Like the egg and chicken question, many professionals and executives ask the same question, especially when budgets are tight: which comes first, resources to find out what new international markets to address or market opportunities to justify resources assignments?
Many managers and executives oddly either set regional priorities and then put resources to qualify these markets or don’t want to invest a dime before having an opportunity in hand. Their strategy is to put local partnerships in place (agents, distributors, hunters,..) and wait for them to bring opportunities on the table. Unfortunately, both approaches are inefficient, costly and risky.
By setting regional priorities prior to any kind of market qualification, you don’t align your targets with your capabilities and you end up chasing multiple ‘opportunities’ and different clients with different priorities and agendas. This situation generates lot of frustration, costs you time, money and your team’s credibility within your organization.
On the other hand, having local partners might help you claim presence in some markets and keep an eye on opportunities. But, unless they’re dedicated to you and your products, partners won’t put the required sustainable efforts to nurture your relationship with customers because they have their own agenda and approach to their market.
The question then is not whether you need resources before identifying markets or vice-versa; It is about how far you’re committed to address new international markets, how addressing these markets is vital to your business and does it align with your company’s growth aspirations?
If yes; then for sure you have to set a preliminary budget to identify and qualify potential markets. At least for you and your team to get some market research and participate to few strategic regional events. Then you must be prepared to act on the basis of partial or incomplete knowledge to provide necessary resources to validate information on ground and start establishing contacts. Information works to limit risks, foreign markets work according to their own perspectives. To be successful, it is necessary to engage with them directly rather than rely on market research or partners of any kind.
Unfortunately, as for the chicken and egg question, although I tend to think that the chicken came first, I don’t have the exact answer. Theologians, philosophers and scientists are still debating..