Do you remember Pinky and the Brain? In each episode of this cartoon, Brain devised an elaborate plan to take over the world. All the ambitious plans ultimately end in failure: usually due to Pinky’s idiocy, the impossibility of Brain’s plan or just circumstances beyond their control. As an entrepreneur I also want to take over the world by expanding to new B2B markets … but where to begin?
Great proposition, international ambitions…now what?
I can find a number of elaborate export plans. The plan of the Dutch Chamber of Commerce defines no less than 26 steps: from “discuss your ideas” to “arrange customs procedures”. What can I say, no surprises there. But with limited time and cash on hand, I need a much more pragmatic approach to see if its sensible to expand.
For me, the most important step to assess the market/country potential, is to talk to a small number of potential customers and partners. This will give me more insights than any website or report can provide. I need to see, hear, feel, smell and touch. I need to understand real customer needs, what competitors are up to and what the do’s and don’ts are. Then I will know if I should execute a 26-step plan or look elsewhere.
A pragmatic exploration of a new market is all about focus. Focus on an 80/20 prospect search instead of losing myself in reports & studies. Focus on getting at the table instead of planning a huge marketing campaign. Focus on bringing value instead of immediately pushing my proposition.
Focus on an 80/20 prospect search
I take a data-driven approach to create a list of potential end-customers or distributors with the key people. I try to find out who does business with whom and for what reason. Usually 80% is good enough, leave the remaining 20% for later. And while perhaps a lot of work, it’s amazing what I can find online for some markets. In less documented markets I often have to complement my online search with targeted calling.
Focus on getting at the table
At this stage, with no or limited brand awareness, I see no need for (online) marketing campaigns. Now that I have my list of prospects, I want to talk to 4 or 5 people that matter. I leverage my network as much as possible before approaching them directly. Critically important in this approach are language and cultural sensitivity, so local support could be needed.
Focus on creating trust
I may well do well in my home market, but chances are no one as even heard of me abroad. Why would people want to talk to me in the first place? I always try to bring something to the table myself. This can be technical know-how, lessons learned in other markets or access to my network. Its all about creating trust, you are there to learn form each other first and do business later.
We help companies expand their business across West and Eastern Europe. We are data-driven, cost-effective and have local sales satellites wherever you are headed.