“I don’t want any new business of mine restricted to the UK market alone.” – Lord Alan Sugar
This was the ambitious declaration on BBC’s The Apprentice last week, and one that we here at BDB wholeheartedly agree with. It can be easy to remain within the confines of the British Isles, but with serious growth potential in international markets – such as the BRIC territories – being open to international trade is more important than ever.
“Are the French very fond of their children?” – Susan Ma
Without prior knowledge, it is difficult to predict cultural similarities and differences, and to understand the formalities and peculiarities of global business environments. For example, giving gifts is a very important part of the business relationship in Japan. In the Middle East, businesses will be closed on Fridays but open on Sundays. In Mexico, business lunches are long, informal affairs, where “talking shop” may be seen as bad form, whereas in the US, a working lunch will be shorter and very much to the point.
On the other hand, there are some things you can expect across the globe. No matter how you get there, your partners and prospective customers will be committed to building a positive working relationship. And you can be sure that they are fond of their children!
One size does not fit all
Business-based reality shows have taught us one golden rule – know your market. TV’s condensed version of market research falls far short of the real research necessary to break into new territories. (Another Apprentice learning – if Currywurst sausages and crisps are both popular products in Germany, there’s probably a good reason why German manufacturers aren’t already creating Currywurst flavoured crisps.)
Business and marketing strategy, as well as your product or service portfolio when necessary, should be adapted to suit each market. In Japan, for example, there have been more than 80 varieties of Kit Kat launched to date, from soy sauce to camembert, catering to local tastes for the exotic. Your marketing mix should also vary depending on the territory. Is there a strong B2B press? What are the local trade shows? Are potential customers using social media to look for suppliers?
Dipping a toe into international waters can be the most important decision you make. With great growth potential in international markets, remembering a few simple rules can simplify the export process – know your market, adapt your strategy, and be open to cultural differences. Remember – all international businesses begin with domestic success.