When you set out to enter a market with your service export, you will face four critical questions: How are you going to get a foot in the door? How are you going to get noticed by prospective customers? How are you going to keep your foothold once you’re there? And how are you going to do it all inexpensively? Here are some ideas that may help you answer all four questions:
1. Create new working relationships. It may take a new working relationship to get your service business underway in another country. For example, in preparation for its IPO, Twitter aimed to expand its international footprint. It used its Dublin location (pictured) as a main hub for expansion into other European countries and will double its existing workforce of a hundred people by end of 2014 (1). Twitter has even started sending key executives from its San Francisco headquarter office to markets it desires to enter, such as France and Singapore, to spearhead global growth. You should use a similar strategy when you export a product and it is extra important to do in launching a service business: find out who’s already operating where you want to be, see what they can do for you, and figure out how you’re going to make it an attractive proposition.
2. Consider an acquisition, joint venture, partnership, or franchise. You can purchase, jointly own, partner with, or assign rights to a company that is operating in a country where you wish to do business. Discuss with your tax and legal advisors. If you can’t work out one of these relationships, try working for the company as a consultant first, and then attempt to obtain an equity stake.
3. Expand your services to your existing domestic clients that have a global presence. One of the simplest ways to get a foothold in international markets is to follow your local customers to their international branch offices instead of starting an independent base of operations from scratch. It means a lot less risk for you, especially financial risk. If you’d like to try this route, find yourself a good confidant within a firm for which you are serving as a consultant. He can notify you well in advance of any future projects that may involve crossing national boundaries.
4. Approach foreign companies operating in the United States. If you have not yet performed a service for a global conglomerate, look for one that can take you where you want to go. If it has a presence in the United States, it is highly likely that it has already selected other foreign sites for further expansion.
5. Learn the language of your target market. You will have an incalculable advantage if you already speak your prospective customers’ native tongue. You can at least be sure they will understand you! Try marketing your expertise in the area where your parents or grandparents were born. If you mention your ancestral ties to a prospective client, it may enhance her comfort level with you and make her more receptive to your solicitation.
6. Seek representatives or agents. Look for local professionals who perform a similar but noncompeting service, train them, and then hire them on a consultancy basis. Make sure your expertise adds value to their service package and vice versa—perhaps you can offer their specialization to your customers in the United States. It can be a global sales and profit booster for you both as well as a relatively simple and inexpensive program to launch.
7. Become a virtual consultant (also known as teleconsultant). Market your knowledge and skills via telecommunications such as e-mail, Skype, Twitter, business apps, or the Internet. Don’t dismiss any medium as obsolete—each has its own place in the business of global interaction and each will enhance your power to communicate, making you more efficient and responsive to your global customers. And don’t forget to use digital platforms for marketing. For example, design yourself a Web site where private individuals as well as companies can read all about your service. Anyone who responds is a potential client!
This article is an excerpt from Laurel’s latest book, “Exporting: The Definitive Guide to Selling Abroad Profitably” published December 2013 by Apress.
Citation: (1) “Twitter to Double Its European HQ Ranks,” Mike Isaac, All Things Digital, accessed October 25, 2013, http://allthingsd.com/20130927/twitter-to-double-its-european-hq-ranks/.
Photo Credit: Xochistlahuaca