The internet and technological advancements have opened the business world up in an unprecedented way; no longer are entrepreneurs stifled within geographic boundaries or restricted to local customer demographics. A product may work well in the company’s home location, but to achieve growth, an ambitious future outlook is key and entrepreneurs realise there is potential beyond their current sales area. In order to capitalise upon untapped marketplaces and stay ahead of the competition, businesses are increasingly looking outwards and targeting a new, overseas customer.
But where to start? It is easy to feel like the outsider when attempting to source a new customer base, with the knowledge brought to us by social media and the internet making us acutely aware of cultural difference in a way we never have before. We also want to avoid shifting our focus completely and taking our eyes off the ball of our core business – pinpointing a new customer and growing business internationally is a delicate balancing act that should be confronted with careful planning, rather than jumping in feet first.
Although a challenge, sealing that first overseas deal is incredibly rewarding and will pave the way to international growth – to help you on your way, our Project Management team has put together 5 easy tips to finding new overseas customers.
1. Research, research, research!
Before you even contemplate your pitch or start making calls, you need to know your prospective market and audience inside-out. It is vital to understand niches in that marketplace, who the local competitors are, customer demographics, past successes and failures, potential alternative benefits of your offering, price points, cultural differences and so on. This will help you to position your product locally, and if necessary, decide which USPs are most relevant to that individual location. No two countries are the same, even if the proximity initially appears close. Knowing as much as you can will also give you the confidence to open new doors and pitch your product effectively. Find an organisation specialising in market research if you cannot spare the time yourself.
2. Join a local industry association
Most countries have local associations or bodies designed to bring together professionals in specific fields – these associations will host relevant events, publish useful local guides and materials, and provide guidance and advice from local industry experts. They will also offer you access to other competitors or partners operating in a similar space to you, and sometimes support you with customer introductions. At Mauve, we’ve found particular success using this tip in Spain, for example, via the Secartys and PIMEC associations.
3. Put a face to the name
It might seem obvious, but the benefits of face-to-face networking are undeniable to a newly-established business hoping to bring their products and services to a new market. Attending events and physically getting in front of as many people as possible will open you up to a far wider spectrum of targets, help you understand cultural nuances, and will put a face to the name when you begin pitching. Cold contact is far from simple or effective in 2019, so opening the door by networking will give people confidence in you and your product. If you cannot physically attend meetings and events, try contributing to LinkedIn groups – this isn’t the place for direct selling, but by sharing your opinions and insights, your name and brand will grow in authority. Networking is also a great way to source local partners and support such as lawyers, accountants and so on.
4. Create strategic partnerships/alliances
From your research and networking, you are likely to identify individuals operating in a similar space to you with a foothold on the local market and a similar outward ambition – to leverage this, you could suggest creating strategic alliances or referral partnerships whereby they refer your products and services to their local clients, and you refer theirs to your home-country clients for a percentage fee or other remuneration. Referral partnerships of this kind can be very lucrative over time provided there is continued value to your shared customer base – and can also give customers a sense of trust and confidence despite your fledgling status in their market.
5. Invest in local marketing
Once you’ve established there is a relevant customer base in your target location, a good way to test the waters is to invest a portion of your budget into local marketing, to effectively launch your product into the consciousness of your consumers. Contracting a local PR and marketing agency or global expert is a great way of doing this, and will ensure your marketing is relevant and culturally-sensitive to the new audience. Events are an incredibly effective method to get your brand in front of customers – whether product launches, promotional events or exhibitions at industry shows.
Businesses of any size can benefit from expanding internationally – and one of the first steps is sourcing a relevant, qualified customer base. Our Project Management team have years of combined experience in supporting companies taking their first steps towards a new market, and can assist with queries of any size and scope. For more information, get in touch via the Contact Form with your countries of interest.