Inspired by a speech delivered by Arnaud Massonie, Managing Director, Product, Engineering & Operations at 55 — the Data Agency.
1. The Mindset
International expansion is a philosophy and needs a strategy that you should plan as early as possible. Regularly add it to the hot topics to discuss and keep it high on the to-do list.
2. The world is your playground
People usually start targeting neighboring countries when it comes to international expansion. It might be a good idea but in any case, you should see the world for all it has to offer and be extremely pragmatic in your strategy. You plan to expand to the US, why not China? You’re thinking about Latin America, have you had a look at Africa?
3. Key Questions
Before you start, write a list of questions you need to answer to reduce the uncertainty:
- Who are my potential local partners? Who are my local competitors? How big is my market? Who are my customers and what are their habits regarding the category of products/services I’m selling?
- Along with these questions, also remember to identify where your customers’ decision-making centers are located, especially if you are a B-to-B company.
4. The two main Strategies
You usually have 2 options for your international development.
Just ask your current customers if you could be of any help in other countries.
Start from scratch on a new market where you identified potential for your company.
None of these strategies is better than the other and we encourage you to tweak it, mix it and adapt it to your specific problematics.
5. Your inner circle abroad
Rely on your 1st-degree connections to meet people who lived in the countries you target. Talk to them, explain your projects to them and listen to their inputs and feedbacks. This is a good way to prepare your expansion, to get valuable referrals and to widen your network. Also rely on startup communities like StartupBlink, FundedX or so many other groups.
You cannot just copy and paste your startup in a new country. You need to adapt your marketing and sales strategy and to localise your product or service. This means not only translating your marketing and app but also understanding the intercultural pitfalls not to fall into. It’s a whole different thing to talk to a French person from France even if you’re used to selling your product to French-speaking Canadians.
International expansion starts in your own country. Hiring foreigners is the best way to get ready to go global. They get used to your company culture, messages and values and can easily adapt it to their own country when the time comes.
Expanding into a new market takes time and require a huge investment. You almost start from scratch again and need to adapt to a new culture before you are 100% efficient in each and every task you take.
Start delegating your daily work and devote more time to your international expansion.
Adapting to a new culture takes a lot of listening and learning. If you want to be able to make actionnable strategic decisions, you need to listen to those who know how it works there. We met so many entrepreneurs who, even after 20 years living in a country, felt the incredible value of their local employees’ inputs.
There are so many topics you don’t master. Ask for support and find reliable experts. You will feel much more comfortable, You will save time and be able to focus on your business.
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