Use data to drive decisions
I cannot overemphasise the importance of using data and evidence when it comes to making decisions around taking your manufacturing business global. This applies to a bunch of areas including market selection and defining your ideal international client.
The number of people who choose an international market on the basis of ‘gut feel’ or serendipity blows my mind. I know of founders who picked export markets because they went on holiday somewhere and fell in love with it. One that springs to mind is the guy who went on vacation to Bali, couldn’t get a packet of Smiths Salt & Vinegar chips when he needed it and decided to set up as the agent for Smiths in Bali. True story.
I’ve worked also with manufacturing clients who told me “I met this guy at a trade show and he loved our product, so we decided to work with him to expand our footprint into … “.
It’s great to love the country you plan to do business in and it’s a great privilege to meet people who love your product and want to support what you do. But neither of these avenues (or any method that relies primarily on opportunism) is the right way to choose an international market. That’s because it usually doesn’t deliver optimum results.
Without real evidence, it’s very hard to know where the real opportunities lie. For instance, there’s probably no point trying to sell microprocessor chips made in Australia to Vietnam for $25/unit, when an equivalent product is already manufactured locally, is well-known and sells for $5/unit. On the other hand, if you manufacture high-end health supplements in Australia, you might find that there is a big opportunity to sell to Vietnam, because the exploding middle-class is hungry for premium health products from Australia. The point is that unless you have data to work with, you’re operating on guesswork.
A better way to market selection is to do or commission research on markets that you think might hold an opportunity. The goal is to find facts and statistics that indicate which countries are likely to provide the best return on investment and deliver an experience which is not too difficult from a commercial and cultural standpoint. Working with this kind of data to make decisions makes sense, because it provides hard evidence on which to base your choices.
For example, the custom market reports that Dearin & Associates create in collaboration with our partner Prime Target, rank markets of interest and provide insights into the attractiveness of each one. They also assess the ease of doing business, country economic performance and risk, social media performance and cultural fit of the markets you’re considering.
Ideal International Client
Using data is also key when it comes to defining your ideal international client. If you sell a product that is a component part of a larger product – such as packaging items – or contributes to its formation – like weld-cleaning technology, you’ll probably have different groups of potential clients who you could sell to. However, you’ll get more traction faster in international markets by concentrating all your resources on a single category of customer at the start. Researching the latest sourcing trends will help you understand what engineers and procurement professionals are searching for and enables you to make smarter decisions about which customer segments to target that will boost the company’s bottom line.
Get Clear on Your Go-to-Market Strategy
Manufacturers who’ve been selling successfully in their domestic market often assume that they should just ‘cut and paste’ their go-to-market strategy in new geographies. This is sometimes true, but not always.
For example, a client of mine which has been selling its dental products through dental professionals in Australia recently decided to expand to the United States. They assumed they’d use the same distribution approach in the new market, but as we worked on the strategy and got input from our advisory team, it became clear that there were a range of distribution options. These included selling direct to big-box retailers and chemists or at the other end of the spectrum, doing a gigantic e-commerce play, both of which were likely to be more successful than their existing approach, especially given the size of the market in the States. The key to a good go-to-market strategy is keeping an open mind, doing research and understanding what is working for competitors in your space that are doing well.
Make pricing a priority
As you begin pitching your product overseas, lots of people will want to know your price, so it’s important to have your pricing worked out before you approach international prospects. While some manufacturers just charge their domestic price in every market, those that are internationally successful in the long term almost always invest time and energy into getting their international pricing right, market by market.
International pricing and domestic pricing are quite different. That’s because different overseas market conditions, different costs, different quoting formats and different currencies all affect what you charge your customers for your products or services. You’ll need to take into account the costs associated with international customs duties and tariffs, international freight and logistics, distributors or alternative distribution channels, as well as country specific marketing. All of these things will take a chunk out of your margin, so the starting point to getting your export price right is to understand the relative costs, demand and competition in your target market. That way you won’t end out of pocket. For more on how to price for international markets, check out
If you use data to make your international expansion decisions, get clear on your go-to-market strategy and make pricing a priority, you’ll dramatically increase the odds of competing successfully in the global manufacturing