You need local advisors to answer questions like the following:
Are you aiming for the right market in the country you are expanding into?
By interviewing customers in their target international market, one company discovered a use and market for their product that they had never considered.
Are your current international customers committed to supporting your entry into their marketplace?
Another manufacturing company decided to expand into the U.S. market by acquiring a U.S. company; but previously loyal U.S. customers refused to deal with the acquired company. The “not invented here” syndrome can also overturn positive projections.
Are your goals realistic and consistent?
One supplier thought that their success in their home country would be easy to duplicate in another country, without considering the commitment needed from its staff in setting up and supporting an international organization.
A trusted local advisor network consists of individuals who are familiar with (preferably long-time residents) your targeted international market and your industry. They help with practical problems, such as how to structure contracts and how to get paid, and also help penetrate the marketplace, evaluate the local need for and acceptance of your product, and connect to decision makers.
To develop your local network, begin with referrals from customers familiar with the market you’ve targeted and from advisors in your home market. In addition, ask your customers what local organizations, industry meetings and conferences they attend and why.
This process can take weeks to complete and may require several visits to the target market but it will pay off by giving you a local team you can trust and revealing gaps in your knowledge.
The size of your trusted advisor network matters less than the fit with your company’s offering and your culture. The team of advisors should include a strategy consultant, banker, lawyer and accountant. A larger corporation may need a larger local network with more specialized advisors.
To check that your local advisor network is working properly, ask yourself:
- Are you getting answers you can verify and trust?
- Are you getting access to resources that can help your business to grow?
- Are you and your advisors able to have open and transparent conversations? Is the communication easy and the chemistry good?
- Would you recommend your advisors to others?
The questions companies ask to reach a decision about and prepare for entering a new market weigh heavily in determining their international success or failure. Having trusted and reliable information is cornerstone of the decision-making process and the preparation that follows.
An advisor team built up from local contacts can prevent you from asking the wrong questions, trusting the wrong data, and making the wrong decisions at a great cost of time, money, and manpower.