April 28, 2012

How to win customers overseas

Thinking of expanding offshore? Head of Think Global Consulting, David Thomas, gives the inside scoop.

Finding a new market overseas is a great way to grow your business, so we’ve talked to Think Global Consulting about how to make the most of this opportunity.

CEO of Think Global Consulting, David Thomas, facilitates business and investment between developed and emerging countries. His best tip for Australians looking to win customers overseas? Follow business etiquette to the letter, research copiously and don’t even think about going offshore until you’ve raised enough capital.

Here, he lists some key insights into how to approach some overseas markets.

Research extensively

Don’t adopt a ‘she’ll be right’ attitude. Make sure you comprehensively research the market(s) that may be suitable for your product or service. Attend trade conferences, develop relationships in key industry sectors and put legal agreements in place to cover commercial terms and protect intellectual property.

Note that often as much as $100,000 is required over a two-year period to finance on-the-ground research, focus groups and regular trips. Make one or more market visits to learn about the local environment and develop plenty of local contacts and trusted networks. Locate and employ the best people in the foreign country you wish to export to, and also at home inAustralia.

Raise enough capital pre-launch

Ensure you have enough funds to execute properly, even if it takes longer than expected. Don’t operate on a shoestring budget as this can lead to cutting corners, relying on free advice and leaving your business exposed to risks. Develop a business case based on a best, medium and worst-case scenario. Be ambitious, but tread carefully. Consolidate early successes before expanding further. Remember the saying, “Double your budget and halve your expectations”.

Business etiquette

Understand how to behave, negotiate and conduct business in unfamiliar markets. For example, a common Chinese saying is that you don’t discuss business “until the third cup of tea”, so don’t pitch straight away. Also, make sure you listen carefully during business meetings. And create business documents with both English and the other country’s language translations.

Business leads in emerging countries

The following countries present potential business possibilities for Australian enterprises.

Brazil: Opportunities exist for Australian businesses to partner with Brazilian organisations to build and upgrade stadium and related facilities in the lead up to the FIFA World Cup in 2014 – to be held in 12 Brazilian cities – and the Summer Olympics in 2016, which will take place inRio de Janeiro. Austrade notes a public works upgrade worth US$52 billion is in the pipeline for stadium construction, transport, airports, expansion of electric power and telecommunications networks, plus water and waste management. On top of that, some US$11 billion of public funding is being allocated to spruce upRio de Janeiro’s infrastructure in time for the Olympics.

India: As one of the fastest growing emerging economies, export opportunities exist inIndia for Australian organisations in the telecommunication, infrastructure, power, crude petroleum, coal, gold, copper and transport sectors. In terms of service exports, the supply of education-related travel is a key export opening for Australian businesses eyeing offIndia.

China: The service sector is set to explode inChina – good news for Australian businesses looking to export their capabilities in tourism, education, healthcare, financial services, legal, accounting, IT, software, clean technology and retail. In particular,China’s second-tier cities – includingChongqing (population 30 million),Chengdu,Hangzhou,Tianjin,Suzhou,Wuhan andChangsha – are ripe for business.

Learn more about how to start exporting.

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