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The ABC of planning when entering new markets

A couple of weeks ago I was invited to share my views on attaining new markets to the international talents and the relatively young companies they work with in the Growthbuilders program at the New Factory innovation center and accelerator in Tampere. While preparing my agenda I quickly shifted to thinking marketing and sales in general: What would my first steps be. Be it an existing company attaining new markets or a new company building its basis, the same steps apply: Formulating the answer to “why”, knowing your customers and finding effective ways to communicate it to them.


While my thoughts are, on a basic level applicable to pretty much any company I’ve written this from the marketing and sales point of view of a startup, a young/small or medium sized company that doesn’t have the luxury of conducting extensive market research and needs to be agile in its actions.

TLDR, four steps to take when planning to enter a new market

  1. Genuinely try to understand your client and the target market
  2. Establish a story to tell and messages tailored to your key audience
  3. Establish systematic planned actions and build them up step by step
  4. Monitor results, learn from them and go on building and tweaking

The why: maybe a cliché but a reality

As a member of the audience pointed out during my talk, the “why” has become a cliché to many of us. I agree it’s been repeated so much it has lost some of its meaning in the daily context, but what Simon Sinek said and wrote some ten years ago is still true. This statement, the reason of the existence of a company, business, service or product is (when well formulated) the first step to differentiating yourself and avoiding the sea of similarity. While my next points are something that most likely need to be tailored, the story that stems from your meaning and values is something that should stay intact from market to market or stakeholder to stakeholder. This is what defines you within and outside the company and, even if not directly, is what will become the brand and strategy to follow. Once you know what the basis is, please also convey it graphically or your story will not be intact. This means a bigger risk of it being misunderstood or not being credible.

The who: getting to know your client and formulating a message that matches

In any business the story is pretty much obsolete, if you don’t know who to tell it to and dig into the reasons they should and would listen. This is where I get to another cliché: human-to-human sales, or marketing depending on the position you think this from. H2H is something I don’t appreciate as a term, as I hear it almost daily as a mantra to repeat, but it is full on accurate: If the reasoning is not purely rational (when is it?) there will always be a human element that affects decision-making. There is an element of trust, chemistry, values etc. both on a personal level and on a level where we (at least try to) reflect our company’s values. Everyone has jobs to accomplish both in the workplace and outside, obstacles that prevent us in succeeding in them (or that feel they prevent us from succeeding) and benefits we get to feel when succeeding. These characteristics are based on but not limited to the cultural background, title and responsibilities, age and education. In a business setting our job is to answer to these in a sense that our products’ or services’ value propositions fit the afore mentioned job(s), eliminate or alleviate the pain(s) and create gain(s). This the foundation to build your message on: Who’s problem do you solve? How is their life easier thanks to you?
It is always the best idea to do this exercise with the help of the group at hand and your existing clients. If this is not possible, use partners, sales or anyone with insight to the matter. With a small-scale business and/or limited budget you can make assumptions to get running as long as you are prepared to analyze results and base your next moves on them.

At Bermuda we tend to work in an B2B environment, so this part has usually many profiles to take into account. In addition to the main point of contact there typically are a few stakeholders that either influence the decision or even make it at the end. These stakeholders have their own set of motivators and responsibilities that are interconnected, but rarely identical in relation to your offering. This poses the need to not change the story, but vary its weighing by profile. To generalize for the sake of making an argument, a maintenance worker in a factory could appreciate saving time and safer tasks whereas higher levels of the organization are basing their decisions on lower labor and insurance costs and quicker production. In another case you might need to appeal to HR, IT and sales. One might officially make the order, but they might need the green light or a push from others.

This train of thought is largely based on Strategyzer’s Value Proposition Canvas, that is a tool for product and service design. We have applied it as a tool to dig into client profiles and finding the messages that gets their attention. In any case I highly recommend checking the link above and the Business Model Canvas it is a part of.

The plan, conveying your story and key points thru the right channels

Then comes the time to get your story and the aimed messages to the relevant audiences.

Basically what you need to do is to:

  1. Gain the attention of your prospective clients that are still passive
  2. Get them to seek more information (e.g. from your website) and possibly get them to follow you
  3. Guide them to take the next step towards buying, contacting you and/or leaving their information

Based on the target group exercise above you can start with some basic assumptions on the channels you need to use:

  • To be obvious, the channels you use should be the ones your prospective clients are most likely to use and to trust. This is based on socio-economic and cultural factors such as the age, education and the digital maturity of the market as well as the characteristics of the field (globally and/or within the target market)
  • You should also take into account the possible no-no’s of the market at hand.
  • If you have something truly exceptional to tell remember people tend to trust earned media more than bought media.
  • The center of your communications will most probably be a website.

Again, you get the best information straight from the clients, but experience and data are also an effective way to go. If you can’t reach the prospects, talk to people who have experience working with them, make justifiable assumptions, set attainable goals and start with steps you can handle. When you get the marketing and sales running, keep yourself up to speed and be ready to make decisions in relation to the goals set.

Some basic “rules” you need to remember

  • Set your personal preferences aside when considering your target groups. You need to reach them, not yourself. Consider what the other party needs to hear/know to proceed to the next level.
  • Set goals and judge your results based on them.
  • No plan is perfect. The faster you fail the faster you get to make corrections and get to test new actions.
  • Prioritize (maybe combine) actions and stakeholders.
  • Don’t try to talk to everyone at once or try to tell the full scope in situations or channels not suited for that. Something for everyone often means nothing for anyone.
  • This isn’t an exact science and has always a part of creativity. Have fun with it.

Of course all this is easier said than done. Experience helps and there’s professionals specialized in planning and taking strategies into action. As it happens Bermuda can help you out with both!

P.S. This is one of our first steps to reach new prospects. While working with Finnish companies on their international actions we are now (surprisingly quite late) running into the need to also communicate in English. English website and other content coming up, depending on the results of course.

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