Even for a small SME the first steps across the border can set things in motion that you could initially dismiss as nice dreams. Success here does not occur exactly as per the textbooks. No bold marketing strategies are devised. Maybe that’s reserved for the big boys. Contacts, drive (‘nothing ventured, nothing gained’), ideas and a good portion of luck are all part of the process, even if that sounds bourgeois and precocious. What follows describes our route from Bad Hersfeld-Asbach into the world beyond.
As a manufacturer and developer of systems for trenchless sewer rehabilitation, we found ourselves in the situation one day where potential in the German market was thoroughly exhausted. Everybody knew everyone else. If we didn’t want to tread water, we had to come up with a new idea. But you don’t just ring up some place or other in Madrid and ask if they couldn’t perhaps do with a robot. It’s nice to think that you could make contacts so directly. But on the telephone you’re often fended off. You don’t speak the customer’s language. And I’m not talking about English. Sometimes it’s also a case of different mentalities. We therefore found intermediaries via whom we were able to promote our products at trade shows abroad. We entered the French market, for example, in this way. There as elsewhere we work with a general agent, who also represents us at trade fairs.
At the same time we also have a presence at trade fairs in Germany, for instance at RO-KA-TECH and ENTSORGA. In this way you can also make contact with foreign clients here in Germany. The classic benefit of trade shows. Very practical, don’t you think? We take a long-term approach to our business. Capital expenditure items have an advantage over mass consumer products. You can’t be swapped so quickly for another supplier. But despite building up good relationships, a good deal of hard work is also required. There is a lot of competition. Having patent protection for new developments is hardly any use. And global patents are not affordable. People in the business take one look at a new product and often know in next to no time what it took you yourself months or years of meticulous development to work out. That’s something you live with. What else are you supposed to do? We can’t hide ourselves away.
German mechanical engineering traditionally enjoys a good reputation abroad. Not without good reason. And without wanting to sound arrogant, in technological terms manufacturers from Switzerland, Austria and Germany take a leading role in sewer rehabilitation. We notice that from the demand from other countries. From Turkey, Poland or Spain, for instance. The demand is high. Having an intact sewer system is increasingly being recognised as a necessity in order to protect people and the environment. An intact sewer system is also cheaper if you do your sums honestly and do not sweep general and follow-up economic costs under the carpet.