“A plan of action designed to achieve a long term or overall aim” (Oxford English dictionary)
Your rolling five year business plan should embrace your international aims and ambitions. You cannot sell everything to everywhere, and a carefully thought out, flexible strategy will enable to you set priorities, stay within budget, and achieve or enhance international orders. It provides a focus on your main priorities and helps to build more sustainable lines of business.
So what is your strategy?
Unique Selling Proposition
You may be selling into markets where your competitors are already strong. Your Unique Selling Proposition should include the unique features and benefits of your product or service, the experience of your employees in the sector(s) your company serves, the history of your company, and the way you do business. Your proposition has to be unique, or you will not be able to gain commercial advantage.
Don’t let price be your only weapon!
Practicalities & Organisation
It is easy to be tempted by markets that seem to offer the biggest opportunities, but the same markets are also likely to incur the largest cost. How many people can you dedicate to support international markets? Is your promotional material translated into the languages of the markets where you want to sell? There are strategies that can be employed to make entry into even the world’s largest markets more affordable.
What is your budget for international trade?
Routes to Market
It seems that the most common route to market for most SMEs is through Sales Agents or Distributors. There are advantages and disadvantages for both, and there are also a number of other options for selling into new international markets, whatever the size of your company.
Which are the best options for your business?
Knowing your market
There are numerous things that can get in the way of an international market entry programme, and others that can provide a catalyst. Researching your markets is extremely important, because you are then better able to convey that you may know more about the market than your selling partners. Knowledge is power.
What are the traditional ways of doing business in your target markets?
Knowing your customers
Selling internationally requires both patience and determination, and part of the deal is that you have to bring your customers psychologically closer to you as a person, to your company, and to what you have to offer. It’s about trust. You will never get to know your customers properly without meeting them. Trust doesn’t mean you have to become best buddies with all your business associates, but it does mean that you are establishing a strong platform for future business.
What is your timetable for travelling to meet your customers?
Knowing your competitors
The way your competitors operate will often signal how a market expects to be sold to. So look at where and how they advertise, who are their selling partners, and which of their customers you need to target. Look out for what they are not doing well, and areas in which you can make a difference.
Why do British companies so frequently arrive in new markets long after their competitors?
Whether you sell directly or through selling partners, you must visit your international markets. Your selling partners will frequently offer your products as part of a much wider portfolio. Regular communication is vital in building a rapport with any overseas partner.
How do you encourage your selling partners to prioritise selling your products?