Rigid Industries: Prowess in Exporting

SEMA News—October 2015

INTERNATIONAL

By Alysha Webb

Rigid Industries: Prowess in Exporting

Rigid Industries
The company has had an average growth rate of 104% over the last three years, and international sales have accounted for about 30% of total revenue each year, said Rigid Industries International Account Manager Robert Park (far left). All of the company’s lights are made in the U.S.A. Park is pictured showing the firm’s lights to buyers at a SEMA event in Russia. Rigid has also participated on SEMA business-development programs to China and the Middle East.
 
   

This is another in a periodic series of reports on SEMA-member companies that have successfully grown their international sales. Each of the companies has utilized one or more SEMA resources or programs designed to assist member companies in growing their export sales. This month’s story features Arizona-based Rigid Industries. SEMA News talked to the firm’s international account manager, Robert Park.

In May, Rigid Industries received a President’s “E” Award for its prowess at exporting. The maker of LED lighting for vehicles has clients in 45 countries, and its international sales are skyrocketing.

“We receive several inquiries a week from customers wanting to distribute our products,” said Park. “The struggle is finding the right person to promote and sell Rigid.”

Rigid Industries is well known in the North American off-road world. Founded in 2006, the company is famous for its super-powerful LED light bars. Rigid is entering new market segments domestically and overseas in response to the flattening U.S. off-road market, Park said. He shared some insights into the company’s strong export growth.

Park said that the true off-road enthusiast market is still growing overseas, especially in Australia and throughout Europe. The company has had an average growth rate of 104% over the last three years, and international sales have accounted for about 30% of total revenue each year.

All of Rigid’s lights are made in the U.S.A. and will fit most vehicles, whether U.S. or foreign models, Park said. In addition, Rigid has found opportunities to expand by selling to police, fire and rescue departments as well as agriculture and mining markets.

Rigid prefers to go through distributors rather than dealers in overseas markets. Distributors often have a good-size marketing budget and a sales staff that can promote products. That alleviates Rigid from having to add staff to handle those tasks.

“Having a distributor model allows Rigid to maintain local inventory, and the end customer doesn’t have to deal with delays when their product ships from the United States,” Park said.

Attending international trade shows and events is critical to Rigid’s international success. Park said that he meets many potential distributors at those events. That includes the annual SEMA Show in Las Vegas. International companies willing to spend the time and money to be in Vegas are typically good partners to team up with, Park said.

Rigid has also participated in SEMA trips to China, Russia and the Middle East. At the SEMA Russia pilot program, Park met Rigid’s distributor face-to-face and found that it was the best distributor to have in that market. The trips also provided Rigid with the opportunity to network with other U.S. companies and see how they deal with those countries and attain success.

Park meets potential partners at SEMA events such as the SEMA Show International Happy Hour and roundtables. The people at those events are always the big players in the international markets.

Follow-up is key. Park always tries to have a one-on-one conversation immediately after the event with a person he wants to stay in touch with. He also highly recommends working with the U.S. Commercial Service. Rigid meets with U.S. Commercial Service representatives around the world to identify the best markets to target. Company staff also attends local Commercial Service events to educate the company about specific markets.

For example, the U.S. Commercial Service’s Export Trading Control Seminar taught Rigid about the type of import paperwork required for each country—a potential barrier to entry if not done correctly. The Commercial Service can also help with local certification.

Companies that have few qualifications will often present themselves as distributors, Park warned. The Commercial Service’s Matching Gold Key Service saves time and money by pre-screening potential distributors. It also helps Rigid identify key distributors in specific verticals that might not be accessible to the company otherwise.

Country-Specific Products and Marketing

In the past, Rigid sold products overseas that were originally created for the United States market. Now the company is looking for opportunities to create products for overseas niches. It developed several lights for the Norwegian military, for example—a project driven by Rigid’s Norway distributor and its public safety manager,
said Park.

Rigid Industries traditionally had international distributors adapt the U.S. marketing material to their market. Now, Rigid Industries is considering creating country-specific marketing to gain more market share.

For more information about SEMA’s international programs and resources, including the upcoming March SEMA trip to the Middle East and a trip in May to Russia, visit www.sema.org/international or contact Linda Spencer, SEMA’s international director, at lindas@sema.org.

Rigid’s Top 10 Tips for Growing International Sales
  1. Maximize your freight to your customer and work with good shippers. Ship as much as you can on a pallet within the allowed size and weight for a specific shipping price.
  2. Don’t be afraid to turn down a new customer if it is not the right fit for your company.
  3. Look for customers with strong marketing resources and exposure within the market. This will help build your brand.
  4. Work with local representative firms in the territory, if they exist. They are boots on the ground that you don’t have.
  5. Attend local events and trade shows to test your product in the market.
  6. Understand the product certifications that are needed in the targeted market.
  7. Work and learn from other non-competing U.S. companies in your markets. They can teach you about the market, including the key players.
  8. Take full advantage of U.S. Commercial Service resources, especially its Matching Gold Key Service.
  9. Use SEMA events to find new partners, meet existing partners face-to-face, and network with other U.S. companies.
  10. Follow up with contacts made at a SEMA roundtable, for example, by immediately approaching them personally.
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