Part 2 of 5: Trying to be All Things To All People

Following on from my previous post, the second typical fail I frequently see in international expansion across many business sectors is what we call “Trying to be All Things To All People”. Generally this is an error that happens when companies have not taken the required time to study the foreign market they are looking to enter and they have no focus.

Lack of Focus = Bad Business Anywhere

Not being clear about your USP and why your product or service is of value to a customer is generally bad practice in business. This is compounded when trying to enter a foreign market where market conditions will always be different to those of your home market. You cannot assume that what works in your home country will work in the new country – 99% of the time this is not the case.

Identify your Competitive Offer

If you have a portfolio of products or services, identifying the product or service that will give you a clear, competitive edge in the new market as your first step into that market, will always be one of the most sound business decisions you can make. It is then essential to ensure that the competitive proposition (USP) of that product or service is then communicated clearly and in a compelling manner to the new buyers (and you may want to consider local assistance in the local language here).

Focus on one product or service (or suite of related products and services) with a clear competitive USP as initial step into a new territory, should help you win sales and enable you to start to establish a good position in the market with brand recognition amongst your new customers. It also enables focused sales efforts, which in the end will be cheaper and more successful.

Cutting Hair and Pulling Teeth

As an example of not focusing, consider the classic barber’s shop sign in many countries. The recognisable red and white sign evolved from the practice that the local barber would also extract teeth. The red and white representing the bandage and blood that came as part of this procedure.

My simple question is whether anybody these days choose to go to his or her barber to have a tooth pulled? No one really wants to buy from an unfocused provider but rather an expert.

Focus for Success

When entering a new market, getting those first few sales are vital and there is a lot of pressure to achieve this. A typical fail is to try and be all things to all people and establish no market position and few, if any, sales.

Presenting yourselves as an expert and delivering something of value to those who have a specific need is fundamental business sense that should always be applied to any international expansion project – if you want to succeed.

Part 3 of ‘5 Typical Fails in International Expansion’ will be published next week.

For advice, planning and practical assistance with international expansion, contact