How Enterprise Ireland’s Market Research Centre helped Abcon to break new markets

Abcon

“You need to be constantly selling and expanding your customer base. You can’t depend on a particular country orterritory or one big customer.” 

Lyn Sharkey, Abcon Sales and Marketing Director

Overview:

  • Sector: Design and Manufacturing
  • Markets: Germany, France, UK, Nordics, Eastern Europe
  • Supports:  Enterprise Ireland’s Market Research Centre
  • Goals: To increase exports to mainland European countries
  • Challenges: Abcon needed help identifying and accessing people in key EU markets
  • Results: Abcon has transitioned from  a company whose exports were almost all to the UK to trading in multiple European markets

Case Study: Abcon

A decade ago, the UK was effectively Abcon’s entire export market, says Lyn Sharkey, the company’s Sales and Marketing Director. While Abcon had focused on increasing exports to other markets over the past ten years, Brexit accelerated its efforts. Working with Enterprise Ireland’s Market Research Centre helped Abcon to pinpoint new markets with the potential to grow the business and to gain expert insights into how to compete in them.

Based in Cootehill, Co. Cavan, the Abrasives and Industrial Hose Manufacturer currently employs 155 people. Its Industrial Hose Division markets its goods under the CavMac brand, which Abcon acquired in 2007 and serves sectors including oil and gas, mining and aggregates, food and beverage, and portside services and dredging. The Abrasives Division serves totally different sectors including stainless steel fabrication, joinery, aerospace, and automotive. Exports are hugely important to both.

A number of Market Research Centre supports helped Abcon to increase exports to European countries. These included independent and reliable information from blue-chip providers, such as Gartner, Frost & Sullivan, Mintel and others, databases of potential leads and prospects, guidance on the right trade events to attend, and in-market knowledge. 

Sharkey emphasised that obtaining such information would have been much more difficult without the help of the Market Research Centre.

With a high volume of sales driven by internet searches, accurate information about the names of products in local languages is essential to underpinning successful international digital marketing tactics. Assistance with learning how its products are described in the languages of key overseas markets proved to be one of the most useful services.

 

Support for moving beyond the UK as your sole export market

Long before Brexit made diversification a matter of urgency, Abcon understood that relying on a single market, or a small number of large customers, was a risk. Sharkey says, “We are very conscious that, over the years, some customers for whatever reason come and go. You need to be constantly selling and expanding your customer base. You can’t depend on a particular country or territory or one big customer.”

While the opportunity to enter new markets is one every ambitious Irish company should consider, authoritative market research is critical to such business decisions. With support from the Market Research Centre’s information specialists, Abcon realised that a strategy of increasing exports to countries beyond the UK would help the company to grow and diversify the business. 

Over the last ten years, we have been steadily growing export sales to territories outside the UK, because initially the UK was our only export market.” explains Sharkey.

The UK, nevertheless, remains an important market for Abcon, accounting for 27% of turnover.

 

Dipping into Deutschland

In recent years, Germany has become an important market for the business. Sharkey offers some advice for other Irish companies aiming to increase exports to the Eurozone’s largest economy: “Know who your target customers are. You have to visit them, attend the shows. We recommend staying in touch with the Enterprise Ireland office in that territory because they can let you know about appropriate events to attend and give you an insight into how that market operates. At International Markets Week, the team told us about events they host, to which companies backed by Enterprise Ireland can invite potential customers. It’s all about relationships at the end of the day. You need to get in front of the customer and understand what they need.”

Germany is not Abcon’s only European market. Its CavMac division engages in significant volumes of business across the Nordic countries. Other important markets include the Netherlands, Italy, France, and the Czech Republic.

While none of these markets are primarily English speaking, Abcon’s experience has been that the need to hire staff with native language skills varies depending on the territory.

In central and eastern Europe, where English isn’t as widely spoken, it’s definitely helpful that we have Russian, Polish and Latvian speakers in our company.” says Sharkey.

The Market Research Centre helps companies backed by Enterprise Ireland to explore opportunities and to compete in international markets. If your company is considering breaking into new markets, struggling with Brexit or dealing with thorny strategic issues, the Research Centre’s extensive resources and expertise should be your first port of call.

Sharkey strongly recommends that companies similarly positioned take advantage of this support, concluding: “I definitely would. First of all, it’s a free service to client companies. You’re not paying for lists that may be out of date, as can be a risk elsewhere. Their information specialists work to keep them updated and the searches are quite versatile. The support you receive from the Market Research Centre is really helpful. The team can help you to understand and refine the searches. They want to make sure you go away with a meaningful list. Their customer service is really good”.

 

Key takeouts:

  • Working with the Market Research Centre helped Abcon to find new markets and to decide how to compete in them.

  • Supports accessed included independent and reliable information from blue-chip providers, such as Gartner, Frost & Sullivan, and Mintel, databases of potential leads and prospects, guidance on the right trade events to attend, and in-market knowledge.

  • Help with learning how its products are described in languages of overseas markets was one of the most useful services received.

Read more on the supports available to help your business diversify into new markets or speak to your Development Advisor today.

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