Epic exporting: Greg Muir on why it's all about the product and the story

If you think the New Zealand story makes you cool by default, or your product or service isn't up to scratch, you won't be a successful exporter. And with exporting all about doing the hard yards, you need a dedicated strategy for market entry and partner selection.

These were among the key tips Greg Muir, managing director of agritech firm TruTest, passed on to the Epic Go Global export conference in Auckland last week.

There were no silver bullets when it came to export success, but there was a formula companies could learn and adapt to achieve success in different markets, Muir said.

"After one or two failures many companies give it away. Sometimes it might take us two, three, even five times to really strike a chord and achieve some success.

"The most important thing is is to have your strategy really well sorted out and to ask if your competitive advantage is really sustainable. You must convince yourself that you have a genuine market for your product or service."

Along with a high quality product, exporters needed a compelling story to succeed offshore, Muir said.

"Advertising spend is a tax on unremarkable products and remarkable products with average stories fail. If you have a cool product with a fabulous story, ask where you're going to sell it. Getting the best return requires a good selection strategy. Once you've chosen your market, choose your preferred entry strategy. Ours is to have distributors in market."

However, Muir warned Kiwi sellers not to rely on the Kiwi cool factor.

"A lot of companies think others will think they're pretty special because they're from New Zealand, but your product needs to be compelling."

Exporters should also find partners with a reputation for paying on time to ensure bills were covered. And they shouldn't base their reputation in offshore markets by listening to happy customers, he said.

"You learn the most from customers who aren't happy with you. Try and find those who've had a bad experience. They'll usually share passionate stories about what you could do better with your product or your service."