Innovation and networking are the foundations for a strong economy of entrepreneurs.
To create a new beginning for the economy, we need to innovate and we need to export. They go hand-in-hand.
So how do you get ready for international markets? It is not much different
than getting ready for business in general. It needs preparation, preparation and preparation. I think it starts with narrative and storytelling. What is the compelling story for the foreign markets?
You will only know that by doing some research on these foreign markets.
Doing the research
That research does not need to be difficult. You can post a question on Small Business Can and connect to entrepreneurs who are already trading in those markets and learn from people who have been there and ‘bought the T-shirt’.
You could tap into your LinkedIn network and map the foreign connections. Our experience is that if you ask for help, other entrepreneurs will help — it is in the moral code of |entrepreneurs to do so, and Small Business Can proves that.
As part of developing connectivity in the markets you are targeting, I would strongly advise you set up an advisory board with people not from Northern Ireland, but from Europe, USA and Asia. Combine LinkedIn with Skype and you can have your first virtual international advisory board meeting in days.
Regardless of how you decide to do your research, this is more about doing and getting out there than anything else.
By talking to people, visiting international trade fairs, talking to your connections, etc, the opportunities will arise and the ‘how to’ will clarify itself.
What you need to do is to create the serendipity to allow this to happen. Once you have your story right, you do need to decide on the business model and which routes to market you want to take.
Routes to market
Step one and an obvious one is the internet. The minute you have a website, you have the potential to go global and scale.
Listening to the good news stories of businesses on Small Business Can the advice is:
- Focus on only a few core markets first
- Find the right partners
- Make sure that your business is important to your partners (preferably at strategic level)
- Manage those partners well and develop a deep relationship
- Use Invest NI (they are superb in connecting you to the right people)
- Use the Irish Diaspora, but don’t waste their time with something that does not stand up as a very solid business proposition
- When designing a product or service, immediately take a global, scalable perspective