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Global Conquest: 11 Steps for Mastering International Business Development

Updated: Nov 18, 2023

Crafting a strategy for international business development isn't just about boardroom bravado—it's about being as cool and calculated as a chess grandmaster, with a sprinkle of globe-trotter flair! One of our exceptional stretch - 6min not 5! Essential for more accuracy here!


Step 1: Market Research

To truly understand a local market, one must immerse themselves in it, metaphorically speaking. This means going beyond basic demographics and sales data; it's about grasping the socio-economic environment, the regulatory landscape, and the competitive arena. Tools like PESTLE (Political, Economic, Social, Technological, Legal, Environmental) analysis can provide a framework to scrutinize these factors.

Then there's conducting surveys, focus groups, and interviews—to gather firsthand insights. And don’t forget the competition; conducting a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) analysis can give you an edge by revealing what you’re up against.

Actionable Step: Conduct a PESTLE analysis of your target market using a structured template. Identify at least two key insights per factor that could impact your business. Additionally, design a market survey focused on your product or service and aim to gather responses from a representative sample of the local population.


Step 2: Defining Your Offer

What’s on your global menu?

Define your unique value proposition—what makes your offer different and desirable?

Tailor your product or service to local tastes without diluting your brand's core values. This means adaptation, not assimilation.

If you're offering a service, think about how you'll deliver it cross-culturally. Will you need local teams? Can it be done digitally? This step is about ensuring your offer doesn’t just land, but sticks and grows in the new market.

Actionable Step: Develop a unique value proposition (UVP) statement for your offer.

Test this UVP with a small focus group from your target market to ensure it resonates.

Plan adaptations for your product based on this feedback while maintaining brand consistency.


Step 3: Goal Setting

Imagine your business goals as a series of checkpoints in a marathon, not just the finish line tape. To set effective goals, apply the SMART criteria—goals should be:

  • Specific,

  • Measurable,

  • Achievable,

  • Relevant,

  • Time-bound.

For instance, rather than saying "increase sales," a SMART goal would be "increase sales in the German market by 20% within 12 months through a targeted digital marketing campaign." This precise goal gives your team a clear target and a way to measure success. And remember, goals should stretch your capabilities but remain within the realm of possibility.

Actionable Step: Use the SMART framework to set three primary goals for market entry. Break each goal down into smaller, actionable objectives, creating a timeline for each. Assign clear ownership within your team for each objective.


Step 4: Competition Analysis

Knowing your competition is akin to knowing the rules of the game you're playing.

Begin with a competitor map, identifying both direct and indirect competitors in the region. Then, employ tools like Porter’s Five Forces to understand the competitive intensity and dynamics of your industry.

Analyze your competitors' product offerings, their market positioning, pricing strategies, and distribution channels.

Are they the agile startups or the entrenched giants? What are their strengths, and where do they falter? Use this intel to find your competitive advantage—perhaps it's innovation, customer service, or price.

By understanding your opponents, you can not only predict their next move but also prepare counterstrategies, always thinking several moves ahead.

Actionable Step: Create a competitor matrix that includes their offerings, pricing, strengths, and weaknesses.

Identify gaps that your business can fill.

Formulate a set of strategic actions to capitalize on these gaps and differentiate your brand.


Step 5: Strategy Development

Begin by creating a clear roadmap.

This involves deciding on your market entry strategy—will you dip your toes with exporting, jump in with franchising, or dive deep with a foreign subsidiary?

Each choice comes with its own set of complexities and commitments. Then, map out the operational aspects, like production, marketing, sales, and customer service.

How will these functions adapt to new markets? Will you centralize operations or give local teams autonomy?

This is also where risk management comes into play—identify potential risks and how you'll mitigate them.

The art is in making these decisions feel like a natural extension of your brand, while the science ensures they are viable and sustainable.

Actionable Step: Draft a market entry plan detailing your chosen strategy, whether exporting, franchising, or establishing a subsidiary.

For each operational aspect (production, marketing, etc.), define specific strategies and contingency plans.


Step 6: Evaluating Infrastructure

Your infrastructure is the skeleton of your international operations. It needs to be robust enough to support your global body of work.

This includes your supply chain, logistics, IT systems, and human resources.

For supply chain and logistics, consider if you'll manage in-house or outsource, and how you'll navigate the regulatory differences across borders.

For IT, think about whether your systems can handle different languages and currencies. And regarding human resources, decide if you'll relocate staff, hire locally, or a mix of both. The goal is to build an infrastructure that's as reliable as it can be.

Actionable Step: Conduct an audit of your current infrastructure's capabilities against international requirements.

Identify key areas for development or outsourcing, and create a plan to address these needs within a set timeframe.


Step 7: Distribution Systems

Designing a distribution system that rivals the convenience of online shopping requires a meticulous approach.

Consider every touchpoint of the customer journey, from clicking 'buy' to opening the package.

This involves decisions on warehousing, choosing reliable shipping partners, and planning for last-mile delivery.

Opt for technology that tracks shipments in real-time, ensuring transparency for both you and the customer. And just like any good ballet, every movement must be choreographed to perfection, with all players, from suppliers to couriers, synchronized to a T.

Actionable Step: Map out your end-to-end distribution workflow and identify potential partners or technology solutions for each stage.

Negotiate trial runs with logistics partners to ensure they meet your efficiency and reliability standards.


Step 8: International Partnerships Development

Partnerships can be the crescendo that amplifies your success. Local partners can offer invaluable insights into consumer behaviour, help navigate bureaucratic hurdles, and provide established distribution networks.

Whether it's a joint venture, strategic alliance, or simply bringing on board a local advisor, the right partnership can be a force multiplier, propelling you to new heights in unfamiliar territories.

Actionable Step: List potential local partners and consultants, and schedule exploratory meetings.

Set criteria for evaluating these partnerships and select those that align with your strategic goals.


Step 9: Customization

It must align perfectly with the customer's preferences.

This could mean tweaking your product design to suit local tastes or localizing your marketing campaigns to resonate with regional sensibilities.

Use local languages in your branding and customer service to foster stronger connections. It's a delicate balance to maintain your brand identity while also embracing local character, a dance between the global and the local, ensuring that your brand is as versatile and adaptable as a chameleon, able to fit in anywhere while still standing out.

Actionable Step: Choose one product or service as a pilot for localization.

Conduct market research to adapt it to local tastes and customs.

Develop marketing materials in the local language and run a pilot marketing campaign to test market response.


Step 10: Crafting an Ethical Global Footprint

A dual focus on sustainability and compliance forms the backbone of ethical strategy.

Weaving sustainable practices into your operations is not just an environmental statement but a strategic move that aligns with global consumer values and international regulatory expectations.

Simultaneously, navigating the complex tapestry of international laws and regulations is crucial, ensuring your global ventures are built on the bedrock of trust and legal integrity. By championing eco-friendly supply chains, ethical labour practices, and rigorous adherence to trade laws, your business stands as a paragon of responsibility and reliability in the global market.

Actionable Step: Review your supply chain and operations for sustainability and ethical practices.

Implement at least one significant change toward sustainability, and document your compliance processes to ensure you meet local and international regulations.


Step 11: Metrics and KPIs

Define clear KPIs to measure international success & accountability, from market penetration rates to brand recognition.

Utilize data analytics to track these metrics, allowing for real-time strategy adjustments.

Actionable Step: Identify key metrics that align with your strategic objectives.

Set up a dashboard to monitor these KPIs and schedule regular review meetings to assess progress and make necessary adjustments.


Step 12: Exit Strategies

Knowing when to hold them and when to fold them is key in international ventures.

Develop an exit strategy for each market, detailing the signs that might signal a need to withdraw, such as unsustainable costs or insurmountable regulatory changes, and the steps to do so in a way that minimizes disruption to your overall business.

Actionable Step: Outline clear criteria that would trigger an exit from a market.

Develop a step-by-step exit plan that minimizes financial loss and brand damage, and practice a tabletop exercise to ensure understanding across your team.

Step 13: Continuous learning Cycle

Embrace the Continuous Learning and Innovation Cycle as the pulse of your international strategy.

In an ever-shifting global market landscape, the ability to learn and adapt swiftly gives your business a competitive edge.

Foster a corporate culture that values up-to-the-minute knowledge and flexible thinking. Invest in training programs, engage with local market experts regularly, and stay attuned to emerging global trends. Actionable Step: Schedule regular training sessions focused on market trends and cultural understanding.

Establish a knowledge-sharing platform within your organization where insights and learning can be shared and discussed.


As you wrap up your grand plan, remember that international business development is not just about spreading your corporate wings but ensuring they’re sturdy enough to weather the storms of global markets. It's about being as adaptable as a traveller's wardrobe—ready for any climate and occasion! As usual, if you wish to delve deeper into the matter, jump ahead to our 10-minutes Basics and start your journey towards becoming an expert on this topic…

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