Date of award:
"E" Award in 1991.
Why the award was given:
Beltwall Division of Beltservice Corp. won the award for a creative and aggressive marketing program that led to a substantial increase in exports during the last several years. Exports shot up to 23 percent of total product sales in 1990 from 7 percent in 1976. The company declined to discuss specific sales and export figures.
The award also cites Beltwall's export strategy that focuses on markets the company believes holds substantial sales potential and would be easiest to penetrate.
Chief executive: David Dicke, product manager of Beltwall Division.
Headquarters: St. Louis, Mo.
Employees and plants: With 275 people on its payroll, Beltwall Division has its headquarters in Earth City, a suburb of St. Louis, Mo.
In addition to St. Louis, Beltwall and its parent company Beltservice Corp. operate in four other strategic locations: Portland, Ore.; Sacramento, Calif.; Philadelphia; and Charlotte, N.C. Each branch carries a complete stock of inventory, ready to ship throughout North America.
Basic business: Beltwall manufactures and markets a corrugated sidewall rubber conveyor belting used in lifting or elevating bulk materials.
Reason for Exporting:
From the very beginning, Beltwall Division believed "overseas markets are important growth areas," said David Dicke, Beltwall's Product Manager.
Beltwall started design and development of the sidewall rubber conveyor belting in late 1982 and introduced the product in early 1984. Until that time there was only limited production of a similar product in the United States. In late 1984, the company acquired what at the time was the only producer in the United States, becoming the only real competition to foreign imports from Japan and Germany, Mr. Dicke said.
Once the domestic situation was under control, Beltwall went full throttle after its foreign competitors' local markets.
Entry into the home markets of the major foreign producers was an immediate success, Mr. Dicke said, thanks to Beltwall's quick responses to design and product questions.
At home, Beltwall's promotional campaign touted "product quality better than the recognized foreign leader, free engineering and design assistance, instant and personable service and rapid responses and delivery time," he said.
The promotion produced "solid market response," and "customers are eager to participate with a viable alternative" to the foreign manufacturers.
From the onset, Beltwall identified major obstacles to its carefully developed export marketing program and established criteria for choosing partners who could help the program succeed. The company uses these partners to compensate for its own inexperience in export markets.
The criteria included extensive knowledge of Beltwall's targeted markets, presence in a market of a certain size, knowledge of the conveying industry, a highly trained marketing staff, ability to deal in both English and metric systems and product assembly capability to reduce shipping costs.
Beltwall narrowed its initial search for a partner to Australia where the search was conducted by word of mouth at several international trade shows, vendors, customers currently doing business in Australia and trade organization members, according to Mr. Dicke.
One company, Beltreco Ltd., based in Perth, Western Australia, clearly had the "highest probability of meeting all Beltwall's desired criteria," he said.
Beltwall executives made a number of visits to Australia and the company participated in several trade shows in Australia before a licensing agreement was reached with Beltreco.
The Australian experience is an example of Beltwall's "determination to enter the export market in a deliberate, calculated manner," said Mr. Dicke.
Beltwall Division's products are marketed mostly in South America, Canada, Australia and South Africa (since the trade embargo against South Africa was lifted.)
At present, "South America has the biggest growth potential," said Mr. Dicke, adding that Beltwall is paying close attention to the situation in that continent. Beltwall already clinched deals in Columbia and Mexico, with Brazil offering promising business opportunities.
Beltwall Division uses container ships to transport its extremely bulky products overseas. In fact, some of the belts are manufactured right beside containers to allow for easy loading.
The Beltwall Division Story:
As a small company, Beltwall decided to concentrate on a single overseas market to "define and hone principles and strategies" that could then be employed in other markets as the company expanded its overseas operations.
"We had to walk before running," he said.
Had this controlled approach not been adopted, results from mixed markets could have provided confusing data that would not have been the best base for a rational export policy, Mr. Dicke said.