Even well managed, successful, companies can mess up in entering new markets. But there are four critical steps that any organization can take to make sure that it avoids these mistakes, and thereby succeeds in entering new markets. They are:
- read websites and blogs about the market
- talk to people who already know the market and its culture
- go for a walk
- prepare for the language barrier
Step 1 – Read websites and blogs about the market
Before doing business in any new market, read websites and blogs about that particular market. Fortunately, there are websites and blogs written about almost every market in the world, describing its history, culture, business customs, key players and local business politics.
Step 2 – Talk to people who already know the market and its culture
Don’t reinvent the wheel. Talk to people who already know the market and its culture before you try to enter it. Find people who have done business in-market, or who otherwise know the market. Have them tell you how business is done in-market, what traps to avoid, and how to be successful. Ask them to share with you the essential, but to them quite obvious, information that you need to know about doing business in-market. Armed with this kind of information, you will be in a much better position to succeed internationally, no matter which market you may happen to be in.
Step 3 – Go for a walk
When you travel to the markets that you plan to enter, go for a walk. Take a stroll or car drive around the neighborhood. If you can, mystery-shop your customers, and your competitors. If you keep your eyes and ears open you will be amazed at how much you can pick up from a simple short walk or drive.
To give just one obvious example, a few short walks in Tokyo taught me a great deal that I needed to know about everything from commuting habits and the local dress codes, to roofing structures and the local building codes.
Step 4 – Prepare for the language barrier
English varies significantly from country to country, and from market to market. (The same thing is true for Spanish, French, and any other widely used language.) Be prepared for those language differences. Learn the local version of the language, and learn the local market business jargon. It will show that you care about the local culture.
Putting the four steps into effect
Although people vary significantly around the world, I have found one thing never changes. That is, if you show people that you care enough about them to have learned their business customs and how they conduct business, then they are much more likely to trust you, and to want to develop a business relationship with you. No matter which market you are entering, in the end, that is always the key to business success in entering new markets.