The biggest mistake companies make when going global

ONE MINUTE BRIEFING: Dun & Bradstreet's Head of European Trade Credit explains how the credit rating agency's America first approach to product development restricted global growth.

by Stephen Jones
Last Updated: 03 Jan 2019

You only have to look at the number of companies that got burned trying to enter new markets to realise that there’s a certain art to launching products globally. The mistake that many make is to assume what worked in one will simply work elsewhere.

Having provided businesses with commercial data and insights for over 170 years, Dun & Bradstreet knows what a successful piece of credit rating software looks like. But as its Head of European Trade Credit Tim Vine explains, when it came to taking this product global, the company had a lot to learn.

"Ten years ago D&B was much more focused on the US as its primary market. When it came to product development it was almost develop for the US - with a single currency code and one set of timezones - and then force fit elsewhere. This approach is problematic because you hard bake single market tendencies that are hard to apply elsewhere.

"The best example is our DNBi product. This was our most widely adopted trade credit tool that enables customers to check out the trade credit risk of other businesses. It was flying off the shelves in America, it had very little uptake outside. It even struggled in other English speaking countries.

"Different markets - no matter how close they seem - have different cultures and different expectations of what they need products to do. So stuff as simple as the pound being distinct to the dollar can hold an otherwise successful product back.

"When we set out to develop D&B Credit, our globally scalable equivalent to DNBi, we worked to the strapline of making it 'globally consistent but locally relevant'. It sounds basic, but we made sure that we had a representative set of end users from as many different geographies and industries from the outset. So customers would be able to use the same product anywhere in the world, but adapt it to the nuances of their individual region.

"We chose Canada as our test market because it's multi-lingual, does not use the US dollar and has several different time zones. Culturally it was also different to the US and the UK.

"It took much longer to develop, but the difference in where we've been able to take it has been marked. DNBi only ever got to six largely english speaking countries. D&B Credit has already been sold in over 35 and it's only been in market for two and half years."


Don’t take the easy option -- It can be tempting just to  meet the needs of the largest and most vocal customers. But a successful product also needs to serve those who are yet to use it. It might take longer to bring to market, but the product will have a greater reach.

Think local -- It may be the greatest thing since sliced bread, but if software doesn’t encompass multiple time zones, languages and currencies it will never take off. A truly global product will be designed for multiple local economies.


Former Mothercare and LOVEFiLM exec Simon Calver explains how Pepsi adapted its products to match a new marketDespite only selling a single product, WD-40 has spent six decades at the top of its game: here’s how. Or to find out how family business Ramsden International went from Grimsby to the global stage, read here.

Image credit: Wavebreakmedia/Gettyimages


Stephen Jones recommends

5 quick tips for expanding abroad

Read more

Find this article useful?

Get more great articles like this in your inbox every lunchtime

5 ways to improve the mental wellbeing of your staff

These employee benefits won’t eradicate mental health issues among your workforce, but they’ll certainly help....

How businesses can retain staff amid the 'Great Resignation’

MT Asks leaders for their best retention tips.

The Theranos trial: why the biggest risk to your business may be you ...

At 34, Elizabeth Holmes was the youngest self-made female billionaire in America. Now, at the...

5 organisational flaws that can derail your company

It's time for businesses to counteract the status quo.

Management Today launches Leadership Learning

New executive education brand will offer online courses with expert academics

Two powerful questions to help you make better decisions

What’s missing? How did we get here? Leaders should ask these two critical questions to...