Sat | Feb 27, 2021

Yaneek Page | Tips for expanding to a new market

Published:Sunday | January 17, 2021 | 12:10 AM

ADVISORY COLUMN: SMALL BUSINESS

QUESTION: I have been doing crochet clothing and craft for five years and selling mainly to vendors and shops on the north coast. My business has all but collapsed since the pandemic, and I need advice about the way forward. At this point, tourism is still not recovering, and I read somewhere that if the market does not come to you, then you must get up and go to it.

My plan in 2021 is to seek out new markets and expand to the world and not wait on tourism to return. I was able to find an article you wrote about exporting, and I am getting the documents together for that so that when I get bigger orders, I can send them off quickly. In the meantime, I wondered if you had any general advice about the dos and don’ts of expanding to global markets.

– Carla, St Catherine

BUSINESSWISE: There are three major tips I will share that I hope will guide you on your journey to expand to new markets. These tips are not academic or derived from random Internet research, but are based on almost a decade of experience as a global business trainer and coach working with over a thousand entrepreneurs from over 100 countries around the world, many of whom had the same goal you have outlined.

Let me emphasise the point that there are many entrepreneurs and businesses around the world that have the same goal you have today. Many have been trying for years for a breakthrough.

In addition to my experience as a trainer and coach, I was also certification manager for a global organisation that certified businesses around the world as market-ready based on criteria set out by certain industries and international buying partners, enabling them easier access to global supply chains for companies such as Walmart, Goldman Sachs, Microsoft, Facebook, and many others.

3 TIPS TO FOLLOW

1. Define the new market in detail

The biggest mistake entrepreneurs tend to make is to broadly define their goal as exporting to a new market. You have to be very specific about which market you want to enter and why. Particularly the 'why'! So, for example, the United States would be too vague a definition. It is not simple or homogeneous, but a large, diverse, and complex place. Therefore, you would need to outline specifically where in the US you believe your largest group of target customers reside. Are you targeting Caribbean nationals residing in the US, for example? What age group? Stage in their life cycle? Income and education? This information is a crucial starting point for your market-entry strategy. One critical point is that your market selection shouldn’t be arbitrary, but derived instead from an evaluation of several potential new markets that have been analysed and scored on a specific set of predetermined market-viability indicators. This body of work alone may take weeks, if not months, to complete.

2. Develop an investor brief

Even if you don’t yet plan to seek out investors, preparing an investor brief that justifies and really sells this investment is a winning strategy. An investor brief is a document or pitch deck that you would prepare to introduce the business, leadership, value proposition to the specific market; supporting processes, especially marketing and sales; and a general expansion strategy with the aim of not simply describing, but selling the vision and the opportunity.

In my experience, it is one of the most helpful processes and documents for a growth-oriented business like yours. The process forces entrepreneurs to have the discipline of treating their expansion goal, capital, resources, and productive time as a real investment.

Very often, the lofty expansion goals business owners set are grounded in passion that can’t withstand basic independent tests of being financially sound. The brief requires hard data, market stats, facts, and financial projections and comparisons and ratios that investors would demand before they part with their hard-earned money and that you should demand for yourself, too.

The brief is also helpful because it answers questions you will be asked constantly as you pitch to new vendors, partners, collaborators, wholesale customers, and so on. Unfortunately, my experience is that entrepreneurs from emerging markets in Latin America, Africa, and the Caribbean are sometimes viewed with scepticism about our level of sophistication and readiness to do business on a global scale.

Therefore, information on business processes, business management, procurement, risk management, quality control, financing arrangements, and even existing litigation must be sometimes declared upfront to stave off the usual sales objections from many corporations. Companies are also interested in our values and ethics, including policies on discrimination based on race, gender, ethnicity, sexuality, and so much more.

3. Focus on culture and creating value for your new market

One of the primary reasons businesses that try to enter new markets fail is because they try to sell to a new market exactly what they sell at home in exactly the same way without any respect for cultural nuance. This is a good time to note that Jamaicans living in Jamaica are not the same as Jamaicans living in the United Kingdom or Canada or throughout the United States.

They may have different standards and expectations of communication, service, quality, delivery, and so much more. You will need to create a customer journey map that is specific to the value you will create for the specific target customers based on their cultural nuances.

But how can you know or even understand what these cultural nuances are if you have never lived in the country? For most people, it’s almost impossible.

Therefore, hiring local talent or partnering with local organisations, experts, or partners is one of the critical success factors for expanding to new markets. It is also helpful for quickly building trust, establishing credibility, and setting down the strong roots in the community required to break in to a new market and, hopefully, thrive.

One love and good luck!

Yaneek Page is the programme lead for Market Entry US, a certified trainer in entrepreneurship and creator and executive producer of 'The Innovators' and 'Let’s Make Peace' TV series.yaneek.page@gmail.com