'KICK ME' - poor export localization is like the old sign on the back

Ed Marsh | Oct 5, 2012

Our way or the Highway

You've conquered the US market and now it's time to go international.  Cool!  In fact that will put you in a very elite and small percentage of US companies which export - approximately 5% according to the Department of Commerce. 

And the best part is that you have a proven model.  It's worked so well for you domestically - the strategy is simple.  Roll it out globally and watch the export orders roll in.

OK.  Obviously that's said tongue-in-cheek...everyone knows you have to be culturally sensitive, blah, blah, blah....yet most charge into new markets intending to replicate the same channel construct that they use domestically, supported by the same marketing, and probably even with the same product features and price.

So don't laugh too hard!  It's sort of like the 5th grader wandering the hallways with the "Kick Me" sign affixed to their back.  Nobody ends up happy.  

And in emerging markets?

A recent McKinsey article included an excerpt from Sales Growth by Jon Vander Ark (@J_VanderArk.) His analysis doesn't introduce anything substantially new - much of this is common sense and frequently discussed.  It's a good reminder, though, of the importance of localization of approach.

He posits that the key action steps are to:
  • get on the ground
  • over invest in the right partners
  • build talent for the long-term
These are basic and correct - although I have real heartburn with over investing.  Why not appropriately invest?

But I maintain that there are other important steps to consider.  First, what markets are you chasing.  The article focuses almost exclusively on BRICs, although there is a mention of mobile payments and market opportunity in Africa (download our free eBook on the huge African opportunity.) 

But step back.  The BRICs offer seductive, enormous potential markets - but realizing the potential is fraught with barriers, complications and expense.  Take a hard look at what markets are appropriate first.

And think outside the normal destinations to find great opportunities in less popular emerging markets

Localization is the root of it all

Then you have to localize.  In many cases some product localization is required (voltage, language, package size, etc.)  In every case international marketing localization is critical (download our free whitepaper The Four Immutable Laws of International Marketing) and typically a localized approach to channel management is also important.

So many companies simply assume that they must replicate the same channel model in every market.  That's absurd - but it's easy.  And we all know that merely keeping up with every day priorities leads us sometimes to take the easy path.  But take a cerebral approach to channel management, and you'll unlock tremendous opportunities.

The point is that a holistic approach to international sales and export growth is required.  You have some great core product and market knowledge that should be leveraged as you export.  But everything needs to be adapted, not in a superficial kumbaya cultural way but in a real and substantive manner to accommodate the market parameters and unlock the enormous potential that export growth offers businesses.

Wondering how to take your accidental export program to a new level?  Contact Consilium Global Business Advisors today.  We'll help you shorten your ramp up time, avoid costly mistakes and save you from wandering the streets of your target market with a proverbial "kick me" sign on your back.

And download our free eBook on the Ideal Time to Export


Finally check out our infographic - a By the Numbers Look at Why Export is Worthwhile for Companies.

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