International Market Development
For some it may sound counter-intuitive, but one of the best places to look for solid, sustainable business growth over the long term is in international markets. While most companies have a presence in EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa), Latin America and Asia Pacific, the presence is typically limited to the more traditional markets, such as the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Japan and other leading nations.
Forward thinking organizations, however, have started to develop their presence in the emerging markets. Typically, emerging markets are thought of as the BRIC nations of Brazil, Russia, India and China. It is true that from a global economics perspective these are the primary emerging countries. But when it comes to developing your own emerging markets, your selection may differ.
The Market Development Plan (MDP)
You need to select the markets that best align with your solution, your business and your ability to deliver based on customer expectations. Just as you would create a Market Requirements Document (MRD) to determine the viability of a new technology and initiate development, so too, would you create such a document for international market expansion. In this case, a Market Development Plan (MDP) provides you with the data and details for successfully entering a new, international market. When it comes to creating a well developed, focused MDP, it is just a matter of adhering to the three R’s. In grade school that meant the basics of reading, writing and arithmetic. In the world of an MDP, though, it is a different set of building blocks:
The US Customs Office is currently running a “Know before you go” campaign. When you are planning your international market expansion, follow that same thinking. Know everything you can about the market you want to enter – before you go there. That may sound rather obvious, but companies can sometimes be easily influenced by factors that are not necessarily aligned with their business. It is important to understand that a market is a fit for your particular solution, meaning that there is a clear need in this specific market, the customers recognize the need and are looking for solutions, and there is a relatively clean competitive landscape. You will also want to know if this country represents near-term or long-term opportunity and how that aligns with your business objectives. For that you will also need to analyze the target customers, market maturity, primary industry segments, and strategic partners/relationships in the market, and as it aligns with your existing business model.
That means gathering and analyzing all internal, as well as external market data you can find. You want to understand the customers, industry sectors, distribution channels, competitors and economic factors for the market. You will want to use this as the starting point to building your MDP.
Once you have built your MDP, the degree of its success will be based on your ability to continually monitor and communicate its results including progress, successes, failures, road blocks, etc. International market expansion is a resource intensive commitment. The folks responsible for the resources, the bottom line, or the organizations supporting your effort need to understand how things are going. Ideally, you will have set up a cross-functional team of people from each of the key operational areas. Regular, on-going review with this team will help to head off any issues before they become too great.
The MDP must be treated as a living, working document. As you begin to engage this new market, you will discover new things that will impact your plans. Market conditions may change. Competitors may act/react differently than anticipated. Or, you may find some of your information or actions were off base. Whatever the case, your MDP must be built with the flexibility to make necessary course corrections on the fly, keeping you moving forward toward your intended objectives.
Focus is the Key to Entering New Markets
Understanding the dynamics of a new geography and potential opportunity is just the beginning. More than in any other dynamic change in your go-to-market strategy, a new geography will require laser focus to your launch efforts. The natural tendency is to go broad and wide.Narrowly focused market segmentation, positioning strategy, clear value propositions, executable programs and audience-specific messaging are critical to entering and gaining a foothold. Strategic partners are also critical to the mix. With a solid, comprehensible and actionable MDP guiding you from the research stage through strategic planning and execution, you will create clear messaging and programs. And you will create a fertile environment for success.
Author: Jeff Ballard is an international marketing executive best known for creating and managing innovative, results-oriented programs and campaigns to drive revenue via new products, markets and channels worldwide.
Stratus Marketing is a leading consulting firm and launch marketing agency for the technology industry. Stratus has helped dozens of leading technology firms to create customer alignment through loyalty initiatives and cross functional teams. Learn more go to www.stratusmarketing.com
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