The art of lobbying, a secret weapon for small businesses
When introducing a brand new piece of technology into the European market, you will sometimes face a few hurdles along the way. At Exportia, it is part of our job to tackle these challenges that come with launching in the European market innovative technologies developed by small and medium businesses. In our experience, it is actually possible to lobby and get a local set of regulations changed. We have done it a number of times. In this article I will go through the hurdles and what we have implemented to overcome them and to get things to change in favour of one of our small businesses.
Often in Europe, you have a set of norms and standards that are defined at the European level that you have to comply with. This is something that is set and you have to comply with these standards if you want to sell. To lobby for a change in a standard is a long-term undertaking. We, small businesses, need to generate revenue right here, right now. We cannot wait for this to happen before we start selling.
However, as we experienced it a number of times in my business and in different sectors such as safety, health, automotive, on a country by country basis, there are often a set of local regulations in addition to the European standards. These local guidelines or protocols are often defined by an institute, a professional organisation or an industry body or a government organisation.
This set of rules and recommendations can in some instances go against a new technology entering the market. They often are based on technologies currently available in the market. If you are like most of our clients, and you are introducing a breakthrough technology that cannot really fit into these protocols. And therefore, these sets of rules become a hurdle because the European customers you are talking to are constantly referring to that set of rules. The issue we often encounter is that our customers’ technology is new and so innovative, that often it is not mentioned in these set of rules or it just does not fit it! And that becomes a real barrier to sell.
First and foremost, building your customer base, who ultimately will be your supporter base is the key to being able to influence and get things to change.
In the healthcare sector, it is a common practice to have a group of doctors or healthcare professionals working together to recommend a set of protocols and recommendations and to publish them. By getting a Key Opinion Leader (KOL) to buy-in in your technology by getting them to trial it or directly buy it and use it, you can influence them to change the set of regulations they published in the past. For that, you really need to pick the right KOL. They really need to understand and to face the challenge you are solving with your piece of technology to really become your supporter in front of their peers. Of course, you need to come to them with a solid credential for them to support you, so be prepared. Building credentials can take the form of a study you may have conducted in another country, a customer base you have developed in another industry sector, a reference person in a specific specialty that is willing to support you.
In the industry, we really want to build a solid foundation first by securing several corporate clients to earn the ‘right’ to lobby regulators. And it’s important to create these credentials before you start lobbying. Otherwise you just waste your time. Corporates often have a say in the set of rules and regulations they need to comply with. Therefore, if they are convinced that by using your technology it can improve their compliance, improve the condition of their workers, and make them more sustainable. In that case, it will be in their best interest to lobby regulators in favour of your technology.
This is how actually a small business can efficiently lobby and get a regulation to change. You don’t lobby by yourself, you get others , either individuals or corporations that are more influential than you, to lobby for you. One thing to remember is that when you lobby government organisations, they are fully aware that they are obliged to leave the door open to new technologies. They cannot be seen as anti-competitive. If you are really stuck and you feel they are keeping a close market and making it anti-competitive, I recommend you formally call them upon it. It works!
I wish you all the best and don’t forget you can always reach out to me if you are stuck. Contact me on our website : www.exportia.com.au.
By the way, my new book will be out soon (mid-2020) and if you want to get an effective kick-start in the European market: register your interest to get a free copy by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Christelle turned her back to a successful career as a sales representative in the corporate world in Europe. When she moved to Australia in 2006, she started Exportia to share the wealth of her Europe-wide sales experiences for a small business as an export manager and as a sales representative at IBM in Paris.
“Having taken dozens of Australian businesses to Europe, I personally know the difficulty for a small business to significantly grow their sales in the European market. It is a very diverse market and small businesses often don’t know where to start. Small business owners are often caught up with running their business and with their domestic market to be able to allocate enough time to the European market. Lowering the risk for small businesses and guiding them to maximise the export sales results are what drives us at Exportia.”
Christelle has also encapsulated her learning into a book called “Ready Tech Go! – A definitive guide to exporting Australian technology to Europe”. French native speaker, fluent in German and English, with Basic Italian and Hindi.