If we reach back into our childhood, we’ll probably all be able to remember the story about the Three Little Pigs: House of Straw, House of Sticks and then a House of Bricks. The moral of this story runs deep within me and building using bricks and mortar is in the very fabric of my DNA.
Hardly surprising then—when the new internet generation of BRICS came into commonly used vocabulary—that I thought back to this story and produced the follow acronym of how to grow a solid overseas export strategy using BRICS & MORTAR:
S- South Africa
BRICS- These are widely considered to be the new growth areas of business. Unless you’ve been living in an Anglophile bubble, you’ll know that—despite their ability to speak English—most people prefer to conduct business in their mother tongue. If you’re wanting to sell into these countries, learning a few polite phrases and having material published in both English and their language will take you streets ahead of somebody who doesn’t.
Quite simply take out a map and look at the geography of BRICS countries. Can you get there easily enough? What’s the cross-country transport network look like? How many face-to-face meetings does it currently take to secure business in your industry? How many more would you need when selling to a country that doesn’t speak your language? What would be the cost of these going forward? Would it be easier to open up a sister company in that country or would partnering with a similar company in that country be a better option? The initial step of taking out a MAP and understanding the geography of these countries will give you an indication of the size of the task you’re about to embark upon.
In some ways this goes hand-in-hand with the above, and in a lot of cases it will be the catalyst for beginning your export adventures. But just because one client likes what you have to offer, it doesn’t mean that others will. Go on a trade mission to the country if you can… UKTI offers so many great deals and subsidies for all types of business which can really give you a feel of what it is like to do business there. There are usually subsidies to help with overseas marketing too; my advice here would be to engage with a professional company who understands what it is you’re trying to achieve. Explore each and every avenue you have available to you and if in doubt, ask. Somebody out there will have the answer – and if not, they’ll know somebody who does.
Of all the stages in an export strategy, this is the one you cannot do too much of, primarily because it is an ongoing process. Is there a market? Who else is in that market? What are your strengths and weaknesses and how do they compare to those of your competition? What percentage of the market share do you have at home? What percentage could you realistically achieve overseas? Have others tried and failed? If so, speak to them and find out why. Is there a cultural alignment? Are there political differences? You know your business better than anybody else and only you can establish the answer to these and SO MANY other questions.
Once you have found your market(s) you need to set your goals and targets. Without them, you are going to get distracted. It might be a distributor network of five strategically placed re-sellers, or it might be a financial target of 10% of your company’s profits. Whatever they are, they need to be written down and a strategy drawn up to achieve them.
Get out there and do it. Exporting for the first time is quite a daunting process but there is a wealth of experience out there and you won’t get anywhere if you don’t take the first step.
Annually, Monthly, Weekly…whatever it is, the review phase is where you take stock of where you sit in relation to your targets. This is where the hidden things that you will most certainly have overlooked will rise up and show themselves. Evaluate and revise, but most importantly, keep at it. If you’ve done the groundwork, this is going to be one of the most exciting business journeys you’ll ever make and the rewards at the end will make it all worthwhile.