By Trevor Hardy Thursday, 14 June 2012

MT Expert: How to go from global to local

Need a few pointers on how to expand into new markets? Trevor Hardy, founder of international branding agency The Assembly, has these tips for ensuring a smooth transition from local to global.

Local insight is the tool to unlocking additional markets. It may seem obvious but no amount of research reports, conference calls or background reading will replace being there; being on the ground, in homes, offices or shops of the markets where you’re looking to innovate and grow. Immersing yourself in the regions in which you wish to operate; getting under the skin of dynamics of the market, the people, your clients and competitors will give invaluable insight that you could never discover without being there.

Moving into a new market requires additional resources; and none are more important than people. It is imperative to cultivate a diverse pool of local talent that you can network and recruit from. It may sound counter-intuitive, but a broad network will yield a focused approach to recruitment of local talent. New markets often demand new talents and new approaches to talent management. Venturing outside of ‘people like you’ and connecting with people from other industries, other disciplines and backgrounds will often help you spot richer talent to help drive your business forward. Go to conferences you’d not normally attend, retailers you’d avoid or a trade show that might seem irrelevant – your network will grow in breadth as well as depth.

Make sure you keep your contacts constantly updated too - being able to call on whom you need for exactly what you want to accomplish means your stakeholders will benefit immeasurably from a combination of complementary skill sets.

As you expand, agility will see you through – today’s business world requires you to be as flexible as possible. Being able to acknowledge when to act fast and when to take a long view will result in you and your team working smarter, not longer hours. One-size-fits-all processes are become less and less effective. Ensuring that your business can react differently to different situations in different markets will ensure it both effective and efficient. Just like people, markets don’t always behave in the same way. Taking the time to understand each opportunity, plotting future scenarios and either acting fast to take advantage of it; or pausing, reflecting, re-evaluating, may make you slower to market but will pay dividends in the longer term.

Be prepared to modify internal structures, processes and decision-making so they are best suited for the market. Some elements bring too much complexity or cost to alter and others benefit from global consistency. However making adjustments that make the organisation more in tune with the market and more prepared for growth will ensure you’re ready for efficient growth.

Despite the contrarianism it is possible to maintain both a global and local view – again, the secret is to be flexible. You’ll reap the benefits of aligning your marketing strategies with the borderless, globalised nature of the world we now live in. Set a single vision and a clear, global, overarching strategy. And then let the markets dictate the best way to help you realise your ambitions. Dynamics in local markets may be unique and there are times when you will need to let go – to allow the market to influence how you execute. It may mean bespoke product mixes, bespoke processes, propositions or service offerings. But as long as there is consistency of global strategy there can be great variety in local execution to deliver a much more powerful offering and more efficient growth.  

One of the most important things to take into account when expanding your remit is to resist the temptation to appeal to too many people or subjects. Focus on those who matter – your fans. This tighter approach will produce a far greater yield, a greater relevance and even better results. It’s worth gathering feedback and using this to make your next initiative sharper and slicker.

There’s absolutely no excuse for being ill informed about the latest trends and activity in your domestic territory and chosen markets. We operate in a borderless business world but this it is vital to keep your feet grounded in regards to your original values and objectives. Your core business values shouldn't be diluted as you expand. Global business is increasingly fluid, so be savvy and stay ahead of the game.

Trevor Hardy is founder of branding agency The Assembly

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