Talk about it....or do it?There are certain truisms in business today. Two in particular resonate with us and indeed form the foundation of our practice.
- The internet has completely changed the way B2B buyers buy (but to their detriment many B2B sales groups haven't yet adapted)
- Markets are global - which means that competition is pervasive and that vibrant growth opportunities for SMBs are often in foreign markets
While there's awareness, there's simultaneously hesitancy. And the net result is often lots of talk and limited action - whether B2B Sales & Marketing or export market growth.
Assistance to provide assistance to provide assistanceThis article recently popped up on a Google alert. A Senator from NY wants the US Dept. of Agriculture to assist the US Dept. of Commerce to create a seminar to assist upstate New York SMBs. "Made in Rural America” initiative would assist small and midsize rural businesses in overcoming obstacles to reach untapped overseas markets and 'help strengthen' rural exports."
Laudable goals for sure - but an inherently unstable approach. At the end of the day the only way SMBs will grow globally is through the vision, commitment and investment of the owners. Programs can, in some cases, reduce barriers, and conversation and events can raise awareness of the opportunities.
But no company that hadn't previously thought of export will suddenly begin doing so, or even substantially increase their activities, based on an informational event. There's only so much pushing that 'assistance' can achieve.
MindsetCompanies that succeed at global sales growth are those that are open to the idea and predisposed to bold steps to achieve growth. And even then, many exporters start "accidentally".
The challenges of export sales growth are well known - and often exaggerated. Similarly the benefits are often discussed (including growth, tax advantage, resiliency and higher wages for employees, etc.)
And American SMBs have been fortunate that a large domestic market could be mined for years without running out of fresh opportunity. (John O'Farrell called it a silver spoon.) But there's a recent analog for what's likely to happen. Many US SMBs were quite cavalier about import competition...until they were in deep trouble. But many retrenched, learned lessons and emerged lean with great competitiveness and high quality. The same seems to be happening today as business becomes increasingly global, yet many are dismissive of export opportunities. There will be a bang moment, at some point, and many will painfully adjust.
It might be less painful (and less expensive) to take some lessons now from innovative companies in small markets - companies which had no choice but to export in order to grow. They instinctively adopted a global mindset - but that needn't mean 'willy nilly' as The Globe article in May's HBR outlines. Profiling several Israeli firms, the authors identify some common sense strategic guidelines for global expansion. These include:
- Find opportunities that are under the radar of large competitors - buys you time to get established
- Identify markets where local competition is substantially disadvantaged compared to your offering
- "Evade the Giants" by focusing on niche markets
- "Disguise Yourself as Local" - localizing your products and market approach appropriately
But it starts with a decision, not a questionThe first step though, must be the decision by the owner or sr management to undertake an initiative. In the meantime chatter about assistance by one group, helping another to provide assistance may create well intentioned ripples, but probably no waves.
If you're an SMB owner ready to make some waves, check out our free eBook on how to select the best export consultant. You don't have to do it on your own.