At Export Finance Australia, we see many of our customers face challenges of growing their export business. From understanding a new market to finding critical financial support, the key is often thinking innovatively about the way your business operates.
When we think of innovation, we often tend to imagine ground-breaking new inventions and revolutionary technologies. Yet most innovations are an evolution, rather than a revolution.
A change to your processes, delivery model or even your marketing can be just as effective as a new product in creating a lasting competitive advantage, increasing margins and helping you unlock profitable new markets.
Here are six different ways Australian SME exporters are driving growth through innovation.
Product and service innovation
Adapting your products and services to the needs of an overseas market is a proven route to export success. But exporting also provides an opportunity to capitalise on innovative product features with unique appeal offshore — features often seen as unimportant in the domestic market.
Finding an innovative way to distribute your product or service can mean the difference between success and failure as an exporter. Collaborating with an established overseas partner is one way to gain a head start in a new market, with immediate benefits for both businesses.
Digital technologies have also made it easier than ever before to reach out to overseas customers directly, either in collaboration with a partner or on your own.
Business model innovation
New business models have the power to overturn established players and reshape entire industries. Australian innovators like 99designs and Freelancer.com have been said to have revolutionised their business categories, and as a result have managed to build a global presence in a very short time by sidestepping traditional distribution channels.
But sometimes the most effective business model innovations are refinements of existing strengths, rather than revolutionary new methods of doing business. Analyse your existing business model and identify the areas where you add the most value for your customers.
Process innovation can yield immediate results by reducing your costs and improving customer service and speed to market.
Look for opportunities to automate and streamline your internal systems to increase efficiency and drive down costs. For example, connecting an online ordering platform directly to your accounting, stock control and order management systems can help you to reduce data errors, cut administrative overheads and speed up delivery.
An essential element of export success is the ability to adapt your marketing approach to appeal to customers in different locations. The first step is to analyse the distinctive tastes and buying behaviours of key customer segments in each destination, then adapt your brand and marketing accordingly. Digital platforms also make it easier to gather insights into the behaviours of different market segments.
Securing finance for new export initiatives is a key challenge for many SMEs. But innovative finance methods are becoming increasingly popular and creating new opportunities for Australian export businesses, for example crowdfunding.
Consider alternative funding sources that can help you build your global presence without sacrificing equity or control.