is a cinch.

I keep coming back to Sistema, a New Zealand favourite of mine. Australian supermarkets love them because they create seasonal food packaging that sells in ranges. You don’t just buy one lunch box, you buy the whole range that fits together and encourages repeat purchase. I find that B2B companies I work with, even the industrial ones, find success by applying the same marketing approach as Sistema does.

On this recent Auckland visit, I caught up with a very smart CEO I met last year. He is in the process of repositioning his manufacturing business from one that makes cheap commodities to a premium, design-led brand. A lot of people pay lip service to this, but I can honestly say this one is likely to succeed.

Rather than competing on price, which was happening more and more in his Australian negotiations, he is investing in top engineering talent, focusing on a handful of truly innovative launch products, and developing for a niche that is very much about the future.

It’s bound to get his team re-energised about where the company is heading and when he brings the new, smarter proposition to Australia, I can see a lot of done deals ahead.