By Brian Roberts
VP, Global Services, Wavefront
There’s a world of opportunity out there – and Canadian mobile and wireless companies are successfully expanding to global markets. Wavefront, in partnership with Global Affairs Canada, has taken more than 230 Canadian companies to 35 countries with our Global Market Entry Program since 2009. We work with our contacts, trade commissioners and Export Development Canada to arrange one-on-one meetings and networking events that provide valuable introductions and connections.
It’s always exciting to see Canadian companies find international markets for their innovations. But you need to be prepared. For small businesses looking to expand in global markets, we suggest focusing on five key questions:
- When should you start exporting? It’s important to start thinking about expanding to international markets from day one so you have flexibility built into your products and business models when the time is right to scale up. Make sure you have a proven product and repeatable business model. Confirm you have a realistic view as to the time and costs of selling internationally along with buy in from key company stakeholders.
- Where should you target first? You need to know which countries or regions are best suited to your product or service. Where’s the competition? Where are the best opportunities? Focus on the ease of market entry over the size of the market potential. If you are just starting exporting, look at countries with similar business culture, language, IP protections and legal structures.
- Which products will you focus on? Determine which products or services best suit your international target markets. Be open to adapting the product and business model for different regions. Customer discovery is the key, so when it comes to international markets “get out there”. You can research on the Internet, but there is no substitute for experiencing the culture firsthand.
- Who will sell for you in that market? For most markets, you need a local on-the- ground sales resource who has local relationships and understands the culture and language. You need to decide which distribution method will work best, whether that’s a channel partner, sales agent or your own local employee. Knowing who you can trust can make or break your international expansion efforts, so take the time to make the right selection. Tap into resources such as British Columbia’s and Canada’s Trade Commissioner Service or experienced partners like Wavefront.
- How will you maintain the relationship? When you find partners or customers in foreign markets, you must be prepared to invest in those relationships. You need to continually monitor product-market fit and be able to adjust to changes in technology, regulations or customer demand. Treat your partners well, and get ready for more travel.
Wavefront is planning Global Market Entry Trips to Mexico & Colombia (AgTech), Germany & The Netherlands (Smart Manufacturing), Washington D.C. (Smart Cities) and Taiwan & Japan (Smart Manufacturing) and Smart Retail in the Pacific Northwest later this year. Find out more.