1: Is your product ready for international markets?
You only get one chance to make a first impression, so it’s vitally important that your product simply works. Entering a new market with a beta version of a newly launched product does not boost your credibility and may harm your long term chances on success on international markets. Ideally, your product has already proven itself in your home market, works flawlessly and the time is right to copy the successes that you have achieved in your home territory to new geographies or segments. On top of that, you will need to “localize” your offering. This does not only mean that you may need to support specific languages (for example in your software or on certain marketing materials); it also means adapting your offering to the local circumstances. Design in India is totally different from design in Denmark. And business benefits that will resonate well in Finland may be totally irrelevant in China. And naturally, you need to be aware of any possible legal issues that may affect your go-to-market as well. It is crucial to comply with the local legislation and regulations. When in doubt, ask specialist advice.
2: Are your (basic) marketing materials ready?
You probably don’t need all your white papers, manuals and fact sheets to be translated for international markets. And most likely, it will not be necessary to hire a local PR company in the early stages of your new market penetration activities. But you do need to have the basics sorted out. A good website, possibly with a local contact number, a one-page fact sheet in the local language and a small slide deck which addresses the specific topics that are relevant in the new territory will be a good start.
3: Have you identified a limited number of focus segments to start with?
Focus. Even if you believe your product is great for everyone, select a few segments to start with. These should be the verticals or groups of potential users which benefit the most from your offering and / or where you have the strongest reference customers. Approaching prospects with an offering that is fully suited to their needs and that is already used by some of their peers has proven to generate significantly more traction than a “horizontal” approach. Don’t just tell why your offering is great. Make it clear to your prospects why you are the right partner for them specifically.
4: Do you have referenceable customers in other areas?
Make sure you have already achieved a certain level of market acceptance in your home market. If you can’t mention any success stories in your home turf when you internationalize, it will be very challenging to find prospects that are willing to listen to your story. After all, if you are not able to make it work at home, why expect it to be different abroad? If you have good reference customers or even client testimonials (in writing or on video), use them! Copy the success you have had. Point out why these organizations have selected you and what benefits and ROI they have been able to achieve by working with you and your products.
5: Do you have the time, resources and stamina to support the international activities?
Don’t expect your international efforts to pay off in the first month. Or the second. Or the third. Building business abroad requires a long term vision, a well-prepared plan and quite some stamina. Don’t start up activities for international markets if your ROI has to be less than 6 months. Be prepared to invest time in understanding the local market circumstances and customer needs. Think hard about the best approach, define a plan and execute on this, but be flexible. Adjust when necessary. Don’t expect things to happen by itself; make sure you have the necessary time and resources available to support your activities abroad.
6: Do you have a local partner?
Does your company have skilled personnel with experience in doing business in the new territories? Would they be willing to move or travel there very frequently. Do you understand the culture? Speak the language? Have an existing network of contacts amongst possible customers and prospect partners? If the answer to one or more of these questions is negative, consider working with a local partner. Find a sales agent, a representative company or a business development organization that can assist. Use them for guidance during the initial steps of your new market penetration endeavors and find our if they are a good match for the longer term.