Who wouldn't want your widget? It's well-made, cheap to operate, handsome on a desk and beats the stuffing out of its competitors; has for years. Problem is, no one in a foreign country even knows your name. Even well-known global brands fight this battle daily in the struggle to create awareness of what are, effectively, completely new products in the developing economies of the world. If it's tough for General Motors and Coke, it'll be tough for you. But not impossible, and chances are you literally have no competitors yet in many of these markets. It's just a matter of:
- getting your foot in the door, and;
- following through.
Do the mental legworkA big part of selecting a target international market is understanding how buyers there can afford your product, and why they might want it. Market research - always vital - is absolutely essential when going abroad.
Understand the obstacles of marketing a foreign nameNo one knows your brand, and there's no money to do a big splashy launch. Getting to your customers isn't impossible, but it is harder than at home.
Find the distributors and the dealsIt's a little-understood fact, but there are thousands of small importers in every country looking to source just about anything they can turn into an opportunity to sell more. Find them and understand their needs.
Globus provides trade leads and market research by sector from the U.S. government. The U.S. Commercial Service also has full-text market research searchable by country or sector.
Bring in professionalsAfter "where" and "what," it's time for "who." Hiring a research organization or an agency in-country can help you direct resources to the right effort early on.
GreenBook and International Market Research Information have databases of marketing agencies and focus-group facilities. Esomar, the international research association, also has a database of experts searchable by geography.
Before you go, write out the planGlobal sales and marketing plans look a lot like any other business plan - except deep down, they're not. Get a cheat sheet using software that pre-writes a template, then plug in your own research.
Palo Alto has business planning software, including a global business plan template.
- Get a serious market review done before you launch. It'll cost you, but it would help to know which, if any, of your competitors is already on the ground. If not, why not?
- Consider pricing carefully. The cost of shipping and getting past customs could drive your profit margin down to negative figures. Price too high, and sales plummet.
- Most companies start out with resellers and then, once a market is established and profitable, edge them out in favor of an office. Some never do.
- An accurate, well-translated web site is essential as Internet penetration rates rise in the developing world. Not being "local" on the Web can make your company seem unserious. A badly translated site is worse. Hire local talent for this.
- Spend media money carefully. TV might seem comparatively cheap, but is anyone with money watching that channel? Here, an in-country agency is key.