Olkkonen Oy from Haapajärvi and Finnsvala Oy from Kärsämäki have been building their exports for years by participating in exhibitions in their respective fields. The companies have received necessary background support from NIHAK’s internationalization services.
The annual milestone for both companies is the IWA Outdoor Classics event in Nuremberg, Germany. It is one of the world’s largest trade fairs for arms, camping, and security, held again after a two-year break.
Good preparation is halfway to victory
Olkkonen Oy participated in the IWA OutdoorClassics trade fair for the first time in 2015. The company’s Osuma products were sold abroad, but a more significant leap required a stand at the trade fair and visibility.
The first exhibition trip was to try our wings. The small stand has since changed to a spectacular, professional booth, and now the harvest of previous years of participation is being reaped.
“This was our sixth time at the fair and clearly the best trip ever. One condition for success is that the preliminary work is done well. The brand must be recognizable as the customer approaches the stand. Either we’ve met before, sent out invitations, or done strong digital marketing,” says Jukka Olkkonen.
This year, the bait was the launch of Osuma’s new silencer. In connection with the fair, new products have the opportunity to reach the limelight, as there are always plenty of media representatives present.
Today, in addition to the Nordic countries, Osuma products are exported to several European countries. Over the years, the fair has played a significant role in finding new contacts and customers. But, according to Olkkonen, it could have gone differently if NIHAK’s export expert Ari Alakangas had never encouraged him to go on his first trade fair trip.
“NIHAK has made everything possible from the beginning. I would hardly have been able to gather courage and go to a fair alone. Someone had to kick me in the butt to go. Most significant is all the know-how that NIHAK has provided. I have learned a lot from preparation, being at the fair, and post-fair work. The road has been smoothed because it has not been necessary to learn everything separately from the school of hard knocks.”
The marathon work of the years is paying off
At this year’s Finnsvala Oy’s stand, a big picture of an ice water swimmer attracted attention. When Svala products are presented at trade fairs, the message’s main point is to highlight Finland as a country of manufacture. It is a way to stand out from the big brands whose production is spread worldwide.
“Finland’s advantage is that there is enough bad weather and knowledge of the harsh conditions here. So we are known for that,” says Kimmo Aakko.
After the change of ownership, Finnsvala started its export business from almost zero. This year, the company was at the IWA trade fair for the fourth time. There are also two other events in the yearly program, and both are in Germany. The fair is where new customers are acquired, and existing customer relationships are cared for.
“At first, we just went to see the fair on a trip organized by NIHAK, and after that, we were already an exhibitor. NIHAK has provided a wide range of services, beginning with travel arrangements. It has also been easier to go when you don’t have to do everything yourself,” Aakko says.
Aakko recommends a similar path to other companies that want to get into new markets. In the beginning, you can visit the fair as a guest to look at the situation and talk to companies in the same field.
“After that, if you have a slight desire to export, you just have to jump in and start experimenting. Our experience is to keep persevering and going for the second and third time. This is a marathon, not a 100-meter dash.”
Is the digital age challenging traditional fairs?
During the Corona period, traditional fairs were replaced by digital events. However, according to Jukka Olkkonen, traditional fairs still hold their place:
“Face-to-face and hand squeezing are still appreciated. Trade is made between people, and a deeper trade relationship requires trust. Of course, individual orders can also be obtained by bombarding e-mails. However, the arms industry is still quite old-fashioned, and the digital leap has not been fully implemented.”
Kimmo Aakko believes that various trade fair concepts will be applied in the future, some of which will also be implemented in the digital environment. Yet people also still have a natural need to meet each other.
– The meeting of people provides added value and a better presentation of the physical product on site. Even professional buyers want to see the products themselves. Another advantage of traditional trade fairs is that time is spent there efficiently doing business.
NIHAK helps even the smallest into motion
Toni Krankkala, CEO of NIHAK, was present at this year’s fair. He considers both Olkkonen and Finnsvala good examples of the result being made through long-term work.
“Especially in the B to B market, credibility is built over time. So you can’t think of going once, and things will work outright.”
If an entrepreneur has even a tiny dream of internationalization, Krankkala urges them to be in contact with NIHAK at a low threshold.
“These entrepreneurs have started small. NIHAK has brought entrepreneurs together, organized a trip, and visited the fair. The next step is to be involved in your own or joint department. From there, it progresses little by little; you can find country representation, and trade begins.”
NIHAK offers the entrepreneur help and sparring on choosing the right direction, which products to start with, and how to find the right target countries. NIHAK has also helped entrepreneurs find contacts and take advantage of local experts in the target country. This is aided by an extensive network of cooperation built over the years.
“Our internationalization work has a long continuum. During that time, capital has been accumulated, which companies can now utilize,” says Krankkala.
Text: Hanna Perkkiö
Pictures: Ari Alakangas