There are many businesses and organisations who wish to grow their revenue stream and market foothold internationally. But how many of these are aware that you, the PR people, may be able to help them in achieving a successful international expansion?
There is a lot we can do to help organisations in their search for new markets and, if we use the right research techniques, and analysis touchpoints available to us, we should be able to help our clients and employers navigate the murky waters of international expansion much easier.
Below, there is a list of “must do” aspects which are within your grasp and which will help your organisation before any decision on a potential international expansion is made, and after such a decision has been taken:
1. Unique Selling Proposition
Be clear on what it is you have to offer to that market, and why your services/products should be used/bought there.
2. SWOT Analysis
Do a thorough and fact-based analysis of all the opportunities and threats your organisation may be facing should it choose to “go international”.
Provide your client/employer with an answer to the question of whether it is the right thing to do.
Understand your weaknesses so you can provide advice on their mitigation, and check whether your strengths as a business would be consolidated or reduced should you enter that market.
3. PESTLE Analysis
The political, economic, social and legal environment in which you are willing to start your operations are paramount to understand. Political instability often leads to an inability to honour contracts (i.e. payments), it reduces the country’s borrowing power and it leads to inflation.
Economic problems in that market lead to a lower purchasing power and longer payment terms.
Social issues – public unrest, organised crime, terrorism activities and high poverty and unemployment rates are crippling factors in terms of business continuity and sustainability, let alone in terms of local employees’ retention rates.
Verify the legal system and its enforcement; although all countries have laws and many are signatories of a variety of international treaties, this does not mean that the laws and regulations are enforced or abided by.
Technology is a wonderful thing providing there is the right infrastructure to support it. For instance, in a country that has a poor 4G or WiFi connectivity, “Alexa”-type gizmos will not become a mainstream product, therefore the financial return on the market entry investments will be very low.
The environment in which you will be operating encompasses much more than the weather conditions, although these can pose serious problems to equipment which cannot withstand harsh environments. The environment of a market place is compounded of a variety of forces, including geopolitical and trade interests and priorities.
4. PORTER’S MARKET FORCES
Is your service/product threatened by any current (or easily replicable) services/products that are already on that market? Can any other local market operator take your offer and replicate it? What recourse measures do you have in place if these were to happen?
Do you know your competitors (national and international) that are currently operating on that market? How much of a threat are they to you and how likely are you to get a slice of their market share?
What is the bargaining power of your potential customers and suppliers on that market? Can you regularly and timely be supplied what you need, at the cost you’re willing to pay? Can your customers afford to pay your asking price?
5. CORRUPTION AND NEPOTISM
Corruption exists in many forms in many countries across the world; you need to ensure that your organisation/client understands the “asks” of the market they wish to do business in and fully abide by their Anti-Corruption and Anti-Bribery Policies (everyone should have these, by the way).
You may be asked to do the wrong thing – as a business, it’s never ever worth doing it and the end does not justify the means.
Nepotism, although often very well veiled, can be a real deterrent in the path of an ethical business: “I’m certainly going to approve your permit to do X, especially that my … [insert family member or friend] has always been keen to work for an organisation like yours”. That translates into: “if you don’t hire my [whoever], I’m not going to sign your permit/licence”.
6. MEDIA MARKET
Does that country have a free media (in all its forms) and are there any special “rules of engagement” that you should be aware of?
What is the actual applicability of the PESO model to that market?
Would your clients (especially if you’re providing services to the local or national government) allow you to freely engage the local and national media?
7. HUMAN COMPONENT
Do the people in that country speak one language or are there several official languages and regional dialects?
Are your products/services mindful of the cultural diversity of the country?
Do you understand and are you willing to observe their customs and traditions? Do they impact your offering in any way?
How culturally aware and mindful are you, as an organisation? Who would be the best placed individual to run the operations in that country: a local or someone from the “corporate” office?
8. REPUTATIONAL IMPACT
If you do expand your services in that country, what is the overall reputational impact of that action on your brand? Are you likely to lose or expand your current customer base? Would your credit risk (if you’re a business) increase or decrease? Would your stakeholders understand why you entered that market?
As with any business activities, there’s always at least one option available to you: you can advise your client/employer on the best course of action as long as you always know what the ultimate prize: the positive contribution that you made to their reputation.