Top 10 questions to ask yourself before starting to develop your business internationally

While managers and business owners might use different processes and frameworks when developing their business into new international territories, the most important thing remains the fact that they have to lower their risks and ensure success in their quest. It’s great when everything works out… However, many find themselves stuck without retreat options when objectives are not attained. Some questions to ask must then be vital.

The best way to ensure success is to plan it; ask yourself  upfront questions that will help you set your expectations right and put in place the most suitable strategies to address new markets.

Here are the top 10 questions I suggest you ask yourself before embarking in this exciting adventure. This applies whether you’re new to international markets or have intentions to enter additional new territories.

 

Do you need to expand internationally or in more territories? Ask yourself if international development is necessary to your growth, if it can add a competitive edge to your global market. International growth needs to be strategic and a necessity in order to get management and employees’ full attention and dedication.

Do you have the internal capabilities to do so? Internal capabilities are important for success. You need to have the right financial, operational, cultural resources and mindset to be able to address international market. If you’re an executive, you need full support of management and the board. You need to have the right products and services, making sure you can adapt to different customers and markets’ requirements and regulations while remaining competitive and attractive.

What are your objectives and expectations? It is important to set the right objectives and expectations before starting your process. Business development is different from sales; if you’re looking for short term revenue streams, hire a sales person and address existing markets or customers. Business development ‘BD’ is strategic with the main objective of laying a solid foundation for sales in addressing new markets. This distinction between ‘BD’ and sales is key and will help you set the right expectations from your ‘BD’ activities and efforts.

Do you have the data required to make your decision? You need market information to help you get the market model and dynamics, understand the environment, key players, barriers, regulations, culture and competitive position.

Are you ready to invest to validate this data? Data gathering plays a key role in the decision making process of addressing new markets. Each engagement should use primary and secondary research. Getting market evaluation from third parties is a first step in the process, however market contact is necessary to validate your decision. This is where most managers get it wrong, They either invest heavily in resources and actions before market validation or they don’t want to invest until they have an opportunity that appears or get a ‘hint’ from the market. In both cases, the expectations are set too high and it is usually too late to get the right positioning.

In your quest for information, set a budget and plan to validate the data received. It will help you focus on the most appealing and interesting markets.

What is your GTM (Go To Market) strategy? Set upfront strategies to address the targeted markets based on your validation.

What are your criteria for success? These criteria should help you plan your strategy steps and decide whether to move forward or not. Many companies find themselves dragged by potential clients (that too often remain ‘potential’) or local partners for months or years without any tangible results or return on investment.

What is your action plan? Write down your plan, or I should say ‘Business plan’ and have all parties involved within your organization agree to it.

Do you have an exit strategy? What if you invested to develop a market or engaged with partners but it didn’t work out! Plan your exit strategy in a way that keeps your chances intact for the future in these markets.

What is your success strategy? You’ve been able to get into your target market, you’ve put in place the right partnerships and relations, you’ve identified projects and opportunities, what’s next? How will you handle the next steps (sales handover, customer acquisition,…)

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