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Wordly approach Featured

9:59am EDT December 27, 2005
After establishing a strong U.S. market presence, Ultra Electronics Audiopack was looking for new ways to expand its customer base.

It found the answer in international markets.

“Our focus is design and production of communication products for harsh environments,” says Jon Adams, president of Garfield-Heights based Ultra Electronics Audiopack. “Our goal from the outset was to be the world leader in that niche. We started with that goal, and we always wanted to look internationally.”

Adams began searching for potential customers in overseas markets, targeting customer bases similar to those it markets to in the United States, including firefighters, HAZMAT crews and other first responders.

“We began to understand the key players in our market worldwide by attending trade shows, by reading periodicals, by talking with distributors in our field,” he says. “We looked at the competitive landscape worldwide. You want to verify that the product you have is of interest to someone. You want to identify potential customers and visit those customers to validate the interest in your product, and it starts to build relationships. If you have a customer that is really interested in what you have, they will often help you out through the build-up phase.

“We identified potential customers in Europe and then in Asia, and then began to reach out to those potential customers to show them products we had designed and understand their needs.”

That outreach enables companies to identify what elements of their products will be successful and what elements might need modifications or improvements to make the product more marketable or conform to international regulations, he says.

“The certifications in both Asia and Europe differ slightly from the U.S.,” says Adams. “We had to learn how to design products to meet international product certifications for the markets we serve.”

Because of the nature of the company’s products, Ultra Electronics Audiopack had to take a hands-on marketing strategy and work closely with sales agents and distributors as well as directly with customers.

“We’re not really selling a consumer product,” says Adams, “so it’s much more directive to us to make sales calls, demonstrate products and work more directly with products internationally.”

Adams says company leaders also should look at ways to work with competitors who already have a strong stake in the market they want to enter, especially if their products complement each other. For example, Ultra Electronics Audiopack has had success selling in Japan through Kawasaki, the largest supplier of self-contained breathing apparatuses to the fire service in Asia. Ultra Electronics Audiopack makes a heads-up display that integrates with Kawasaki’s apparatus and tells firefighters how much air is left in their tanks.

“This was a technology that we had already developed,” Adams says. “So we took that technology to potential users worldwide. I think to the extent we can cooperate, then there’s mutual benefit working with competitors.”

The company has also had success in Italy, France, Singapore and Norway.

“I think there’s more resistance to sourcing products from that kind of distance than I had originally thought,” he says. “A big part of what we have had to do is find ways to minimize the perceived risk. Part of it is building the relationship, which happens over time. Part of it is having a good reputation and an innovative product that they can’t get elsewhere.”

HOW TO REACH: Ultra Electronics Audiopack, http://www.ultra-ap.com or (216) 332-7040