Many international hi-tech companies hunger after new geographic markets. Their business plans demand it. But home market success and strong technology do not guarantee a winning entry into new markets. It takes strategic – and localized – marketing to open those doors.
Maybe you don’t consider yourself an international company. With all that a connected economy, glo1bal competition and the Internet have done to break down borders, maybe you should. Ask yourself how these lessons might apply to you.
International companies quickly discover that many of their experiences and assumptions no longer apply in an unfamiliar market. Of course there are potential language and cultural hurdles. Beyond that, new market entrants need to tailor strategies, modify products, adjust pricing models, adapt sales and distribution approaches and rethink marketing programs. Resources to tackle these issues are hard to find in a new market where you don’t have an established network of contacts. All this can result in delays and missteps. The costs can be measured in dollars spent and opportunities lost.
It’s what you know and whom you know. To enter a new market successfully, many questions need to be answered – and quickly. What are the unique needs of this market? How do they differ from your existing markets? How big is the opportunity? How well do your products and services fit, and what modifications are necessary? Who is the competition? How do buyers in this market make decisions? What pricing structures are most common? Which segments are the best targets? Who are the most attractive partners? How can you reach them? And who can help you make it all happen in a timely manner?
To answer these questions, don’t guess. And don’t assume you understand another country based on the backpack trip you took after college. You need to take the pulse of the market by reaching out and grabbing its hand. Talk with potential customers and partners in the local market, and validate your products and positioning with them.
You may need assistance. You probably are not plugged in to the local resource network. What’s more, because you don’t have a track record or visibility in the new market, quickly recruiting quality employees is that much harder. Nor do you even know yet what skills you need on the team.
One alternative is to engage a locally based firm that can provide market knowledge, resources and coordinated services to help you get established.
Depending on their scope, such firms can help you develop a tailored strategy, manage your market launch, connect you with hands-on sales and marketing capabilities to execute your plan and even provide interim management for your venture.
Time to market vs. time to success. If your goal is to get to market fast, you can be there tomorrow. If you don’t care where you are going, any road will do. But smart companies focus not just on time to market, but on time to success. What matters is getting to market quickly with the right strategy, the right marketing and the right resources to execute.
Why not just hire a public relations firm and generate awareness to pave your way into the new market? While local public relations will be an important component of your launch, any public relations firm worth its salt will first need answers to the questions posed above, to help articulate and target your messages to the appropriate audiences. It will also be able to do much more for you if you already have a local story to tell – initial customers, local partners, etc.
That’s where research and validation come in. Using disciplined methods, test your assumptions and gather actionable feedback from players in the market. Learn upfront what representative companies think about your offering, your messages and your positioning. Who cares and who does not, and why? Listen to ideas that can help tune your marketing efforts. Don’t be afraid to hear bad news. Better to find out now, before you spend megabucks (or mega euros), what you need to change to improve your chance of success. Armed with this input, you can tailor a market launch that matches your strengths with the market opportunity.
Done right, this approach produces not only research but also sustainable results. In the course of validating your plans with key market participants, you can jump-start your sales pipeline, instigate discussions with partners and land initial customers. It’s ready-aim-fire that will hit the target, saving you from using up all your ammunition before you hit something that counts.
Will it play in Peoria? A critical aspect of successfully entering a new market is tailoring your marketing. Your messages, positioning, programs and communications all need to resonate with the local audience. “Think global, act local” means you have to tailor your marketing to each geographic audience, while maintaining a global brand.
At the most visible level, companies often enter a new market and try to recycle their homegrown marketing. In the United States, if you receive a mailing or view a Web site and read about “optimise” and “centre,” do you feel that vendor is, ahem, speaking your language? And in the other direction, who hasn’t heard the story about the Chevy Nova’s flop in Latin markets where “no va” means “don’t go”?
In the Internet age, the same lessons apply to your Web site. One size definitely does not fit all. Do you offer viewers a choice of language? How do you localize content? How do you incorporate cultural differences? And how do you handle varying legal requirements such as privacy protection?
A successful market entry can’t be done remotely. Business is still about connecting, and it’s hard to connect if you’re not there. Local presence, local resources and local knowledge go a long way. Be prepared to build this yourself, or partner with someone that already has what you will need to jump-start your launch and accelerate your business development.
Marketing Esperanto. Certain elements of good marketing are universal – listen to the customer, articulate clear and consistent messages, deliver compelling value, etc. But the key is to execute locally, factoring in the needs, expectations and requirements of each market you aim to enter.
pull quote: Take the pulse of the market by reaching out and grabbing its hand.