An Orpington-based manufacturer of security solutions and marking products that identify property in order to deter crime, has more than doubled export turnover in under a year, with help from UK Trade & Investment.
In 2004, innovative family firm Selectamark launched SelectaDNA, the world’s most advanced forensic crime-reduction system. Incorporating a new forensic technology that links criminals to crime scenes, the product uses a virtually invisible synthetic DNA solution to mark personal property. Each batch is unique in its DNA make-up and, once registered on the firm’s secure database, provides irrefutable evidence of property ownership. It is virtually impossible to remove every trace of SelectaDNA and each trace links criminals to the crimes they commit. As a further means of identification, each pot of SelectaDNA adhesive solution contains at least 1,000 microdots.
When Selectamark managing director Andrew Knights joined the company in August 2009, he knew the product had considerable export potential: “The intention had always been to export SelectaDNA – it was just a question of when and how,” he said. “I am an experienced exporter, used to dealing with 30 countries a year, so I knew what needed to be done.”
Andrew contacted Gail Williams, an international trade adviser (ITA) with the UKTI London International Trade Team, which is part-financed by the European Union. Gail recommended that, to maximise the export potential of the product, the company join UKTI’s Gateway to Global Growth programme for more experienced exporters. With Gail as their contact, Selectamark was then able to access expert advice and support from UKTI. Andrew said: “Gail is an invaluable link to market knowledge – wonderful for keeping us in touch with the help available through UKTI and with market opportunities.”
The firm’s significant growth over the past year was based on identifying a suitable distributor in each market with the local knowledge to focus on in-market development. To achieve this, Selectamark drew on services and contacts across the UKTI network at home and around the world. Andrew said: “It’s such an advantage to be able to tap into this network, as we don’t have the time and resource to find overseas distributors on our own.”
Selectamark commissioned UKTI Overseas Market Introduction Service (OMIS) reports on Australia, Singapore, France and other markets. ”These reports help us immensely to find the right distributors or launch products,” Andrew explained. “They also enable us to arrange market visits and attendance at overseas exhibitions, which is great, as potential distributors, partners and customers can see a product demonstration. At one expo, we arranged nine meetings in two and a half days.”
Recently, there has been a wave of international media and supplier interest in the SelectaDNA spray product, notably from Australia. Armed with an OMIS report, Andrew Knights had just returned from a visit to Australia when the company was contacted by The Sydney Herald and the mX newspaper (covering Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney); while radio interviews were conducted by two Australian stations.
Andrew appreciates the need for companies to be export-ready and in a position to follow-up on market research. “Having taken on a French student, we can look seriously at the French market – in my opinion, you can’t do thorough market research there without a French speaker. We now have an OMIS report to help us get into the market, but we needed the right resources internally in order to make best use of that report.”
Through Gateway, Selectamark also commissioned the Export Marketing Research Service (EMRS) for the British Virgin Islands and were able to appoint a local distributor.
Andrew commented: “For an SME, it’s good to have someone sharing the risk. In the British Virgin Islands, UKTI match-funded the necessary research under EMRS, which it would have been too expensive to conduct on our own. It’s not just that UKTI helps us – it’s a chance to explore the market more affordably.”
He sees the development of new overseas markets as the basis of Selectamark’s future expansion. “The key to further growth lies in identifying reliable distributors in each market – with support from the UKTI network, of course. Our export market couldn’t exist, and we wouldn’t have moved at the speed we have done, without UKTI.”
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