Seven things to do when you are expanding or re-positioning your business for the global market place.
In the life an ICT/tech business, or any business for that matter, it is generally prudent to entertain inquiries and requests to purchase your goods and services from persons you do not reside in your area or country. However, it may become necessary, or a strategic play on your part, to make a concerted effort to sell your products and services outside of your local market. Below are seven (of many) things to do when you are positioning your business for the global market place.
1. Revisit your corporate strategy. When businesses are launched, they are usually done with the local market in mind, i.e., to sell services (and goods) in the local market only. It is the market that you, the business owner, might be the most familiar with, and where many of the teething pains and lessons of managing a business are learned. However, when the time might come to think about expanding your business into international markets, or to cater to international clients, it is prudent to go back to the drawing board and revisit your corporate plan and strategy. Some initial questions you might wish to consider and answer critically, include:
- What are the pros and cons of actively trying to sell your products or services overseas?
- What products or services would be best to offer internationally?
- How might you need to modify the business or your offerings to take it from serving the local market only, to international clients?
- Who might be your target customers? What markets are you trying to serve, or need you are trying to satisfy?
- How do you protect your brand and quality of your services?
- What resources do you need to embark upon this venture?
- What are your goals? What strategy must you implement to realise those goals?
2. Revise your marketing plan and strategy. Having done your due diligence, and modified your corporate plan and strategy, it is important to consider your market plan and strategy. The corporate strategy ought to provide a context for the preparing a marketing strategy, which in essence will help you to comprehensively think through the key aspects and considerations when marketing your business generally, and more so when you are looking to enter a new market.
At the very least, the marketing strategy should address the five “P’s” of marketing – product, price, place, promotion, people. More importantly, this strategy should help you to begin to conceptualise critical aspects associated with selling your services overseas.
3. Protect your intellectual property. Although many of us might inherently recognise the importance of protecting our intellectual property (IP) and that of our businesses, such as our designs (including programming code), logos, business names, and even unique production processes, too often we are not motivated enough to do something about it. In most, if not all, Caribbean countries there are IP protection offices where you can be advised on the requirements to protect your IP.
It must be highlighted that registering your IP can be a bit pricey, and hence businesses must be prepared to budget for it. However, this ought not to be a deterrent. In targeting international markets, you are inherently placing a spotlight on your business and the services you offer. More importantly, the entity that registers an IP first is usually the one that is bestowed the rights. Hence if you did not register critical (or the most sensitive) aspects of your IP in the main countries that you are targeting, should someone else register it before you do, you could find yourself in the unhappy situation of trying to prove that you are the original owner.
4. Develop your web presence. In today’s age many businesses have a website through which to introduce themselves, their offerings and even to engage consumers. Although it is a good practice generally, there could be some benefits in updating your website to make it look more professional and to incorporate web design best practices. Equally important is the need to have good content and to regularly update the website with new content, which encourages web visitors to return to learn more, and hopefully become customers.
Although persons might wish to avoid the cost and effort of developing and maintaining a website, and opt instead to use a Facebook page, the latter might not allow you to fully control and deliver your message. Additionally, should you wish to target non-English-speaking markets, unless you (or members of your team) speak the language, it could be difficult to manage the real-time engagement that social networks tend to demand.
5. Step up your social networking. Although many of us might be members of a variety of social networks, such as Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Tumblr and YouTube, often, our interest tends to be personal, rather than professional. However, social networks offer a powerful platform to begin to message persons about your business, and could be a pointer to content on your website.
It is also important to highlight that while many social networks are useful to engage persons – to build awareness of your brand and offerings – they may not necessarily result in sales, or the conversion of consumers to clients. Research has shown that blogs, websites, podcasts and video-casts are more effective at driving sales than other social networking platforms.
6. Strengthen your Rolodex. Too often, especially in the ICT/tech sphere we can be so involved in developing our products or business that we do not develop new contacts and nurture relationships with existing ones. From time to time, someone might take a chance and buy your product or service based on your website or the engagement you have developed on social networks. However, your success rate could increase considerably if you can develop cheerleaders for brand – persons could suggest your brand or your product or service to others, and might even be prepared to recommend them.
To be clear: networking is a skill and does require preparation, such a creating an elevator pitch, and even having some succinct marketing collateral (e.g. a presentation) prepared. Ultimately, everyone you know, and have messaged, can be an ambassador for business or your brand.
7. Give yourself time. Finally, although it goes without saying, adjusting the focus of your business can take time. It is important to properly prepare and plan for this new venture, and to be able to continually assess your progress and to adjust your strategy as needed. In essence, the goal is to ensure that the time, money and effort that you have applied will not appear to have been in vain, but ultimately strengthen your brand and business.
Image credits: jscreationzs; nokhoog_buchachon; Stuart Miles / FreeDiigitalPhotos.net