ExporTech™, an export acceleration program delivered in partnership by the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC), the Wisconsin Manufacturing Extension Partnership (WMEP) and the UW-Stout Manufacturing Outreach Center (MOC), helps Wisconsin companies expand their global market reaches through targeted export strategy development and execution.
Gilman Precision, a machining manufacturer based in Grafton, found success in foreign markets after Doug Biggs, the vice president of sales and marketing, discovered the ExporTech program during online research. The company participated in program sessions from December 2012 through February 2013 and has grown its international business significantly since completing the program. Biggs shares more about how ExporTech has impacted Gilman Precision’s export strategy in the Q&A below.
Q: How did you decide to participate in the ExporTech program?
A: We were market planning for the year and having internal discussions about the need to get into the export market; it was something that was definitely on my to-do list. There was some discussion that we needed to start exploring opportunities in China and India, but I knew enough about these large markets that I didn’t feel comfortable starting out in those locations. So I started doing some research online and discovered ExporTech. After inquiring about the program I was put in touch with Roxanne Baumann, director of global engagement of WMEP. I explained to her my hesitation with exporting, and that I preferred investing in a program to help us drill down and figure out the optimum markets for our business. Roxanne was very helpful in getting us involved in the program.
Q: How did the program help you create a functional export plan?
A: It helped in a number of different ways. First, it let us determine target markets. Going into the program, we had identified China and India as target markets, and coming out, our top three markets were Singapore, Australia and Canada. Those three markets couldn’t be any more different than what we started with initially. But we went where the data led us. We’ve found it’s very easy for people who don’t experience a program like ExporTech to just say “Hey, I’d like to go there” or “Hey, there’s a lot of people there.” That’s a vacation strategy, not an export strategy. We looked at the data to determine where the markets were based on competition levels, previous interest in our website, as well as eight or nine other items. That’s how we arrived at our decision on the initial markets. From there, we were able to create an overall strategy that enabled us to drill down and outline individual plans for each market.
Q: How did you decide on primary target markets?
A: My caution going into exporting was that I wasn’t sure China was the right market for us, but I didn’t know for sure. One of the advantages of ExporTech is it helped us discover the right market for our company, both initially and as we continued through the process. I made it a point to say to the company’s leadership team to look at exporting with an open mind. Through ExporTech, we were able to do just that. We looked at markets on an equal basis and developed a solid exporting strategy from there.
Q: What is the biggest takeaway you got from ExporTech?
A: I have two really big takeaways. The first is, exporting is not as difficult as people seem to believe. Are there challenges? Absolutely. But with anything new you’ll do, there will be challenges involved.
The second takeaway is that we were able to walk away from ExporTech with a process—a process for determining which countries to export to, how to tackle marketing to these countries and ways to find people to sell to in these countries. There’s a process that was developed through ExporTech and that’s key.
Q: Would you recommend ExporTech to other companies interested in exporting?
A: Absolutely, I would recommend ExporTech to those companies looking to export. I would also recommend the program to companies that may not interested in exporting, because it provides a glimpse into what’s happening throughout the global economy. In recent years, our growth has come from our exports, which is a really good indicator of the international business market. This growth would not have been possible without ExporTech.
I would also recommend ExporTech to other companies because it offers an opportunity to build relationships in the community and throughout the state. These relationships have helped us not only be successful with exports, but also with our existing business in Wisconsin. Through ExporTech, we were able to build a partnership with a local company that will help our Wisconsin business. So it’s an enormous benefit for the export side, but it can also help on the domestic side.