International expansion offers many advantages to companies, but being able to effectively manage the internationalization process is often a challenge in which many companies-particularly SMEs have great difficulty.
But where is it possible to find support for the internationalization of businesses?
If you want to successfully develop your company’s overseas expansion, the best way to achieve this is to turn to a business internationalization consultant.I have been doing this work for over 35 years and I know how important it is for companies to have the right support to consolidate their presence abroad.
In this article, I want to tell you how business internationalization consulting is done and what steps need to be taken to develop international expansion. Let’s get started!
Step 1: analysis of the company
The internationalization process must necessarily begin with a thorough analysis of the company. Thus, the first stage of a business internationalization consultancy is a thorough study of all the characteristics of the business in question.
This is a true census of company data and capabilities, which goes into a variety of parameters: human capital, business volumes, export share of total sales, company structure, export methods, budget allocated to communication, certifications obtained, positioning and the business model on which the company’s development strategy is based, to name a few.
In my business internationalization consulting, I use an ad hoc questionnaire at this initial stage, with multiple-choice questions developed to obtain a comprehensive preliminary view of the business.
Step 2: market analysis
The second step to be taken to develop a company’s international expansion is market analysis.
At this stage the question arises: does the company know the distribution channels of the relevant foreign market? The regulatory and legislative frameworks? The rules on customs duties? The currency and socio-political stability? The customs and traditions? Has research been done on identifying suitable markets for its product or service?
It is essential to draw up a detailed outline of the current state of the target industry, identifying where the market seems to be heading, and one must determine who is most likely to want our product through an analysis of the target market and the creation of a profile of one’s ideal customer in order to focus one’s efforts on exactly that target.
The main elements that the results of a market analysis should include are: an overview of the size and growth rate of the industry, the percentage of expected market share for one’s business, current purchasing trends of customers, expected growth of the company, and the price customers are currently willing to pay for the category of product/service we are selling.
Step 3: competitive analysis
We then come to competitive analysis, a way to evaluate the performance of the company and its products or services in comparison with other companies operating in the same market.
At this stage of a business internationalization consultancy, we focus on identifying the company’s competitors, going to define the strengths and weaknesses of our company in comparison with those of our competitors.
It is useful to answer questions such as “What product, service, or feature have competitors improved to gain an advantage?” or “What trends that we have not yet intercepted are forming?”
It is good to remember, however, that competitive analysis is not something that can be done just once, but should be done at least once a year on a large scale and quarterly on a small scale, because the market is constantly changing and it is essential to keep up to date.
Step 4: definition of available assets
In my long experience as a business internationalization consultant, I have realized that in domestic companies there is often a lack of in-depth research into the strengths of the company and its unique know-how.
In fact, a crucial step in each business internationalization process is to define available assets, both overt and potential ones.
An asset represents an economic resource owned or controlled by a company: it can be peculiarities regarding products or other distinctive features that can be useful in making a difference in distribution and market presence.
Identifying “overt” assets is relatively easy, but assets can also be nonphysical resources. The skill of a business internationalization consultant also lies in recognizing the potential that a company can express in the market while being “intangible,” such as intellectual property (patents or trademarks), contractual obligations, royalties, and human capital know-how. Even brand reputation itself can be considered a valuable intangible asset.
Step 5: Developing a distinctive model
Once all these preliminary analyses have been done, we move on to the development of a distinctive model, a business internationalization strategy that allows us to present ourselves to both the market and consumers with a unique, perceivable and tangible value proposition.
When I assist an entrepreneur or team in this stage of the business internationalization process, my contribution is precisely to find business strengths to leverage, and then aim to develop one or more themes that will enable them to be unique in the eyes of the market and attractive to potential customers.
An effective business internationalization strategy also needs to be flexible enough to manage change.
Step 6: implementation of the strategic plan
And here we come to the most practical part: the implementation of the strategic plan.
Whether we go through digital marketing campaigns or a combination of analog-digital, at this stage we need to make sure we call on experienced figures to help us implement the packaged internationalization strategy.
The process of implementing a strategy on the ground must begin by identifying the vision and mission of the group, and it is essential to set each strategy in an action plan with clear objectives and measurable performance. The action plan will include details of who will do what, when they will do it, what resources are needed, and at what cost.
Step 7: validation and fine-tuning
Finally, there comes the time for field verification, the validation and fine-tuning phase, which is based on the feedback of goals, expectations, and numbers on the bottom line.
After going to market with a product and strategy, we must have feedback. This moment can be scary, but the truth is that even when one’s product or service is not immediately received as hoped, it is possible to learn a lot from failure.
Therefore, companies are encouraged to release a “Minimum Viable Product” (MVP), which is the leanest version of the product or service that customers are willing to use and pay for.
Based on the market response, the company must implement its “fine-tuning” course, a kind of running correction. At this stage, it is very important to have the humility and ability to listen to feedback, draw the right conclusions and modify one’s idea, to try to get as close as possible to the original goals.
The importance of the human factor in business internationalization
At this point, we have seen step by step how to internationalize a business, what steps need to be taken to develop international expansion, and how business internationalization consulting is conducted, but there is another factor that is very close to my heart and worth mentioning.
Beyond analysis, numbers and strategies, the most important discriminator for the success of a business internationalization process is the human factor, the ability of the entrepreneur and the stakeholders involved in the process to know how to relate empathetically and positively to their stakeholders.
The emotional aspect-the human element-can determine the success or failure of any business internationalization initiative. This is why it is essential to acquire a certain sensitivity and the ability to respectfully grasp the cultural, human, negotiating and contextual differences that one faces when going to interact with markets – and consequently cultures – far away from our own.
By the end of this article, it will be clear to you what a business internationalization consultant does and why he or she can be of enormous help to you in exporting your business abroad.
Want to know if internationalization consulting is right for you?
Get in touch right away and find out how I can help you successfully take your business abroad!