At the start of any international expansion project it is usual to visit the targeted country or countries to get a better understanding of the market and kickstart the project.

But what if you can’t do that?

Sometimes you may know the market somewhat; you might be present there in another market sector; or it’s geographically close; or it’s a market you are personally familiar with. However, there is nothing like visiting the targeted market and viewing it through a new lens – that of setting up and running a profitable business there. Things may look very different when scrutinising the market for new income and profit streams.

Thereafter, you or your team may visit the market on several occasions to understand how the market works and learn something of the culture, legislation, regulations and standards; establish meaningful contacts; identify wholesalers, distributors, retailers; seek customers, or learn about consumers; as well as find suitable talent and suppliers that will support the start of new business efforts.

Sometimes, however, undertaking such market visits to progress your expansion plans may not be an option for a variety of reasons. For example, in these unprecedented times of the coronavirus.

Despite the pandemic, some companies are still undertaking international expansion, usually for very good business or societal reasons – the right sector, product or service (e.g. healthcare), a business survival imperative, or plans so far advanced they cannot or should not be halted.

But given many countries are currently in lockdown and visiting is therefore out of the question, what can be done to progress your expansion plans?

What can you do remotely?

Most – if not all – expansion steps can be progressed remotely and done so very successfully.  In fact, many companies typically successfully internationalise using remote support – either fully or in part.

Nearly all expansion efforts benefit from local support – experts who have local knowledge, insights and contacts within the sector. Their expertise and guidance at a strategic and practical level can be invaluable to success.

Some market entry steps, such as researching the market, formulating the business plan and strategies, and registering a company can be started from your own country. However, a number of requirements absolutely need on the ground support expertise – such as financial, legal, human resources, marketing and sales.

Let’s look at the key market entry steps and what remote support is applicable and available.

1. Market Research and Opportunity Assessment

Understanding the market thoroughly and identifying a meaningful opportunity (relevant to the products or services you offer) with indications of how to develop sustainable, profitable revenues is a key first step. This is often a step that can start at home.  It is also a process that can easily, quickly and inexpensively be undertaken by your local supplier in the targeted market.

Many will work in tandem with you to offer the local insights you will need to formulate sound strategies for the new market as conditions, competition and customers will be different to your home market.  Arguably, if the analysis is undertaken by or together with a local sector expert, the insights and data will offer a great deal more value than market visits combined with online research, as they will also typically offer you an impartial analysis of what is required to grab the identified opportunity in terms of investment, resources and tactics.

For more information, see: Local Knowledge is key

2. Strategy and Planning Development

A good first stage of market research and opportunity assessment will enable you to develop a broad business plan, as well as a V1 market entry plan and strategy.  This is turn, should direct early stage sales and marketing strategies.

If you have access to a sector expert or experts from Stage 1, they can typically help you develop your strategies remotely, offering knowledge and insights of the targeted market that only someone who has worked in the local market would have.  Additionally, they can help you test and tease your hypotheses and assumptions – often invaluable input as markets differ when it comes to achieving sales (due to cultural, legal and regulatory differences).

They can help you localise your products or services and collateral, as well as adapt your usual strategies if required (e.g. your sales, marketing and pricing strategies) to best suit the new marketplace, as typically different markets will require a local ‘flavour’ and different practices and tactics.

Read more: Planning and Preparation

 3. Validation – Service or Product Feedback

Getting some feedback on your services or products from actual prospects, potential users, consumers, distributors or retailers can be undertaken on your behalf. This feedback will enable you to understand potential demand and make any final adjustments to your business plan or strategy, or your service offering, product, marketing mix or sales collateral so that you can launch with confidence.

Often, such feedback is more easily obtained by someone in the market who knows the contacts.  Plus, in a market like Britain where everyone is so ‘polite’, feedback is often given more honestly to such a local third party.

See more on this topic here: Validation

4. ‘Localisation’ – Marketing and Branding

Getting ready for your launch and ensuring that your targeting, proposition, market positioning, pricing, ‘packaging’, ‘brand’, collateral and promotions is optimised to suit the local market – including cultural and legal considerations – is one of the easiest things that you can get good remote help with.

Working in partnership with a good marketing supplier who has local sector knowledge, will help you adapt any part of your marketing mix for maximum sales impact. A good supplier can also develop a launch strategy for you to suit your budgets as well as implement your launch campaign.

For more expert tips, see:

5. Sales

Everyone needs sales. If you haven’t yet got your own sales director or team in market, what is the best way to kickstart sales whilst you mobilise your resources recruitment, or a visa application, is underway?

There are a number of interim solutions.

You can hire a B2B or B2C salesperson, or a whole sales team with a sales director, to act as your team on the ground and get sales efforts moving.

Specific sector experts can also be used to provide a part or full-time new business development resource, for an interim, short or long-term period.

You can also temporarily put in a local sales director (reporting to you) to manage sales resources locally, who will have a variety of sales resources available (lead generation, call centres, or BDM account managers), know the nuances of the local market well, including what sales strategies and ‘pitches’ work best; what KPI’s are reasonable; and what results can be reasonably expected for varying time frames.

All this is very achievable until you get full time people in place.

Kickstarting Sales

It’s worth adding here that trying to kickstart sales remotely from your own country is not typically the most effective solution, unless you have an experienced UK salesperson on your team.

For example, Britons are notorious for deleting cold emails and blocking calls from unknown salespeople (stats for deletion of cold emails are above 95% meaning email campaigns to find leads ‘lists’ from will often fail).

Plus, ‘commission only’ is not considered a viable basis for business in the UK. This means you are unlikely to find an agent or a distributor to sell and market for you on a commission only basis – certainly not one that will deliver the results you are hoping for.

6. Operations

Once you are ready to execute your expansion plans, you are likely to need some operational support, depending on the type of business you are in and the market entry strategy you’ve decided upon (for example, you may be looking to establish your own subsidiary, form a partnership, find a distributor or sell solely via ecommerce).

This stage will encompass all areas of the business, from legal, financial and banking, to regulatory, recruitment, production, importing, licensing, warehousing, distribution, sales and marketing services.

So, how can this all be achieved remotely?

It’s fair to say that the UK has one of the best market entry ecosystems in the world to support companies expanding here.  With the right partner, you can access all the experts, services and support you require remotely, to help get your business up and running.

They can introduce or bring in other professional specialists as and when required and even act as your ‘virtual management team’ on your behalf, in order to get done what is necessary at the right time.

Key British governmental organisations such as the Department for International Trade (DIT) and other key central or regional business organisations, can help introduce you to entire market entry eco-systems and professionals who can provide you with the remote support you need to successfully progress your international expansion plans.

In addition, market entry specialists, such as the team here at Trade Horizons, can help with a variety of operational needs in addition to strategic and planning support – from assisting with licences; helping you to conform to UK regulations; sorting your bank account; finding a distributor; or progressing sales.

Summary

Whatever the reason may be that you are unable to visit the UK to progress your international expansion plans, there are tried-and-tested solutions available to you. These options can be carried out remotely, with local experts on the ground who can support you across every area of your expansion journey.

These experts can provide all the information and introductions you might need, as well as offering the remote support you need to ensure your expansion progresses successfully.

For more information or advice on any of the issues covered here, and to find out how we could help you achieve your UK expansion ambitions, please contact Gillian Kerr at Trade Horizons.