Your baby is growing up and you find yourself in a position at a market or regional expansion based on customer requests outside of your focused area. This is a great problem for most companies to have Right?
When you reach this stage there is a critical moment in time where you will need to decide if expansion is right or wrong for the business. In order to expand you need to consider many questions before taking this on. Many make this leap without understanding critical areas for the business to be successful.
Jumping into this without looking before you leap will cause additional financial, product and resource strain on the business. If not properly researched to identify obstacles early, the move into new business areas may be painful. Many believe you can figure it out along the way. However, with a little research and planning, you may mitigate the risk going forward.
Let’s look at some questions and the choices to consider before you expand your markets or regions.
Most believe their products can be used anywhere at any time but this is not always the case when you are moving into new vertical markets or countries.
Let’s start with the vertical market scenario first. Vertical markets on the surface level seem straightforward but they are very different in how they operate. You are a company selling commercial finance solutions, over the last year or two, the solution has all the major features and functions needed to support this client base. After some inquiries and research, you decide you want to look into the Government space with your solution. The initial reaction for most would be its finance and it’s the same its numbers and process. However, these two vertical markets operate financially very differently from each other. Crossing over requires specific functionality, integrations, and people who know how to talk and sell to these markets. Most likely there may be competition focused on this market that makes the barrier to entry even more difficult as they are the experts as you are in your market. (See Go To Market strategies & Competitive Analysis).
As simple as it may sound without the product knowledge and market understanding organizations waste hundreds of thousands if not millions of dollars trying to cross over when the right choice at that point in time was to stay in your lane. As your organization grows you can look at these other markets but in the early stages taking a shotgun approach and not being focused will hurt the business substantially.
Then there is another scenario companies face with the expansion into another country. Simple enough, we know how things operate here in the US and with some basic changes to the application we can support new languages and currencies, etc. Great, we have some interested clients and we start to move forward….. Our solution can work anywhere. And the answer is probably “Yes it can” on the surface. But what happens next is a cascading effect.
Here are a few areas that some forget to think about that are very common when you are moving internationally and especially to non-English speaking regions.
Taxation and Policies
- Is your company prepared to be taxed in that country?
- Do you understand all of the data privacy laws?
- Do you need to have the full support of PCI(Make a link to definition) or GDPR (make a link to definition) rules in those regions?
- Do you have or need local licenses or set up a corporate entity in that region?
- Does the government in that region have other reporting needs beyond taxes?
- On the surface, organizations think about languages and currencies as localization, but it is much deeper than this in some countries.
- Where is your data hosted? Can you bear the cost of having another location in that region?
- GDPR was mentioned above and this is a very important ruling that does affect how you will do business in some regions along with where the data resides and does it ever cross borders.
- Language as also mentioned is important, but who on your QA team is going to proofread all the languages when translated from English. It’s critical to make sure the translation says what it should and you are not offending someone with a subtle word translation by an automatic engine
- Does that country use special characters or read left to right or right to left?
- Do you have Service Level Agreements (SLA) in place for that locale or market that need to be different than the current SLA’s?
- Such as time of day for support and access.
- For example in some areas of the Middle East work weeks are Sunday – Thursday.
- Ok, great you passed all of the tests, now what’s next…. It’s all great. Or is it?
- Have you thought about how you are going to support all of these new clients?
- What are the development or infrastructure resources needs and costs?
- Does that region need support in a different language?
- Do we have to have implementation and sales locally?
- Many think Ok we can support it from here, but can you support a 10+hour time difference.
- Are you going to be the one answering all the phone calls at 1 am?
- Are you prepared to train and support those employees you need on the ground?
The move to a new market or region of the word is not something that should be taken lightly. The revenue opportunity on the surface for a new deal could help you in that market, if not look at carefully, you can easily spend all of that money setting up shop. The cost analysis must be for more than one good opportunity. If you are not seeing a market similar to the current you are going after your best decision may be to pass and stay focused on your core business.
As you reach this point in your business a couple of good reads to check out:
- The Hard Thing About Hard Things: Building a Business When There Are No Easy Answers by Ben Horowitz
- Scaling Up Excellence: Getting to More Without Settling for Less by Robert I. Sutton and Huggy Rao
Last modified: June 12, 2019