Bernie Borges hosts the Social Business Engine podcast, featuring business professionals at brands sharing how they use social media across their business to deliver great results. Brands showcased include Dell, Discover Card, Humana, LinkedIn, Oracle, Safeway, SAP, U.S. Marines, Walmart, Whole Foods and others. Find our show notes at: http://www.socialbusinessengine.com/podcasts/.
When it comes to creating and successfully implementing an International business expansion strategy, there are numerous variables that must be addressed. Wouldn’t it be great to have a seasoned International expansion advisor on your team? On this episode, Bernie speaks with an executive who has overseen or been a part of International expansions for many companies. Most importantly, he’s done so successfully and can share lessons-learned that will be of great benefit to anyone seeking to expand to International markets.
On this episode, Bernie speaks with John Pincott, GM of Conversica Europe. John has extensive experience with International expansion and is very passionate about the nuances of expanding a successful business into another region of the world. Listen to learn how to know if your company is ready to expand, what it takes to do so, and pitfalls to watch out for along the way.
Many companies have a “go global” ambition. There is nothing wrong with that but you need to ensure that your organization as a whole is ready for expansion. John believes 4 things should be considered.
John says you need to honestly assess whether your team is ready, if your company is in the right stage of business for expansion, and whether your product is truly ready for the “big time.” In his words, “If you haven't cracked the nut’ in your domestic market, the thought that you’re going to be successful in a foreign market is very slim.”
It’s alluring to think of International expansion but if your systems and other resources are not to the point that they are working well in your current market, you’ll be better off in the long run if you don’t export an offering that is less than ready. John says this applies to the areas of technology, human resources, and virtual resources.
If expansion is a siloed exercise that doesn’t have a clear strategy across the organization, then what you’re considering is not going to work as well as it should. A company-wide focus will make success more likely.
John points out that even though you might be entering a new market as a mature organization, you have to change the way you think as you move into a new market. In many ways, you are truly going back to the startup stage, almost as if you’re launching your company all over again.
Thinking of International business expansion can feel very “glamourous” but John points out that you can’t let the exciting things keep you from doing what he calls “the boring work.” What would this include? Be sure to ask questions like these...
When Conversica expanded its AI Assistant technology solutions into Europe they discovered that there was not much competition on the ground in this market. There wasn’t even an existing category for their product. That may sound like a dream, but it requires that the organization’s approach focuses to a large degree on educating potential buyers on the merit of their solution.
John has extensive advice that he shares on this episode, particularly about cultural differences and the route to market. You won’t want to miss his advice.
John says agreeing on success metrics is a huge part of reaching it. Alignment has to be achieved around the definition of success because it will dictate whether or not everyone on the expansion team is rowing in the same direction. With alignment on a success plan everyone can establish realistic expectations and time frames. Expansion efforts frequently take longer and cost more than expected. A phased approach is the way to go rather than trying to accomplish too much too fast.
You might start with U.S. based benchmarks such as cost of customer acquisition, conversion rates, and other KPIs. - but you’re actually using it as a thesis that you’re testing in the new market. Your success will look very different in a new region, so take a long term perspective. As John describes it, “Take a land and expand mindset.”
The premise of any International business expansion strategy must be to leverage the expertise you have domestically into the new market abroad. As you do, you’ll have to iterate and adapt to the new culture and business market.
This is what John calls the “test and learn” stage - use the approaches to assessment what you already have in place domestically and begin applying them to your International business expansion strategy. You’ll discover ways you need to modify your approach. You want to do ongoing assessments regarding your execution, how it evolved, and whether you hit your goals. When you achieve your goals, you can expect to get the green light to keep going. If not, you’ll want to change your approach using data to steer your decision making so you increase your success in your strategy.
This episode is packed with insights from John Pincott, GM of Conversica Europe based on his rich experience in expanding companies Internationally. Don’t miss this opportunity to learn from him.