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Top Ten Tips Every Business Should Consider When Planning To Enter International Markets
TIP #1 – FIND OUT HOW THEY DID BEFORE
There is nothing worse than learning by trial and error. Especially, when you are talking about international markets where you may not know much about culture, customs and language. Get someone to point out obstacles and opportunities. Someone who can create an introduction, has the resources and the internet to help you. Someone who knows how to approach the market and your property.
It will cost you something. But, the money and time you will save will be far less than what you would have spent doing it yourself.
TIP #2 – DON’T LOOK FOR AN EASY ANSWER WITHOUT THINKING AHEAD OF TIME.
So you agree that you should find someone who has done it before – now a word of caution: choose your friends carefully! You can be ‘partners’ with them for a long time, and they will be essential to your success. So how do you choose someone when you don’t know much about the global market? Look for referrals – international trade associations in your region, or industry groups are good places to start.
Don’t stop there: make a list of what you want and the profile that is most important to your company. Then make inquiries, check references, and make close visits to those on your short list. Assessing the strengths and weaknesses of potential partners against the needs and interests of your company can help you make an informed decision and allow you to make a timely decision.
TIP #3 – IT IS NOT THE SAME AS SELLING IN THE US
Not so fast: approaching new markets with the same best practices that made you successful in your home market might work – but it might not, and you risk a negative impact on your brand in the process.
This does not mean that you do all the work. After all, that’s why you have boyfriends. However, you will want to monitor the process, and work with your partners to understand which parts of the business are the most important to have, and which are good to have. Yes, it’s cheap, but more than that it allows you to focus on what can have a positive effect on sales outside the chute.
Language, culture, humor can be important (English is not the same!). Also consider infrastructure – how much marketing is done, how many people or businesses are online, etc. they may be different then those in your market. What works “here” doesn’t work everywhere; plan ahead for a big difference.
TIP #4 – BUILD FRIENDSHIPS NOT MERCENARIES
“Sell! Sell! Sell!” There are many reasons to expand a particular market, and of course increasing revenue is often at the top of the list. If you live in a culture where sales professionals are obsessed with money, it may seem like a no-brainer to spend time building relationships with your new sales force. And why? It will pay off short and long term, over and over again!
I recently heard a story about a young man who worked at a company that had a large sign hanging in the yard where employees entered the building. Message: “You work here to make money.” The company survived; the number of workers was high. This single focus led to an employer/employee relationship devoid of trust, respect and communication. It worked well in good time. It was a disaster in bad times.
Building good relationships with your representatives in new markets will help you to understand each other and get to know each other and your businesses; Your beliefs, expectations, and goals will be clearly defined and understood. Trust, respect and support will develop as you work together over time to build market share, grow revenue, and achieve sustainable profitability. Find out what your friends are doing well and use it. Write down what you are not in and support them when they are weak. Good relationships lead to better customer experience. Everyone is happy.
Focus only on income, and you can go down the list based on your sales. Others may look for opportunities to jump ship – perhaps to their competitors. It is not appropriate. Take time – build a relationship.
TIP #5 – DON’T MISS LANGUAGE
Sure, most people around the world speak English – it has become the language of business. Does this make doing business across borders easier? Simple things become difficult. Even English speakers around the world can have misunderstandings because of the language! Be proactive in naming, translating instructions, marketing and more.
History provides many examples on this topic:
• The American launch of the ‘Nova’ car in South America “didn’t go” very well
• ‘Snapshot’ is translated as ‘butt’ in German and Dutch
• Japanese hotel notice to guests ‘You are invited to take advantage of the chambermaid’
• A dentist in Hong Kong says he removes teeth ‘with the latest Methodist method’
• In Copenhagen, an airline promised to ‘take your bags and send them everywhere’
My example: I was at a meeting in a big hotel in a country where I didn’t speak the language. After a full day of meetings a large group of people rented a minibus to visit the science and technology museum. I decided to take them to the museum afterwards, and asked Porter to get me a taxi to the museum to meet the bus. Imagine my surprise when my taxi driver ran down the narrow streets, telling me “let’s take the bus”. I tried to explain, but he drove, forcing the bus to join the group, and announced to me calmly “Madame, your bus”. What would I do? I paid the driver and got on the bus.
TIP #6 – ATTITUDE, ATTITUDE, ATTITUDE
Business language, greetings, titles, business cards, conversation topics, interviews, introductions, business food, social behavior…need I go on? All of this and more must be taken into account in the culture in which you are doing business. Guidelines and guidelines are available for many cultures.
But what about brands, pricing, truth in advertising, humor, branding, packaging? Culture drives the attitudes and behaviors of business partners and potential customers, and market entrants must be ready to change – the “setting” that matters.
Look at how people buy and sell: trying to export the methods that work in one country can look like a round peg in a round hole:
• Japan has many small leagues
• Brazil has many small shops
• Malls in Argentina were like those in the US
Cultural differences can overwhelm you if you’re not careful – the little things mean a lot, so do your homework and pay attention to detail from the start! Bonus: you’ll have a lot of fun and build strong relationships!
TIP # 7 – DON’T BE POLITICAL SLAMMING
Risks of ownership, operation, and transfer of capital are important aspects to consider when assessing the political situation in a new target market. You already know that knowledge and appreciation of a country’s history, language and culture are important – take a look at politics to get the picture before making a long-term investment. Monitor political events, and non-governmental events such as strikes, and develop strategies to manage your business, including contingency plans.
Be careful to consider laws or regulations that may affect your business, such as
• Entry of goods
• Anti-waste/cheap selling products
• Giving permission
• Refunds for other products and CE Mark issues
• Health and safety standards
• Membership requirements (eg chamber, labor union)
• Consumers or suppliers in their country
• Restrictions on payments and transfers
• Importance of value addition and export
There is a lot to consider, but the good news is that there are plenty of options available in the US and in your target market.
TIP # 8 – DISTANCE MAKES EVERYTHING DIFFICULT
In the decision to enter the market, it is important to look beyond the “math equation” – the potential of the product may be successful, but is it the best opportunity, the next opportunity? Distance can make a difference, and “distance” is more than space.
Pankaj Ghemewat, in his 2004 Harvard Business Review article, Distance Still Matters, offers a framework for analyzing markets that looks at “distance” through several lenses:
• Geographic (share borders, suitable routes or means of communication, distances, climate differences, time zones)
• Culture (religion, race, culture, language)
• Management (finance, marketing planning)
• Economic (finance, distribution/quality of transport)
• Where do you make it?
• How do you manage customer service or work with vendors?
• Does the distribution system support your product?
• Will the purchasing process be the same?
• What about local needs?
• Is sharing a language more important than geographical proximity?
The answers to these questions may be different depending on your business, and where your company is in its international business life. Understanding what matters most, and taking action on it, will be the driving force behind your global growth.
TIP # 9 – DO NOT USE IF YOU WANT TO LIGHT A FIRE
Local laws vary, but they are generally stricter than US labor laws, especially when it comes to letting someone go, whether for business or personal reasons.
You could say it’s a simple question of “control” versus “risk”. Although many companies are ‘born global’ in today’s economy, many companies still operate in a ‘go global’ lifestyle. On average per year, 15% of exporters stop exporting, while 10% of those who did not export will start. Companies progress slowly until they reach the right level of potential or sales (or stop), it is very difficult: to start or stop exporting.
As mentioned above, you need to be careful when choosing any partner, be it a distributor or an employee. It can be tempting to hire right away, thinking you’ll have more ‘control’ than you would with a distribution relationship (for example). However, the risks can be the same, and breaking up can be very expensive, so make sure it’s what you need before you take that step. There are four things to consider when making a decision:
• Degree of standardization in drug delivery
• Marketing a product rather than a product
• Location and size of additional services
• Competitive events
Finding boundaries is critical to success.
TIP # 10 – IT’S NOT JUST THINGS
• Sending messages
• Marketing materials
• Marketing tools and strategies
• Customer service and support
It’s all there, and ready to go, now the question is how much ‘localization’ should you do to achieve sales? Language, culture, and shopping are just a few factors that can affect the effectiveness of your support design and tools.
Ideally, you can be flexible on the front end, but often companies are finding ways to adapt to products and services that are successful in their home market. You may or may not need to adapt the product to local markets, but you may need changes to the product, packaging, training etc. – at the very least, translation of the product and marketing into the local language – to be successful.
The main takeaway: don’t just think about what it takes to support your international markets.
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