ExportWise Magazine (2003), Export Development Canada
ACP Marketing Canada: Right on Track
By Trish Edwards
|For British and many European railways, ACP Marketing Canada Ltd., is the answer to securing a tourist’s commitment to travel by rail by making it a highly visible and practical option.|
|ACP has positioned itself as the international marketing and sales arm of an impressive number of domestic railway companies, often an overlooked part of their business, says Denis Grenier, Vice-President of Business Development.”We’ve developed a business model providing international turn key solutions providing everything from marketing to sales, distribution and payment collection. This helps our customers grow their market share while avoiding additional overhead costs.”
In the early 1990s, ACP’s Founder and President Alex Popescu was contracted by BritRail to review its international marketing function. He concluded that BritRail needed to increase its presence and identified North America as a prime market, encouraging the railway to increase local sales representation, open a call centre and boost product distribution.
Another strategy was to make BritRail an option on the airline’s Global Distribution Systems (GDS) used by more than 40,000 North American travel agents, giving them the ability to book BritRail alongside air travel using the same screens, terminal commands, tickets and back office.
One good idea led to another, prompting ACP to form two subsidiaries, ACP Marketing USA and ACP Marketing UK, and a controlling interest in another two companies, AccesRail, which provides rail ticket distribution through the GDS, and ACP Secret Holidays, a rail-based tour operator.
“EDC supported ACP through this growth, particularly with respect to the steep bank guarantees required when bidding internationally,” says Grenier. “In the early days, these guarantees were not readily accessible to smaller companies. EDC took us seriously, taking a leap of faith on a company with no previous experience operating on that scale.”
What kind of challenges has ACP faced? As a global retail operation, one hurdle was finding an efficient way to collect payment in different currencies from different sources and to accept credit cards issued in various countries, says Grenier. “Some 50 or so bank accounts later, I still don’t know that we’ve come up with a perfect solution.”
Grenier advises retail companies looking to export to never underestimate the time needed to establish operations in a different market.
“Many estimate two to four months, but in reality, it’ll take you six to eight, or more. When dealing with businesses such as the railways, sometimes still government-run or with long histories, plans can move very slowly or sometimes not at all. Understand that some contracts may never materialize and manage your company prudently.”
Technology is also serving up more options to the traveling public, he adds, where anyone can start a website and take a piece of the pie with minimal overhead. The answer is to constantly improve productivity, be prepared and creative.
“In today’s reality, you never know when the next Iraq, SARS, or 9-11 is going to affect the global business world. Stay close to your market, be aware of what people are willing to pay and make sure your products are dynamic and changeable. Stay on your toes–that’s the name of the game.”
Clearly, ACP has taken its own advice.
*updated 2006.08.30 – EDC links/photos no longer available