It’s best to setup physical offices and account management teams after having a few paying customers in the region
Never underestimate the power of word of mouth and referrals
Ensure cultural diversity in the team to be comfortable and grow in any region of the world
As a founder, the first international foray is always crucial and brings in a lot of learning. LogiNext got its first international client back in 2017 through organic search and it has been an exponential journey since then.
In this post, I’ve tried to pen down this journey and help fellow entrepreneurs in their international foray.
1. Assess Both Online And Offline Markets
It is true that a lot depends on whether you’re selling B2B or B2C, especially when it comes to strategising between online and offline. If you’re low ticket size and selling to individuals, online is your best channel but if you’re selling to enterprises, having a physical presence is almost necessary.
The Online Assessment Method:
In today’s world, you can sell anywhere in the world with just a website and thus, SEO is key at the beginning. Make sure you know your customer really well and understand what they are searching online.
So, building valuable content according to the region will help you go a long way in getting more inquiries and building your user base from across countries.
The Offline Assessment Method:
Explore a market offline by analysing your internal strengths, weaknesses, external threats and opportunities.
Is there a gap between the problem and the existing solutions? Carry out a survey to find if the problem you’re trying to solve exists in that country. While selecting the best market and industry to cater to, consider the cost being saved for the end user.
Physical offices and account management teams should be set up after gaining a strong presence in terms of paying customers.
2. Pick Your Battles!
It is important to know that the Middle East has relatively less competition and it is easier to hire and set up an office quickly if required.
For us, the international expansion began with the Middle East, followed by Southeast Asia. While for most, Singapore is the obvious first choice, Malaysia, Thailand, and Indonesia are equally exciting markets. And having a local representative in either of these countries is a big plus!
Recommended For You:
3. The Road To Success Is Not A Bed Of Roses
Every foreign market is tough to enter, always. Each region comes with its own set of challenges. For instance, fro us the Asian market posed many challenges such as :
- Diversity of logistics issues on the ground (different in each country)
- Language barrier
- Sensitivity towards the cost of the software
- Cultural differences
To overcome these challenges, we partnered with local service providers and distributors who have a better understanding of that location. These channel partners can help solve the local language barriers and are able to bridge the gap between local markets and an international technology provider.
As you move to different markets, focus on building that foundation of trust — which can be a local person in some cases and customer testimonials in other cases. Persistence is the key.
4. Business Models Should Be Relevant To The Particular Market
The pricing and distribution models vary in each country. In Asian markets, it is about large volumes and low prices. In the Gulf countries, the focus is on lesser volume but premium services. In the US, the scale and volume is at an entirely different level. You need to learn how to sell to each market differently.
For instance, we have a different website for different regions which reflect the nuances and messaging for that region. One needs to form a playbook for each region as you experiment and scale.
5. Don’t Underestimate The Network Effect
Nothing spreads like word of mouth.
If you’re looking to expand, say, in Australia, it’ll always comfort a potential client if you already have some form of presence in Australia. No amount of dominance in developed markets like North America will ensure satisfaction for someone in another region.
One needs to build a network of mentors, partners and well wishers across the world for the goodwill to spread and snowball into something much larger.
6. Find The Product-Market Fit Early On
Product-market fit is the most important and commonly talked about topic in the startup world. But it is difficult and vague to understand as a concept. The way I look at it is — Product-market fit is when your market chases your product instead of the product chasing the market.
From an entrepreneur’s point of view, it is the moment when you don’t feel like raising external funds and when you feel like investing your own savings as you can see the product selling like hot cakes and the company making healthy profits.
This is when you start attracting great talent, great investors and great customers, without a lot of effort.
7. Focus On Profitability From Day 1
We’re in the age of the great correction. Layoffs and profitability have become the mantra.
Journalists ask me whether the bubble has burst, and I say, “There has been a bubble of valuations but I wouldn’t call it a startup bubble. The entrepreneurial spirit is something we need to harness for building long-lasting strong businesses. Yes, startups won’t raise funding for just about anything as expectations are moving towards profitability and building businesses with a solid foundation.”
And this is the crux of it, one starts a business to solve a problem, add value to the customer and generate wealth for the stakeholders. It is critical to have a focus on the balance sheet and have a focus on profitability from the word ‘Go’ to ensure success in the long run.