Lessons from the IIA’s (Irish Internet Association) International Strategy Working Group half day conference on Winning International Business with the Web on November 18th in Dublin.
As Chair of the event I can happily report it was a resounding success. And, that’s not just me! The attendee feedback forms rated the event at 4 and 5 (out of 5). The conference focused on a mix of practical sessions and case studies.
The case-studies featured a mix of “true-originals”, www.revahealth.com and www.roomex.com and “revolutionaries” www.paddypower.com in strategic terms. A true original, such as Revahealth, is a brand new proposition: Paddypower moved from a bricks & mortar business to an online one.
Here are some of the key lessons to be learnt from Breon Corcoran, MD PaddyPower, Caelen King, CEO & Founder of Revahealth and Jack Donaghy, CEO & Founder of Roomex. We also had two excellent sessions on Trading Internationally: Legal, Financial, Tax and strategic advice from Bartley O’Connor, Associate Director – Advisory Practice, and Ronan Finn, Director – Tax & Legal Services, PricewaterhouseCoopers and another, Using Translations to Target International Markets – from Mark Rodgers, Managing Director, Cipherion Translations.
Below are some of the key lessons.
Each country will have a set of unique factors
There is no tried and tested formula to successfully entering new markets and building an international footprint. PaddyPower, despite ventures into several overseas countries at this point, says they haven’t yet found a generic model that works.
Know your customer
If a telecentre is part of your sales cycle, employ locals. A Brazilian won’t work as well as Spaniard in the Spanish market according to Caelen King. Do you research: while you may be an online business, you may find your foreign customers won’t close the deal without a call.
Brand Ireland doesn’t carry much weight
While we can positively tap into the Irish diaspora and EI’s network can be hugely influential Ireland is pretty insignificant in other countries and we don’t have scale to impress. Caelen King recounted the story of a train ride through India when he got chatting to a local. On confirming that our capital, and largest city had only a million people, he was told there are over 100 cities with a million in India and they don’t have get a mention on the map: and, probably equivalent to the number of annual MBA graduates!
Be humble, not arrogant
While you may have a product that your home market loves, it doesn’t mean it will gain easy traction in a new market. And, just because you are a household name in Ireland doesn’t mean you can capitalize on it in new countries. PaddyPower in Germany translated as TeddyPower!
“Get it right the first time – it’s much harder to get your prospects to come back a second time if their first experience wasn’t good.” Breon Corcoran.
“All your preconceptions can be wrong: it can be a humbling experience”
Choice of country
The online market in the UK is roughly 18 times the size of Irelands. Using the internet extends our reach but it is not easy.
Nothings beats detailed market research.
PaddyPowers’ choice of Germany as its 2nd overseas market was miscalculated. While Germany had more online users in 2006 than Britain it did not follow through with a take-up on PaddyPower.
Success in one country will not automatically follow in another.
Commitment to travelling to your territories is essential but very demanding.
Know local regulation
Local regulation matters. If you are selling online, understand local payment options. Here, we can leverage the experience of Realex Payments. Contact them via twitter: @realexpayments
Do the finances
Sending bodies (usually senior management during the early days) to a new country to represent the company requires commitment and is expensive. A territory 27 hours away needs to have scale to warrant seconding a senior management staff member
Work out the fulfilment process for all new territories.
It’s about the marketing, stupid
“We think we can do business internationally because we can communicate with the locals when we go on holidays”. “That’s the first incorrect assumption” according to Mark Rodgers, MD, Cipherion Translations. If you are going to enter international markets appoint an International Marketing manager to manage your local in-territory marketing. It’s important that marketing has a local focus.
Revahealth manage their metrics – about 500 of them!
It takes some effort and time to establish your metrics but thereafter one can review them from a trend perspective as opposed to each one in great detail – metrics by exception.
The presentations are available at www.iia.ie/18nov . But, to quote Mark Cahill, Social Media Marketing expert at Social Bits, “You can’t download experience”.
There are several other nuggets and lessons. I’ll do a second blog post.
In the meantime, contact me if you would like to learn more.
Share your experiences here.