The world is getting smaller all the time. Online shopping means anyone can order from anywhere. But launching in a new country is not necessarily as straightforward as adding it to your list of shipping destinations, there are things to consider.
1. Make sure your business is ready
Ambition is a great thing, but getting ahead of yourself can do more harm than good to your business. Before entering new markets, ask yourself – do you have the right people in place? Are your processes set up for product commercialization in a new market? If not, you can hire a specialist company (such as lifesciences.transperfect.com) to help you prepare.
You might be doing great in your own market because you have the local knowledge and connections, but launching in a whole new environment means re-training your staff, making sure you have the correct processes in place, and having a financial reserve in case things don’t go to plan.
2. Do your research
Having your ducks in a row is important, but it’s not enough. You have to also understand the market you are going into, including the priorities of the local audience and, crucially, local business customs.
For example, in China, you must never walk into a business meeting without a gift. You also need to be prepared for it to be refused 3 times before it is accepted. Failing to go through with this ritual can offend your business partners and harm your business. Similarly, in South Korea, you will likely be expected to engage in after-work karaoke with your hosts, and, in Finland, you may be invited to take your meeting in a Sauna.
Being familiar with these local quirks can save you both money and embarrassment.
3. Find local partners
It’s not easy being the new kid on the scene, but having local friends to show you the ropes can take the edge off. What’s more, partnering with companies who have already gained the trust of the country’s audience can help you earn this trust as well.
One example of when this was done well is when DocuSign partnered with Japanese company Shachihata to develop the e-Hanko. The Hanko is a personalized seal or stamp that has been used in Japan for centuries. People use it to sign physical letters to showcase their honor and identity. DocuSign’s goal is to eradicate the need for paper, and they recognized a specific cultural barrier to this goal within the Japanese market. They were able to come up with a solution that showed they respect the local culture, and gained trust and respect from locals in return.
If possible, try and build a solid local team before you launch, or at least hire a local Country Manager. This will make finding out about these sorts of issues and solving them easier. A local Country Manager is also more likely to have connections that can lead to successful partnerships.
4. Get to know your competitors
As they say, keep your friends close and your enemies closer. As well as making local connections, checking out what the competition is up to is also extremely important. Are they cheaper? Do they offer more services? What’s their marketing like?
Of course, if they’ve been in the market longer, you might have some catching up to do, but it’s good to know what you’re up against so you can plan accordingly.
If you have the resources, a great way to get intel is to perform a local survey. Launching a coffee brand? Ask the locals where they get their coffee and why. What do they like about it? What would they like to see improved? This will gain you valuable data on the gaps in the market and how you might fill them. You could achieve this through social media, or by hiring a local market research company.
5. Leverage your home turf success
It’s important to establish your brand in your home country before expanding abroad. A recommendation or vote of trust from a colleague or friend, even one based in another market, is likely to expedite procedures for your business in your new target location.
Expanding your business to a new market is exciting, but comes with a lot of margin for error. However, if you make sure your company and team are ready, get to know the new market in all its uniqueness and bring a certain level of clout from home, there is no reason your business can’t capture the hearts and minds of the locals.
6. Learn the language
Don’t worry, this doesn’t mean you have to become fluent in every language on the planet in a few months. But, if you’re launching a product in a country where people speak a different language to your own, a little goes a long way. You can win over both business partners and customers by memorizing a few simple phrases (such as hello, thank you, please, and goodbye). Even if they realize that is all you can say in their language, it demonstrates a level of respect for their culture.
If you’re launching in a country that speaks your language, remember that this doesn’t mean you have the local lingo down. There are many differences between American, British and Australian English, for example. And the Spanish they speak in Spain is not exactly the same as in South America. Learning those differences, however subtle, can make doing business in a new market easier and more efficient.
Launching a new product is always challenging, and even more so if you’re working in a market you’re not that familiar with. However, as long as you do your prep and your research, you should be well-positioned to win over a whole new country.