Researching export markets

Researching export markets – Genie Insights

Case Study

Genie Insights provides complementary products and services to the transport and logistics industry. Their two primary divisions are fleet management software and solar solutions for commercial vehicles.

Matt Reeve, Director of Genie Insights, explains how the business researches export markets.

Export markets

"Until recently, our main customer base was within the island of Ireland, when we were solely supplying our fleet management software and offering other related consultancy services. However, in 2020, we moved into the supply of physical products (solar panels), which have a much broader scope for export."

"Our primary export market for our solar solutions is currently Great Britain, but we have started to move into some of Europe, specifically the Republic of Ireland, the Netherlands, Poland and Scandinavia."

Conducting market research

"When we first added solar panels to our business, we were a small team competing against businesses with larger sales teams. So, we had to devise a different approach that would allow us to punch above our weight. Instead of selling directly to the market, we built strategic distribution partnerships with original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) to supply our product. Although we had less control over the direct-to-market sales, we could leverage the OEM’s larger sales teams to get our product into the market."

"For our software product, we have used industry-specific databases that have given us the ability to prioritise potential customers based initially on fleet size. From there, we can then complete online research to find out more. As well as company websites and social media profiles, we’ve found it useful to search for companies in the news or industry trade journals, as you can often find quotes in articles from the relevant decision-maker."

"For our solar division, most of our relationships have been built via personal connections. As we roll out a new product for a specific application, we have sought to align ourselves with the market leader in the industry sector."

Advice and support

"We are very grateful to have received support from Invest NI to assist us with some of the costs of the in-market research. This has been via the Growth Accelerator Programme (GAP) and the ‘Going Dutch’ programme."

"The GAP has provided financial assistance to support the cost of travel to export markets to meet with potential partners. We launched our solar division during COVID so most of our sales activity was established via remote online meetings. Once travel restrictions were lifted, it was invaluable meeting people face-to-face to better build the relationships."

"The GAP has also supported attendance at various trade shows – there’s no better way to get face-to-face with potential distributors and customers."

"The Going Dutch programme went even further – Invest NI’s team conducted research and set up appointments for us before our market visit. Following the initial market visit, we now have a sales agent in the Netherlands."

"But perhaps the most significant impact Invest NI has had on our business has been the Key Worker Salary Grant. A contribution towards an employee's salary has helped us to bring on additional much-needed resources."

"Our export growth has been steady over the past few years. Between 2019 and 2023, our sales outside NI grew from 42% to 94%. This activity is still heavily focused on GB as our largest export market, but sales to the EU are increasing year-on-year. By the end of 2024, we anticipate EU sales will exceed 10% and may see sales into further new markets."

Business challenges and successes

"The only way to be effective going into a new market is to understand what you are getting yourself into. Insights from market research can guide product development, assess competitor activity and identify appropriate target customers. This approach helps you go into a market with a clear understanding of how you should be positioning your offering and who you want to sell to."

"Having a more strategic approach to market development has been a lesson for us. In the earlier days, we were guilty of trying to design products to suit all market applications simultaneously, but we quickly realised that we didn’t have the resources to do that. When we re-focused and concentrated on researching and launching one product application to one market segment at a time, everything became more manageable. Because we put most of our time and energy into researching and delivering for one market initially, we could more quickly dominate that market before moving on to the next application and the next to replicate the model.

"Having to ship a physical product abroad is still challenging today, particularly when despatching it to a new market for the first time. We have sought advice from a company specialising in customs arrangements when we’ve needed it."

Case Study

Matt Reeve

Genie Insights

Matt's Top Tips:

  • “If you are a small team, be selective about who you want to sell to. Tackling an entire market without a prioritisation system is unlikely to deliver quality results."

  • “Use existing relationships and networks to get a foothold in your chosen export market. Once you have your first customer in that new market, work hard to deliver for them."

  • “Adapt your export strategy as you go. If something isn't working, learn from it and move on. A market may not always provide the opportunities you expected from your research.”