10 steps for a successful market visit abroad

 

From Potsdam and Berlin Aug09

 

Tackling a new market overseas can appear a daunting prospect, not only bringing back memories of starting right at the beginning but also adding language and cultural complications. This article gives you an overview of 10 points to maximise your market entry overseas.

By following these steps, you will be better informed about your future market, possibly gain access to supportive funding with local support in your target country and feel more confident about entering a new market successfully!

1. Choose ONE country
Each country is unique, in its markets, business conditions and culture, as you will no doubt have experienced whilst travelling. For example, whilst the EU is technically a single trading block, Doing business in Spain is a totally different experience from Germany, which is totally different from the UK! So it is worth concentrating on new markets country by country.

2. Research the country
There is a wealth of free country specific information available on the internet, on markets, business conditions, business etiquette, and culture. For example, the UKTI for Britain (https://www.uktradeinvest.gov.uk/index.html) and the Auslandskammer in Germany (http://ahk.de/). Often your own country will provide such information, which neatly brings me to...

3. Get local trade or government assistance
Make enquiries with your local trade association and government ministries responsible for economy and exports. Countries and businesses thrive through export activities and therefore provide assistance to companies wishing to enter new markets abriad for the first time. Most importantly, they may actually give you financial assistance and or help by organising trade delegations or exploratory business trips for groups or sectors. This is an excellent cost effective way to go - and you can check if youa re getting value for money by seeing if they meet the 10 points here!

 

4. Find a trustworthy partner in the target country
Whether you are going it alone or with a group of businesses as part of a larger trip, the success of the venture is in a large part due to the native experts employed to arrange those vital business meetings in the target country. A good organisation will have

  • contacts or representatives in your own country who can begin the dialogue with you and find out about your needs
  • experts who provide market research targeted to your requirements
  • specialists who arrange meetings with appropriate business contacts and
  • support staff who will accompany you on your visit, providing language and business culture support!

5. Make sure you have a product with good USPs
Your existing customers in your own country will have a good understanding of what you do and how you provide your excellent service through a long relationship. Going to a new country is like starting all over again.

Therefore it is important to have a simple, clear message on what you are offering - with an obvious unique selling point that will raise interest in the potential overseas partner. You have to be different and unique enough to separate yourself from the local competition.

Put yourself in the overseas business' shoes; Just think what convincing YOU would need so that, rather than buying from someone in your country, with your shared values and familiar business environment, you would realistically consider a partner abroad and meeting up with them to explore possible opportunities.

6. Produce clear information in the target's language
The easier you can make it for your potential contact to check out your website and your product literature, the better. The more steps you take towards them, the less difficult it is for a company abroad to start business with you.

A very common mistake by English speaking countries is to assume that because English is a common business language - you do not have to bother with material in the target market's language. Yet typically 95% of business is done in the local language.

How would you rather do business - in your first language or one you have learnt? Even a small percentage difference in comfort can make or break a business opportunity.

7. Be realistic about your visit
Think back to when you started your business or entered a new market locally - it took time and a lot of effort. Some cultures are more risk taking than others, however, in most cases the first meetings on a visit to a new country are exploratory - to physically meet and get to know each other and our services.

In the UK for example, it takes about 9 to 15 contacts (telephone calls, e-mails, letters, one to one meetings) between two parties before enough confidence has been created to do business. Your visit is an important part of that set of contacts. Follow up with continued contact when you return will be needed. (see point 10).


8. Be open to new opportunities

One of the most enjoyable aspects for me as a facilitator between businesses from different countries is that unexpected opportunities can arise from working together.

I remember one German company looking for a distributor meeting an independent British expert who could not normally recommend one company over another, despite being impressed by the visitors offering. The meeting looked to end unproductively. I was aware that the UK Expert was a director of several companies, so out of curiosity I asked - would an alternative be that he set up another company that could deal with the German visitors interest? The answer was a surprised - yes, it was possible!

It could also turn out that your products or services could be used in ways that you had not envisaged, due to local conditions.

So also take time to listen to the other business partner, to understand what their concerns are in their business - and you might discover new unexpected opportunties.

9. During the visit, take time to look around
When in another country, take time out. Visit a city and look at some of the sites. Don't be afraid to talk to the locals. The pace of life, the way people shop and what local products and services are provided can give you an additional feel for the psyche of the country you are visiting.

A German business tends to deal directly with people (what you see is what you get) and sets great store on lots of factual evidence right from the start of a conversation, They will also tell you immediately if there is a problem. A UK business person is initially interested in - are you a person they can do business with? And if later any problems arise, these might be hinted at rather than raised directly.

The more people you interact with and the more of the country you see, the better picture you can make of how business might be conducted there.


10. Plan beyond the visit

Your first visit to a new market is not the final step. It is the first step in entering a new market, a process that can take several years before becoming successful.

Therefore plan on how you will follow up contacts and nurture them after the visit. Plan to go to the country again - perhaps at an exhibition where you can follow up previous contacts or exhibit and invite contacts you couldn't meet the first time.

Use your newly found knowledge from the first visit to adapt your website and promotional material.

I can safely say that 90% of businesses do not do this - they visit and then forget to follow through consistently. Fortunately that is good for you if you are one of the 10% who do persist with a new market - you have left 90% of the competition behind you!


Summary

Many companies do not even consider looking to markets abroad to expand, because they are daunted. Other have a go as a simple "look and see" or respond to the occasional request from abroad without really making the effort to prepare properly. In most cases they do not achieve results in the new markets, get dispirited and give up - missing out on new markets and income!

The 10 points here will enable you to tackle a new market with more confidence of success and with realistic expectations, hopefully with financial assistance and support from both local organisations and a reputable partner in the country you are targeting.

 

Call to action
If you feel that your company is at a stage where you could expand into markets abroad, start now by following the advice here.

If you would like more assistance or to discuss how to proceed, please get in touch, I look forward to hearing from you!

Dr Chris Thomas
Director, Milton Contact Limited