Interview with Alix de Sagazan, Co-founder at AB Tasty, a software solution to boost conversions on company websites, mobiles sites & applications.
At what point did you decide AB Tasty should expand internationally?
AB Tasty was created in 2010. We’ve grown the company in France for the first 4 years, then we started thinking of foreign markets as real growth drivers for AB Tasty.
Our adventure started in Australia, more by opportunity than anything else at first. Indeed Australia is a big market, really mature and with a very light competition. I had a friend who was helping French people start their companies, and he offered to launch AB Tasty over there. He recruited a Country Manager and a Consultant and they have been doing fine since then. They’re very autonomous and we’ve managed to work really well remotely.
Then we raised our first round in June 2014 with the aim of starting our international expansion. We first recruited people in France to study interesting countries and potential markets’ receptivity.
Thanks to this exploratory work we’ve closed our first contracts in the UK so it made sens to open an office there, around October 2015.
Less than a month later we opened Germany, but with quite a different logic behind. Our “intuition”, combined with the market’s size and a couple of contracts, told us there was something great to do there. As of today we’ve got four people working full-time for our German clients: 1 Country Manager, 1 Business Developer, 1 Consultant and 1 Marketing Manager.
Our next endeavour was Spain, which we opened in January 2016 with the same logic as the UK. Our first contracts led us to set up shop there.
In April 2016, we launched in the Netherlands and Eastern European countries, all from Paris. Amsterdam being only a short train ride away from Paris, and our Eastern Europe clients being used to deal with foreign based partners, it just made sense to start this way.
Our last big news was our US launch in New York City! Indeed I think we must have a local physical presence in our “big” markets and I don’t believe that we could develop it all from Paris. Especially when you target large and mid-size accounts, who appreciate proximity.
How do you make the decision of opening a foreign office?
We thoroughly assess investment opportunities in the country. Then we set profitability goals for every office abroad. Some of them are already profitable by the way.
Our pre-launch roadmap is pretty clear: First we’ll go and ask other tech companies, who already made it in the country, for some information (economics, budgets, expected ROI, pitfalls not to fall into…). After gathering all the data we need, we make the maths and build our P&L. Our final call then depends on when we can expect profitability.
Once you’re there, what’s your playbook?
1– We always land in the country with our first clients and our Country Manager. We systematically ask the formers for testimonies and to come with us at events we attend or organise ourselves. In Spain for instance, we do a lot of breakfasts. Our Country Managers are mini-CEOs and their job is to make AB Tasty shine locally.
2- To keep up with our growth goals, we make every effort to leverage a local referrer network: Agencies are key for us. Of course it depends on the market but it’s especially true in the UK. Marketing and Lead generation are also basics in all our local development strategies.
3- Once contracts are coming in, we recruit “Consultants” (ndlr. Customer Success Managers) to work closely with our clients. Sometimes we need headhunters, like in Germany, and sometimes we do it all through our network, like in the UK and Spain.
What are your key factors of success for your international launches?
There are two. The first is our website translation and our marketing local adaptation.
I must insist on the importance of marketing localisation for every single launch! At AB Tasty, there is a huge difference between the French marketing & storytelling and its British counterpart. In the UK we put a lot of emphasis on impact and make sure every detail really matter, less is more.
Our marketing efforts are centralised in Paris but we always work in tight collaboration with our local teams.
The second thing is to recruit native speakers. It’s absolutely essential to really understand the local needs & trends. In Germany for example, our team is 100% German.
Speaking of recruitment, how do you manage the on-boarding of these foreign-based teams, in term of cultural differences?
When you have several offices spread out in different countries and continents, the hardest thing to do is fostering your company culture and avoiding local teams isolation.
So every single team goes through an onboarding process of 15 to 30 days in our head office in Paris. During this period they go through some training and a lot of team building events. It’s a great way for everyone to meet in person and develop real-world relationships.
We also organise regular operational trips when the whole local team come to Paris and work with us. But it works the other way around too! We recently offered a return ticket to every Paris-based team member so they can go and meet our local teams, all around the world. Movement is key.
What’s your biggest challenge at the moment?
We need to make it in the United States, where there is so much to do for us! It requires constant attention to trends and potential growth drivers, so we don’t miss our opportunity. Meanwhile it’s important not to loose focus on our European market shares.
Is there any serious mistakes that were made in AB Tasty international development?
Again, there are two things I’ll pay more attention to next time.
The first is that you have to go fast, and I mean really fast. You must have an international footprint as soon as possible. You need to be the best on your domestic market, as quickly as possible, and to promptly adopt a global mindset. Maybe we didn’t make this shift fast enough.
Our second mistake was to think we could develop the biggest markets from France. Especially with large accounts. Experience showed us that geographical proximity matters a lot in Key Account Management!
AB Tasty is a software solution to boost conversions on companies websites, mobile sites and applications.
Their team of 80+ people is spread between Paris, London, Cologne, Madrid, Sydney and New York City.
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