Craig Armstrong

An interview with Craig Armstrong

“The world is like a big city. No matter where you go, there’s always an opportunity for New Zealand products,” Craig Armstrong, Director of Customers at New Zealand Trade and
Enterprise, told us when we met him at NZTE’s sun-soaked offices on Princes Wharf, Auckland.

The occasion was to discuss the best options available for NZ companies looking to export and promote their brands overseas, and what NZTE is actively doing on that front.
Since its establishment in 2003, the Government’s trade promotion agency has been on a mission to help companies boost their global reach, using its worldwide network of contacts.
“Where the demand is, we will go,” Armstrong said, adding that China remains our biggest market volume-wise, but the demand for premium products is rising in the US, Europe and Australia, and primary produce is taking a prominent position in South East Asia.

Despite its limited size, New Zealand’s reputation as a safe, healthy and clean country is still its irreplaceable asset. With this in mind, NTZE, Tourism NZ and Education NZ have recently done
lots of work around NZ Story, a government initiative that uses storytelling techniques to promote the country’s unicity and its commercial value.
“In most developed countries, consumers follow a rational purchase strategy; they are looking for brands they can trust, products that they need, ingredients that contain a specific nutritional benefit that they value. This is why our story is particularly appreciated overseas and provides a useful platform upon which to tell our brands' stories.”

NZ Story may offer a framework to work within, but NZTE doesn’t stop there. The agency walks with NZ companies through the nuts and bolts of marketing their products abroad, including (but
not limiting to) international trade fairs. The first and most important thing that businesses need to do is identifying their audience.
“Even though some trade fairs are flagship events, like SIAL, FHA and Anuga, they are just a part of a marketing plan. All businesses, across all sectors, need to have mature marketing and export
plans first,” said Armstrong. “Eighty percent of what we do is defined by an engagement strategy, usually growth related, with a business. The remaining part is using those flagship events and
analysis to determine where markets are heading. So a great deal of the companies’ job is to identify which channels and audience or events, whether physical or social, are instrumental means to an end.”

Unfortunately, Armstrong added, FMCG businesses tend to have a woeful investment in marketing and communication. “They usually spend one or two percent of their budgets in marketing, which is not enough. It should be at least ten percent to overcome our disadvantages of scale and distance.”
Companies also make other common mistakes, like treating trade shows as the only marketing tool, or pushing products into foreign markets that they don’t understand. Last, but not least, businesses often focus on launching marketing campaigns (i.e. through social media) rather than taking the time to develop a clear message and value proposition.

To make the most of NTZE’s services, NZ companies need to come up with a clear idea of who they are and what’s their differentiation, and make sure they can serve an international market.
“Once this has been set, we tailor all of our work to the company’s needs and desires, developing a growth plan that’s unique to them. Additionally, whenever there are companies interested in a
particular international event, we encourage them to collaborate and share our exhibition stand, which helps minimise costs while maximising visibility.”