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The International Entrepreneur Interviewed – How to Become an International Entrepreneur w/ Becky DeStigter

Becky DeStigter interview podcast by VerbaccinoReaders,

This week I want to share a great interview and conversation I had with?Kathrin Bussmann, host of The Worldly Marketer Podcast Series. For those of you who don’t know Kathrin yet, she is the Founder of Verbaccino and the Creator of International & Global Marketing Strategies for the Digital Age. Kathrin asked me a variety of questions related to early-stage global business?expansion. I hope you enjoy!

https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/twm-001-how-to-become-international/id1114738776?i=1000368858535&mt=2

Best wishes,
Becky

The International Entrepreneur – Setting up Your International Distributor Program for Success

international distributor partner representative

 

Your company may use a partner, channel, distributor or representative (rep). They all may follow slightly different selling structures. But call them what you want. If they are bringing in new profitable clients, then you love them.

I?ve talked with many young, growing firms who manage an international distributor program as a way to quickly expand into new international markets. There is a strong case to be made for this approach. The costs are low – much lower than setting up a local subsidiary, hiring staff, making local connections and managing local compliance and tax regulations. Distributors already have local network connections. They know how to sell into their local market. It can be a great early-stage market entry approach to help rapidly expand your company?s global footprint.

Now that was the Disneyland Version of international partners. For most companies, their distributor outcomes are more mixed with some partners performing beyond expectations, others selling literally nothing, and some requiring high levels of staff support that eat through any profits they may have produced. While I cannot guarantee your success with all partners, here is my advice to improve your partner success rate:

1. Proactively recruit your international representatives.?

Once a company signals that they are doing business internationally, foreign agents of many types will want to be your exclusive distributor to their home country or region. But just because a Brazilian agent approaches you does not mean that they are qualified, connected or otherwise the best representation available.

It make take a little more work upfront, but it is definitely worth the time and energy to proactively seek out Brazilian rep options. Then it is just as important to properly vet these potential partners for their reputation, connections, legal standing, etc. As I’m sure you all know from your own experiences,?partner turnover is costly.

 

2. Develop a close relationship with your partners.

This may sound counterintuitive to some. After all, the less time spent with a rep means less support costs. But that?s the Accountant?s Approach to international expansion and a self defeating one at that. Strong channels mean much higher sales potential, which normally outweigh the costs by many fold.

Instead, try to arrange to visit each rep at least once a year in their home market. This will set you apart from the majority of other companies your distributor represents. A rep likely represents a few dozen to a few hundred products. You want to make sure that your products are top of mind when he or she is talking with potential clients.

It also helps greatly if your business relationship with a rep grows in complexity and integration between your companies. If the relationship is basic and remote, then when either side falls on tough times or the first sign of challenges, they will leave the arrangement. It is much better to have reasons to stay and strengthen your channels.

 

3. Work together to decide on the right in-country messaging and supporting materials.
International representatives have every reason to help you figure out the best way to communicate with local potential buyers. It is not unusual for buying and selling patterns to shift significantly from market to market.

The place to start is with your company?s current marketing assets. What can be used without any alterations? Is there anything that can be easily created by you or your country rep to suit their selling process? It may be something as simple as a localized phone script or a few slides changed in the sales slide deck. Try to keep any localization changes simple at this stage and plan for more involved marketing if your company eventually sets up a foreign subsidiary.

 

4. Find individual (and group) motivational tools.
As business leaders, we already know that our employees are each motivated by different triggers. Joe, your customer service manager, ?may want an extra week of vacation time instead of its equivalent cash bonus OR he may prefer a paid executive coach to mentor his career as reward for professional success. Partner-specific motivation?is an area of channel management where creativity pays off.

You may have two competing distributors – one in Sydney and the other in Melbourne – who have a cultivated rivalry. Buy an obnoxiously large trophy and offer the trophy plus bragging rights to the distributor who sells the most of your products by the end of the fiscal year.

Your rep may be motivated by title promotion. Honestly, I would call a rep a Chief Selling Officer of Thailand if they doubled their Thai sales this year. It?s relatively easy to change and costs nothing. This may be useful in combination with other incentives.

Sales departments have been using the ?President?s Club? motivator for years. Those who exceed quota are invited often with spouses to a luxury trip paid for by the company. There may be some creative version of this concept that could work for high performance channel partners.

 

Regardless of your approaches to building your international selling team, I hope that you find some of these ideas useful. It?s best to just keep an open mind and an eye towards creative solutions. A strong network of international sales will help propel your company towards greater growth and profitability.

 

For more information about growing and supporting your international company, join the International Trade Tribe:

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The International Entrepreneur – Is your company still an Accidental Exporter?

Accidental exporter, international entrepreneur

Joe rolled his chair over to company founder, Mary?s desk with a quizzical wrinkle in his brow?

?Can we sell our security product to someone in Romania? We just got an email basically ordering 50 software licenses from somewhere called Timisoara?, said Joe as Mary looked up from her multiple computer monitors.

Mary was just as surprised as Joe. The company had launched only a few months ago. How could someone from Romania have heard about their product, much less have decided to buy it? Their small team of developers were focused on a few potential clients in the United States.

Mary hadn?t even considered when international would enter into the company?s plans. But 50 licenses was an order that was difficult to ignore? So Mary and her company became ?Accidental Exporters? ? taking orders from foreign clients without any real understanding yet of their global markets.

 

International Clients Always Arrive Before?You Expect Them

A byproduct of the world?s Digital Revolution is that anyone anywhere can read your company website. As a consultant, I don?t travel to over 200 countries? but this article will. Businesses and consumers now have access to product options and pricing information allowing them to make more informed choices. If you have something of value like Mary?s security software product, then clients from other parts of the world will begin to make contact.

Mary and her team will likely weigh the revenue of 50 licenses against the risks of doing business with these Romanian?clients. Will the clients pay in dollars? How much interaction is needed for software implementation and service?

If like much software today the delivery is a SaaS model, then allowing access is easy. But are there any regulations related to doing business with Romania in terms of taxes, data location requirements or other restrictions? Most companies ignore compliance issues at first and focus on the money. (Tip: Always know what you?re getting into before you just move forward.)

 

Timisoara, Romania (photo courtesy of wikipedia.org)

Timisoara, Romania (photo courtesy of wikipedia.org)

 

Accidental Exporting Becomes the New Normal

Mary and her company take on the Romanian client? then soon a Canadian client? and on it goes. The company figures out ways to serve these foreign clients in the same way that they serve the domestic base ? home country language, home country currency, home country customer service hours, and home market expectations. In my experience, this directionless approach is the international growth path for about 98% of small and medium-sized?companies.

The surprising part of reactionary-based international expansion is how long this phase typically lasts ? for years and sometimes decades. Companies often seem content to continue on building their international client collection with little thought to the larger markets left untapped.

An extension of Accidental Exporting are overseas distributors who find your company through the website or a trade show; and offer to represent your product in their market. Now you have a distributor based in Australia who gets to build business for you in the APAC region for a 25% discount margin. Most companies just accept this new extension to the reactive model without any visit to the distributor?s offices or 3rd party background checks on their reputation. That?s just crazy and irresponsible.

 

What?s the Alternative to Accidental Exporting?

International expansion planning is the answer. And it needs to start almost as soon as your company initially opens its doors for business. In the start-up phase, a company needs to decide what it can and cannot handle in terms of orders from international clients. Can you convert foreign currency? Can you deliver your product compliantly using the Internet, air or ocean freight? Are there regulations for your product or industry that you should be aware of? For instance, you may decide that Canada is a market you can serve but that Germany?s laws regarding cloud data residing in servers located on German soil rule that market out for now.

Despite anecdotal evidence that startups can be ?born global?, few are actually capable of true international market entry from Day 1. Instead, internationalization works best when a company plans for overseas market entry years before the first foreign subsidiary office is opened. Incorporate international considerations into:

  • Product development ? Are there any additional product requirements to be compliant internationally (CE Marking, etc.)
  • Company talent recruitment– Are we looking for candidates who also have international and cross-cultural experience?
  • Key outside resources ? Can our accountants, attorneys, bankers and PEO providers also advise on international tax, legal issues, foreign exchange and international payroll?
  • Financial capital ? Are we budgeting for our initial global market research and first market expansions?

Preparing for that eventual international rollout will make the transition much smoother.

 

When Should We Get Serious About Internationalizing?

There is no specific milestone that marks when a company should proactively begin its international expansion. But here are some general guidelines:

  • If you have a profitable company providing value to your home market clients
  • If international clients have found you and you are able to successfully serve their needs
  • If your home market is a small one, then you will need to internationalize earlier than large home market companies
  • If you have 100+ employees (this can vary by industry, but IT companies should heed this criteria)
  • If you have earnings, loans or outside equity to fund early expansion efforts

 

My hope is that by writing about accidental exporting it will prompt business leaders to examine their own company?s approach to international markets. With luck a few more ?accidental exporters? can reach their greater?global potential.

 

Onward & upward

Becky DeStigter, The International Entrepreneur

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The International Entrepreneur – How to accelerate global expansion

accelerate global expansion, international entrepreneur, international business

It?s ironic. Anyone who has spent time and energy expanding their company into international markets can tell you that the process is anything but fast. Global expansions are notoriously slow, especially when compared to what American and Canadian companies are used to as their domestic time to establish a new business. Registering a new business in some American states can take 30 minutes online and US$50. In contrast, some business registrations overseas can take over 2 years and cost US$20,000+.

In North America, we build our business processes and expectations around speed. Speed to market. Speed up the sales cycle. Speed in product development. Anything that slows us down is the target of constant complaint. Ask anyone who has been through a U.S. Food and Drug Administration?s approval process.

Despite frustrations, there are many compelling reasons why a company would still choose to expand internationally. There are new markets and customers overseas. The market may be global and market share requires doing business internationally. Global markets may balance out seasonal or economic cycles to keep the company?s revenue and growth on a steadier path. There may be strategic advantages for global talent, cost savings or a whole host of other reasons to go global.

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REALITY CHECK: No matter how compelling the reasons to keep expanding into new global markets, you still need to expend the necessary time and resources to bring success. If you can?t commit to at least 2 years? worth of work to get a new market off the ground, then I recommend that you don?t take your company global.

 

Here?s my advice for speeding up the international expansion process:

  1. Consistent Commitment. Nothing (and I mean nothing) will slow down your company?s global expansion more than the mixed messages of wavering leadership and financial support.
    This happened earlier this month to an international expansion director in the southwest United States. He had made all of the arrangements to meet with potential Middle East partners on a crucial trip. His company?s Board of Directors froze all travel and other international expenses for a short-term gain. ?Now when this director can finally return to this high-potential market, he won?t find the same level of welcome or interest in doing business.
  1. Travel to Your Markets. If you truly want to expand quickly, then put your company leaders and expansion staff on planes to your chosen target markets. Face to face meetings with potential partners, clients and other influential stakeholders in country dramatically speed up the time taken to form these key relationships.
  2. Consider Strategic Partnerships or Mergers & Acquisitions. While partnerships and M&A take substantial time up front to establish the relationship and agreement terms, they can expedite market entry where they already have established client base. So for instance, let?s say my company wanted to enter the Thai market. I don?t speak Thai or know this culture which is quite different from my own. But if there were a compatible partner company, I could reach potential Thai customers by piggybacking on the partner?s products or services as a point of entry. I could learn from my Thai partner about the market and the best ways to sell my offering.
    On the M&A side, buying or merging with a company in a key market means that you buy their assets and also their internal processes and market knowledge. This, of course, is also dependent on keeping existing staff happy post-M&A so that the knowledge stays with the company. Obviously M&A requires support from your current and future financial resources.
  1. Laser Focus Normally Beats the Shotgun Approach to Market Entry. Many companies take the reactionary approach to international markets ? they wait for foreign clients to find the company online and approach them with business. I am not saying that this is necessarily a bad starting point, but at some stage serving customers in 13 countries is less efficient than focusing on the 3 best markets and doing it at higher revenue and profit margins.
  2. Practice Agile Processes in Your International Expansion. Instead of starting and stopping every time there is a new challenge in a global market, I recommend using an agile process. Agile is a leading approach in software development where changes are made to code frequently to constantly improve the quality of the product. Marketing adopted agile because it allows for incremental performance evaluations and changes instead of annual reviews. I think this applies just as well to global expansion, where incremental changes can vastly improve results and speed up the process rather than waiting for a review from a large country roll-out.

While international expansion is an investment for companies with a longer investment time frame, there are definitely steps that can speed up the process. Consistency in support is a required foundation. Armchair expansion is much slower than sending staff into the field to meet and develop relationships with key in-country contacts. Focusing on key markets and partners is faster than waiting to see what drops in your lap. And always be ready to make changes based on the new insights you pick up during the new market entry.

I wish you all the best of success in all of your markets.

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The International Entrepreneur ? Balancing Internal and External Global Marketing Resources

marketing resources, global marketing, international entrepreneur

Susan rubbed her forehead trying to push back the headache that was forming. She was the Chief Marketing Officer for a Boston-based globally-expanding software company. Susan had always been praised for her ability to hire and manage outside marketing specialists and deliver excellent marketing metrics. But now she needed resources like German social media experts and Thai copywriters. The marketing ROI, lead generation numbers and other metrics she had worked to hard to build domestically had all turned sour in the global mix. Susan worried that she might lose her job if she didn?t turn things around quickly in the new global expansion. How could she turn things around?

 

First, take a deep breath? and assess the situation

It?s easy to get caught up in the tactical marketing execution and miss the bigger picture. With this in mind, it?s time to take an assessment of the resources and skills currently available from existing staff and current contractors and match them up against the expectations of your operation.

Global markets can confound even seasoned marketing leaders. We all know our home market best. But once we move into another country, the legal, linguistic and cultural rules shift. The Canadian market may have responded well to your company?s inbound marketing campaigns, but the Colombian market may need a more direct contacts. And giving what seem like clear communications make take on a completely different outcome in India compared with Denmark.

Susan from Boston assesses that she has too many disparate resources that she directly manages. She is needing to navigate many unfamiliar business cultures. And she?s not sure what marketing messaging and channels work in which markets. Her CEO is expecting her to deliver the same 5-fold ROI on marketing expenditures that she delivered in the U.S. market and his patience is wearing thin. Susan needs to do something different.

 

Planning for international success

I always recommend starting with a Gap Analysis. Assess where your marketing organization is at today and where it needs to be both today (short-term) and at some point out in the future (long-term). What capabilities would you need for both short-term and long-term success? Assess marketing functional capabilities, but also cross-cultural communication skills.

Internal and external resource balancing act

Today?s marketing leaders have extensive outsourcing options. In fact, more than one company has outsourced their entire department to a marketing agency. That?s extreme, but in certain situations, it could make sense. Here are guidelines for the majority:

Leadership and oversight should stay in house.

Marketing is normally part of the company?s value chain should be managed by the CMO/VP and their staff. This allows for internal brand management and control. Most importantly, the marketing department remains responsible for all marketing results.

Specialty projects and functions requiring rare skills should be outsourced.

I don?t speak Thai or understand the nuances of Thai culture. To create an effective marketing campaign in Thailand, I would need to engage a local marketing agency. This is not only true for culture and language-specific projects, but other skills that are well outside of your marketing department?s current core competencies. They could be technical, creative, analytical or any area where there is currently more need than internal staff skills.

And then there?s the gray area in between

There are always functions that could be either hired or trained into the marketing department staff OR outsourced to an outside firm. Generally, most marketing leaders I know estimate the value of the output compared with the cost. Is it more expensive to outsource or spend internal staff hours on the website rebuild? Additionally, how easy are each resource to manage? Which is most reliable? Do we have enough marketing budget to pay for a new employee or pay an outside resource?

 

Susan from Boston?s Dilemma

When we met Susan the software company CMO, she was challenged with her company?s global expansion. This isn?t unusual. Susan needs to start by realigning expectations of new market learning curves internally with her CEO and other stakeholders. Susan and her staff will need time to figure out the most effective marketing messages and channel mix. This needs to be communicated to realign expectations. I?d also recommend reporting metrics by country to show that the domestic numbers are still strong and any improvements by country over time.

If the expansion involves several simultaneous market entries (which seems to be the case), then Susan may need to reorganize oversight responsibilities. The 2 most common structures are to organize by functional marketing areas (design, content, social media, events, etc.) or by country/region.

Susan?s marketing department may be too small for this aggressive of a global expansion. She may need more project management and functional skills to lead efforts in different parts of the world simultaneously. This will help the company continue global growth and success.

 

I hope this article helps you as your company continues to growth and balance resources. With so many choices, it leaves many CMOs to wonder how to best manage and execute their global marketing budget. Overseas markets require creative solutions, and no matter what some marketing agency tries to tell you ? there is no ?one size fits all? solution. Above all else, do what is right for your situation.

Becky DeStigter, The International Entrepreneur

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The International Entrepreneur ? International Business Lessons from Mark Zuckerberg

Like most professionals in technology fields, I?m a bit fascinated by Mark Zuckerberg. Really, who could have predicted the meteoric rise of Facebook twelve years ago when it was just started? He?s not one to build the same wisdom-drenched following like Richard Branson or Guy Kawasaki.?But the day he put his newly acquired Mandarin Chinese on display at Tsinghua University in Beijing, he had my full attention.

China doesn?t even allow Facebook access for its citizens. And here was one of the titans of American technology industries not only speaking Chinese, but using all of the Chinese cultural savviness of a well-coached leader. As I watched this video for the first time, I thought of three things:

  1. I had clearly underestimated Mark Zuckerberg as a world-class business leader.
  2. Facebook would eventually enter the Chinese market, breaking down communication barriers on its way.
  3. I needed to double up my efforts to master Mandarin Chinese.

Impressive as this interview may be, China still doesn?t open its doors wide to Facebook or other social media platforms that aren?t easily censored. It?s a political issue and one that is difficult for most Westerners to understand. Why would Chinese citizens allow this censorship to continue? Why would they allow themselves to be ruled by a small group of unelected party officials? There are several reasons, but the main one is rooted in Chinese culture: harmony. But I digress away from our topic.

Speaking of difficult to understand? just this past week, Mark Zuckerberg was speaking at the Mobile World Congress and he told about Facebook?s recent ruling in India?s courts. Facebook wanted to offer free Internet to Indian citizens. But the courts saw it differently. Facebook was not allowed to charge different pricing for services, even if one of those prices was nothing. The Indians felt that there was a price ? preferential access to Facebook and their partners? sites. It became a net neutrality issue.

Mark Zuckerberg, India, International Trade,

Image Source: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images/Business Insider

If you?ve ever read my blog before, you know that I give what I hope is helpful advice to small and medium-sized companies expanding into global markets. My focus is on providing tips and tools to help companies avoid the most common and costly mistakes. Facebook is by anyone?s definition a massive company with extensive financial resources beyond 99% of all companies.

Here are the International Business Lessons for the rest of us:

  1. ?Every Country is Different?. That?s actually Mr. Zuckerberg?s exact quote about the Indian court ruling. That may sound incredibly obvious, but every week I talk with at least one company leader who finds this basic fact incredulous. Recently a sales VP I talked with couldn?t imagine that?since?various countries negotiate differently that he should raise his prices in markets where locals would expect to negotiate a larger price discount. International business is a pattern of learn, adapt and move forward.
  2. When it?s important, take the long view. Facebook will never give up trying to access the Chinese market. That said, they will also never hopefully give up their stance on freedom from censorship.
  3. Creative problem solving is a core international business skill. If at first you don?t succeed, it?s time to stop, regroup, figure out what went wrong, and then figure out another way. That?s what Facebook is doing in India and in China. That?s what successful companies of all sizes do to win new global customers and grow to their full potential in world markets.
  4. Cultural understanding matters. In the video of Mr. Zuckerberg?s interview, the reaction is clear ? his Chinese audience is both surprised and delighted. I?m sure he would have had a great interview had he delivered it in English. They would have even appreciated his answers had he not been coached in Chinese cultural etiquette. But in one interview, he captured a nation?s attention for all the right reasons. This goodwill will shorten the time it takes to enter this market.?Few of us have time to learn Mandarin. But we can learn a few basic phrases in any language. We can either research or hire a coach to show our cultural respect to our future customers.

I look forward to seeing what Mark Zuckerberg and his Facebook team do next to continue to influence culture and technology. And I look forward to the continuing evolution of international markets for the rest of us. Onward & upward.

For more Tips and Tools on International Business, you can join the International Trade Tribe.

The International Entrepreneur ? The Promise and Pitfalls of International Digital Marketing

 

international digital marketing, global marketing, international entrepreeur

Long gone are the days of fluffy feel-good marketing, where brand awareness was the focus and sales was normally the first company contact.

I give the rise of Digital Marketing majority credit for this accountability revolution in our professional discipline. In 2004 I attended an American Marketing Association conference on Strategic Marketing in Chicago. A large international survey had been conducted on marketing and advertising effectiveness. The survey reported that the average marketing/advertising campaign yielded a 3-5% ROI (return on investment). I can?t imagine a marketing department leader today going to his company CEO and not being sacked for delivering such a flagrant failure.

Accelerating the digital marketing revolution further is small & medium-sized companies? access to content management, social media, marketing automation, data analytics and other online tools. Thanks to digitally-enabling products from Google, Hubspot, Infusionsoft, Constant Contact, Twitter, Facebook, WordPress and many others, even the smallest company can reach markets faster and more effectively than ever before. Look out, Fortune 1000 ? your size advantage won?t save you from competing against the next generation of rising companies!

More effective tools mean greater accountability for marketing results

I was reminded this week yet again of just how challenging our marketing role can be. I was working with a new partner to develop new website keywords. To those outside marketing, keywords may seem like a minor consideration. It should be easy to list the search engine words that will lead the right audience to our site.

The puzzle we were trying to solve: how to define keywords for a global BPO innovation when no one yet knows that your product or service category even exists? I have literally been thinking of this day and night because this morning I woke up relieved finally figuring out the answer to our riddle. Some marketing challenges take months to solve. But those of us in marketing know how sometimes seemingly small details can make all the difference in outcomes.

My fellow international business expert, Ed Marsh has written extensively about digital marketing and international expansion for B2B companies. His site is also worth reading on this subject.

 

Now onto the international digital marketing pitfalls ?

International business relationship building will never be fully replaced. To all of the introverts out there, I?m sorry. Business relationships with international distributors, strategic partners and large-scale clients require trust building. The best digital marketing in the world can?t close a multimillion dollar enterprise sale or create a high-value strategic partnership.

To bridge cultural communications is to risk occasional embarrassment and misunderstandings on the learning curve. This cannot be done through social media contact, your website or any email campaign. So, marketers, please don?t lose your people skills. You still need them.

Localization to new markets cannot (yet) be fully automated. Today I see many companies disregarding localization as they extend unaltered paid media and other digital channels into same-language markets. Recently a B2B software company I know was paying for Linkedin sponsored links and ads to New Zealand with no real market research. It?s like fumbling in the dark. Motivations, buying patterns and a host of other factors vary greatly by country.

Non-localized digital marketing distorts information about international markets. Many companies assume that the leads from their website represent a country?s market demand. For instance, if Germany represents only 1% of leads, then that the demand for my products or services in that market. Unless you conducted market research and translated/localized for Germany, your market is likely much larger. My general rule of thumb for initial estimation is to take untranslated/unlocalized leads and then multiply it by 9. That said, you don?t know until you research in country. But in my experience, no technology or professional services company (even in the U.S.) has a domestic market over 50% of their total world market. Usually it?s more like 5-20%.

Digital marketing does not replace the need for any of your marketing talent or other resources. Instead, digital marketing often requires repurposing marketing skills. Instead of designing and writing copy for printed brochures, staff often design and write for digital assets and campaigns. Events management now goes beyond trade shows to include webinars and podcasts. Marketers continue to experiment with the best ways to develop conversations in social media and then drive those leads to the right calls to action. And there is always management needed for all external
marketing agencies around the globe. Even with digital tools, it is still a great deal of effort and coordination across channels and geography.

 

In the end, there just is no magic button to push that creates effective international digital marketing. There are great new tools for all company sizes. But it still requires creative problem solving, strong international knowledge and perspective, and a lot of effort and discipline from your marketing team.

I hope you found this article to be helpful. For more Tips and Tools from The International Entrepreneur, I invite you to join our International Business Tribe.

The International Entrepreneur ? Selecting the Right International Trade Shows

international, trade show, B2B marketing

Image courtesy of wikipedia & Taiwan World Trade Center

I was talking recently with the Vice President of Marketing at one of these B2B technology Silicon-Valley-wanna-be companies. If you have spent time in any tech industries, I think you might know the type ? lots of curious employee perks and silly team-building games, reinventing core business functions in some unique way that doesn?t conform to how the rest of the world does it, and of course a workspace that any teenager would aspire to work in.

The VP and I were talking about marketing channels for B2B enterprise software markets. But when I brought up the time-tested international marketing channel of trade shows, he balked at my old-fashioned notion. Instead, the VP wanted to double his investment in paid media. Here?s my perspective:

B2B marketing and sales all basically boil down to having the right conversations with the right people at the right time. These conversations can be with one of your commission-based channel partners, with a current client, with one of your marketing staff on a social media platform, or in a sales call. The higher the price and commitment of your product or service, then the higher the level of trust needs to be to complete the sale. That is even more true for international markets, where NOTHING happens without an existing trusted business relationship.

Industry trade shows are a great venue to meet in person many potential clients within a short time. Face-to-face conversations GREATLY speed up the trust-building process and deepen the chances of a long, fruitful business relationship. In international markets, marketing messaging and other communications can easily be misinterpreted. In person conversations allow you to gauge the reaction of the listener. You can clear up any misunderstandings immediately and in many cases just continue on towards success.

Those of us who have made a career in marketing know that trade shows are not necessarily the most budget-friendly channel. So here are my tips on how to not only pick the right trade shows, but to ensure that they fit your budget:

  • Find trade shows in markets where you want to target. This may sound obvious, but many companies get caught up in the expectations of going to certain tradeshows. If you have no prospects in your home state or country, you don?t have to show your local ties. If you see great potential in the Indian market, search for Indian events. It may sound obvious, but on a limited marketing budget every show has to generate results ? leads, partners, etc.
  • Choose events where the primary audience are your key decision makers. Nothing is more frustrating than doing a great job of cultivating a relationship with a potential client only to find out that their role has nothing to do with your product or service purchase. Everyone loves a product champion in an account, but a decision-making champion signs the contract and authorizes payments.
  • Do your homework on the conferences. Conferences and conventions are BIG BUSINESS. As such, they market heavily to both potential attendees and exhibitors. Definitely talk with others in your industry to find out how well the event is run and any hidden charges. Anecdotal evidence should support the statistics provided by the event organizers.
  • Size your event investment on the show?s potential (and your budget). I once worked with a software company that literally could trace 30% of their revenue to the HIMSS conference. With this knowledge, they would rent a large exhibiting booth space, sponsor a dinner for clients and prospects, a meeting suite, and other investments to capitalize on this large healthcare informatics event. At least in the beginning, the investments are likely smaller ? a smaller booth, or even a few attendee tickets for key company staff to meet potential clients.
  • Use local language/cultural resources. If your company already has a local presence in the form of local reps or staff, you should try to include them in the trade show staff. This helps with the language issue as well as any local cultural nuances as most attendees come from the region around the event location. If this country is new to you, consider hiring a pair of professional interpreters. This will allow your staff to build rapport faster crossing language boundaries.
  • Don’t forget to meet the press!?Most of event preparations focus on leads, clients and partners. But trade shows normally have a contingency of journalists writing for industry media. Even smaller exhibitors can often take advantage of this with the right media messages and interviews. Plan accordingly.
  • Prepare a game plan, schedule meetings and for gosh sakes ? send the right people. Trade show time is expensive and fleeting, so have a plan on what your staff is going to do there. Are they able to attend conference sessions and meet people in other rooms? Can meetings be scheduled with key prospects? Ideally you are sending your best networkers ? the staff who can talk with anyone and build instant rapport. The worst are the booths manned by a junior staffer consumed by his mobile phone while potential clients walk by ignored. Setting expectations is a key part of preparations.

 

As far as the trade-show-avoiding VP of Marketing goes, I hope that he and others trying to automate away face-to-face interaction always work for the competition. For the rest of us, a well-planned international trade show marketing program has the potential to accelerate our entry and potential in new B2B international markets!

For more Tips and Tools from The International Entrepreneur, please join our International Trade Tribe here.

The International Entrepreneur ? Are Your Outsourcing Resources Ready for International?

The International Entrepreneur Asks Are Your Outsourcing Resources Ready for International?
Today?s companies tend to be leaner and more agile than those in years past. They often have to be in order to grow at a rate fast enough to secure the next round of funding or attract the right acquiring firm. How we do business has fundamentally changed to where many company functions like legal, accounting, HR and marketing can be outsourced to a large degree. But what happens when a company decides to enter international markets? Are these BPOs ready to join you on your international business expansion?

Here are some questions to ask your company?s law firm, accounting firm, marketing agency, bank, payroll service and any other business process outsourcing (BPO) providers:

  • Do you have any offices or partners in the markets we are planning to enter?
    If your home market is small like Singapore or Luxembourg, then likely any outside resources are well connected to the rest of the world. They have to be. For larger markets like the U.S. or Brazil, your local bank may not have the international connections or in-house expertise international currency and finance that you?ll need.
  • Are you able to serve staff based overseas with sound advice and similar services in international markets?
    Payroll is a great example of where this applies. Most payroll outsourcing companies choose to serve only their home market. But there are a handful of international payroll companies that handle the complexities of payroll around the world to help keep your company in compliance.
  • Do the contacts that you work with have international experience?
    Sometimes a law firm or accounting firm has the ability to extend to other parts of the world through sister offices or partner firms. But often when a company shifts from one market to global markets, the staff who serve the company may need to change to the more internationally experienced resources.

For all of your company?s business functions directly affected by the international expansion, you can decide between two approaches: Centralized and Decentralized Outsourcing.

Centralized Outsourcing is when your BPO resource has an extensive network of staff or trusted partners in all of your markets. The largest accounting firms fall into this category. And it helps to have one cohesive approach to accounting that leverages the specialized knowledge that these firms typically have in areas like international taxation.

Decentralized Outsourcing makes sense when in-country resources have the best perspective. This is often the case with marketing agencies. If I?m going to concentrate on the German market because I know that German businesses desperately want and need my product, then I should hire a marketing agency based in Germany to spearhead my marketing program there.

Some additional advice:

  • Be sure to ask specific questions of your service providers to learn their fuller international capabilities.
  • Don?t contort around a business relationship to avoid hurting someone?s feelings. Yes, the company founder?s best friend may have done the accounting for the last five years, but unless his firm can handle all of your transactions, currencies and tax reporting, it?s time to move to a fuller service firm.
  • Generally, companies keep all processes tied to their value chain in-house rather than outsourcing them. With keeping that in mind, some companies also choose to redefine their value chain altogether to fit what they actually do best. That?s at least food for thought!

I hope you found this article helpful. If you would like to receive additional tools and tips starting with a Market Entry Checklist, please click here.

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