Venturing into overseas markets is a daunting experience for any business, and none more so then when the country is on the other side of the world. Besides the obvious challenges of knowing whether your product or service is relevant in that market, a fact which can be quickly established by the presence of local competitors, you then come to the largest and riskiest challenge of deciding the best way to enter it.
Do you jump in with both feet and set up a local sales and support team? Do you find distributors, partner with local competitors? Or do you try and manage the process from afar, making the occasional visit to keep things on track?
All of these approaches have their upside and downsides, and will require careful management if the venture is to be a success. At Postcode Anywhere we have a service that is very international by its nature so you would imagine it would lend itself to being very easily sold in other markets.
Or so you’d think…
To a large extent the value of our service, which is based on providing a fast and easy way of capturing address data, is reliant on people knowing their postcodes and being able to find their own address in just a few keystrokes. Unfortunately, not many other countries around the world have address databases as good as we have in the UK – Canada and the Netherlands the two other main ones.
Nevertheless, we have managed to build a good business both in the UK and overseas helped mainly by introducing a more innovative way of finding addresses for the majority of countries where it’s not possible to find your address from just the postcode.
Australia is a market that we have always had an eye on for a number of reasons. It’s almost exactly on the other side of the world providing an excellent strategic location for straddling time zones around the globe. The people are culturally similar, speaking the same language, and we share many elements of the same legal and tax systems. The address validation market is also reasonably mature – although we feel it is ripe for a new innovative entrant, particularly an international provider specialising in the web based end of the market.
Having decided a number of months ago to arrange a business trip to the country, we engaged our local branch of UKTI to conduct an OMIS report on the country. The OMIS (or overseas market information survey) can take many forms. From identifying key channels and opportunities for your product to setting up meetings with potential partners and customers.
As we have a good feel for who buys our technology and why, we skipped the first part of the offering and used UKTI’s office in Melbourne to help identify and set up a series of meetings with potential partners, customers and in our case two competitors!
To accelerate the process and get UKTI focused on arranging meetings, we sourced data of potential partners for a mailshot and provided UKTI with a nicely designed PDF attachment to tell prospects what we did and what we were looking for from meetings on our trip.
The net result was that I ended up with 15 to 20 meetings that ran during 10 business days that were arranged logically to fit in best with my travel arrangements and with a mixture of senior decision makers at some very well-known Australian brands and potential partner businesses.
I found the people exceptionally helpful and co-operative, and learnt a huge amount about where the opportunities are in our market, how to position our service against rival products as well developing a better understanding of what it might take to set up a satellite business over here.
All in all, it’s been an exceptionally rewarding experience which, like most good business models, we will look to repeat elsewhere around the world as we grow. The UK government are very keen to see more SMEs involved in overseas trade, who typically may be put off by the opportunity within their own market, or by concerns about the cost, complexity or the general distraction of starting afresh in a new territory.
While the internet can help reduce some of the risk associated with doing business abroad, we have found UKTI to be a very attractive and low risk way for finding out the depth of opportunity in a market, if you want to really hear it from the ‘horse’s mouth’.
Guy Mucklow is CEO and co-founder of Postcode Anywhere