This is a guest post from Jill Gerig, Account Director at US agency Inkhouse
Global expansion. It’s an intimidating yet exciting time for any company, whether the business is 10 years old with an office in another country or two years old with organic growth happening around the world. Before officially taking your brand abroad, it’s important to consider a couple key items that will be critical to the expansion success overall.
According to Index Ventures, nearly all successful North American tech companies have an average of 30 percent of revenue coming from international markets, usually led by Europe. With that, it’s no surprise that a financial, tech and media hub like London is often a first choice for American companies to expand.
Ensure clear objectives and goals are in place
There’s nothing worse than expanding services to a country just for the sake of doing it. When you make the jump abroad, you have to be able to give stakeholders -- prospects, customers, partners and employees -- the support and the assets they need to succeed and get things off the ground.
It’s critical when telling your story externally and elevating the brand that your company has accessible, relevant spokespeople, data, news and POVs too. Prematurely entering a new market can also hinder growth. You need to have a clear plan in place or you run the risk of missing opportunities with potential customers, partners or new hires.
It’s important to go into a new market with very clear goals - is it customer acquisition? Is it organic customer growth you’re trying to capitalize on? Be sure that your key stakeholders, and your team on the ground in the new market, are fully aligned. It will be an investment of time and resources to make this possible, but having clear goals in mind will be helpful when looking back a year later to determine the success of a new market. PR programs and marketing efforts can help move the needle for a company in a new market, but clear objectives and goals from a business perspective are critical, not only to focus the effort but to create alignment between marketing, sales and business strategy.
Having a local presence and team are critical elements
It’s one thing to have an executive travel abroad to the new country you’re expanding into, but it’s a lot more impactful when there’s a team on the ground locally to help support. Even better if they speak the local language and understand the cultural norms. Timing is also important when it comes to elevating the brand - you need to invest the time to lay the foundation before you can build a reputable brand. If timing is off, you likely won’t see as much return on the investment.
Everything from customer support to marketing and PR efforts are likely to be more successful when there’s a local team, in the time zone that is familiar with the market. Opposite time zones can present a challenge, so having someone local can help avoid these roadblocks.
If there’s a new office opening in the market, it presents a great location for reporters, partners and other key audiences to come visit and get a sense of the company’s culture and focus areas. There is plenty of tech and business innovation happening in London and co-working spaces may be a sensible option for an American company looking for office space locally - especially if the team is small - you’ll get immersed in the workplace culture and community immediately that way.
It is very important for company spokespeople and representatives to spend time networking and getting to know the local market. Having a native team member can help ensure the company representatives from America are prepared for any unique hurdles that may come up in the market. A partner strategy is also beneficial as you build your network and credibility for the company - it is something we often see our clients building into their international expansion plans.
Getting to know the market and culture nuances (no one ever hated meeting at a pub, right?) are absolutely critical for success. It’s important to spend time investing in this so that the brand and external spokespeople are authentic.
So now is the time to ask yourself: is your company ready?