Tech exporters advise a US focus

If you want to export your product to a worldwide audience forget about Australia and go directly to the US. That's the advice of Right Hemisphere's co-founder Mark Thomas, who will be speaking later today at Trade New Zealand's Export Conference.

If you want to export your product to a worldwide audience forget about Australia and go directly to the US. That's the advice of 3D software developer Right Hemisphere's co-founder Mark Thomas, who will be speaking later today at Trade New Zealand's Export Conference at Auckland's Sheraton Hotel.

"Australians have little respect for New Zealand companies and really, unless you want to test your marketing skills to the point of having blood come out of your head, then forget Australia and jump on a plane for the US."

Thomas says not only do Aussies tend to look down on New Zealand like a younger sibling, but the market itself isn't that large, whereas in the US "it's large enough you can make mistakes and learn from them without damaging your credibility".

Thomas says Right Hemisphere's approach to exporting seems to have worked for them, although it's a roundabout route.

"We were a marketing distribution company first of all, so we developed the contacts around the market before we developed a product of our own. It meant we could also see the market as a whole and identify any niches that needed filling."

While most other companies would reverse that order of company development, Thomas says it's important to realise that if you're planning to compete in a large market you need to do your homework first.

"Too many companies seem to think that because they can't find a particular product in New Zealand that means it's not available anywhere else in the world. If they're trying to compete globally they have to realise just what that means."

He says Right Hemisphere competes with companies from Canada, Germany, France and Sweden for a piece of the US market and that being from New Zealand isn't necessarily a handicap.

"They're more likely to take your call if you say you're from New Zealand than if you were just from Idaho or some place."

He says there is a kind of romance involved with being from another country that means you're more likely to make that contact and actually talk to someone rather than be put off as just another seller of software.

"Americans are used to finding their technology from overseas, be it New Zealand or Israel or wherever. It just doesn't matter to them." The key to ongoing relationships, however, is that companies do need to put senior staff close to their customers.

"They want to be able to pick up the phone and talk to someone who can make a decision, and that means putting staff in those countries."

Thomas is speaking about the issues surrounding the export of technology products at 10am.

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