We asked Michael Leggett, Head of Sales at Actisense, about his experience in exporting to New Zealand and what tips he can offer to businesses looking to follow in its footsteps. Actisense’s CEO Phil Whitehurst is a Department for International Trade (DIT) South West Export Champion.
Export Champions are successful exporters who volunteer their time to encourage and inspire other businesses to grow through international trade and provide peer-to-peer support.
Hello Michael. Can you tell us a little about your company?
Actisense was established in 1997 by Phil Whitehurst, so we’re coming up to our 25th year in business. We service above 80 distributors in over 50 countries and we’re renowned for the creation of remote data systems. Our NMEA marine electronics include intelligent sensors and interfaces which strive to make journeys safer. We also manufacture electronic farming equipment that aims to maximise yield.
Why did you target New Zealand?
New Zealand has a large focus on the leisure marine industry, so it was an obvious move for us and is a forever growing market for Actisense. There’s not so much of a language barrier as with other markets so this was also beneficial whilst establishing ourselves there.
Did you encounter any barriers and how did you overcome these?
Culturally, we’re very similar, so there weren’t any barriers in that sense. The one barrier we had to overcome was identifying not just relevant distribution channels but also boat builders themselves to get our products known. We ensured we approached reputable companies and worked hard to establish their trust in the Actisense brand, so consumers would in turn recognise and trust us our products.
How did DIT support you?
DIT has supported us most importantly in developing international connections. We worked with specialists at DIT in the marine sector to put us in front of the right distributors. This has allowed companies in New Zealand who have common interests in the marine industry to work towards widening their own portfolio by using the Actisense brand.
What does the future hold for Actisense?
The future for us lies in expanding our networking equipment portfolio of course, but also listening to the advice of our audience and customers, especially on an international basis. We are very much customer-focused and one of the areas we are looking to expand into is the commercial shipping side of things. We’ve had many distributors who although are predominantly in the leisure marine industry, tell us that they work with large commercial ships such as cruise ships. We’ve responded by innovating and manufacturing new products. This will allow a large proportion of our distributors to expand their offering.
Can you offer any tips to businesses looking to export their goods/services to the region?
Firstly, listen to what the Department for International Trade tells you, and ask as many questions as possible.
Secondly, for us it has been important to take on a strategic distributor who is on our side. You can then work with them to determine what the market wants and see where your goals align. Build a strong relationship with them by offering as much training and support as you can.
Finally, we’re in an environment where innovation is rife, where we’ve been predominantly working from our homes. You don’t need to jump on a plane to go and build relationships to make sales happen. In fact, now, some of the biggest deals we’ve achieved have taken place via conference call. Use the technology that’s at your fingertips to create opportunity.
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