See some lessons learned from the expansion of Digital Results to other countries, from the perspective of an employee involved for 2 years in this process
The concept of International Expansion, for many businesses, may seem distant or even non-existent. However, the strong globalization process and the need to expand your company – and not allow new competitors to gain space in your market – makes many organizations start their internationalization process.
Growing internationally brings many challenges and previously unknown variables, from cultural behavior to legal regulations. However, by defining some processes and paying attention to some important points, which I will discuss below, you will be able to kick-start the much dreaded international growth.
So let’s go! Below I present the 8 points that were essential in the construction of this journey and expansion to Latin America and Europe.
1. Define the market for the company’s internationalization and don’t lose focus
Define which or which markets you will operate. Some points that can help you in decision making are the following: territorial or cultural proximity; ease of language; low number of competitors; tax breaks; labor.
Depending on your business and your desire to grow fast, you can start marketing your product or service to several customers from different countries, and in a disorderly way. Consequently, legal, tax and cultural issues will be its main challenge. If doing this in Brazil is already difficult, imagine in 10 countries at the same time!
From my own experience, I suggest that you define which market(s) will operate. Then learn about the focus countries, structure your operation to best serve you, adapt to the different variables and consolidate in these markets. Only then take the next step towards other nations.
2. Define your brand positioning
When replicating your brand from Brazil abroad, reassess your name and positioning. Even if your brand is strong and recognized nationally, internationally this can change.
For example: the Digital Results brand in Brazil is recognized as one of the largest Marketing Automation companies . Internationally, however, the name in Portuguese does not have the same strength. Thus, abroad, the company calls itself RD Station, which allows it to be easily recognized both in English and Spanish speaking countries.
3. Understand the cultural traits of your market
Understanding cultural characteristics will be one of the biggest challenges you will face. This ranges from creating a relationship with your customer to how you communicate with them.
Below, I present a survey of some approaches that I had to adapt in my routine when relating to clients in Colombia, Mexico, Spain and Portugal. Some are small, but they are good examples.
In Colombia, when talking to customers over the phone, email or Skype, I’ve noticed that they are extremely attentive when starting a dialogue. They always say the following sentences: “How are you?”, “How are you doing?” and “It’s a pleasure to greet you”. Furthermore, in business environments, they are extremely formal in their language and treatment pronouns. So be extremely kind and at the same time formal.
In Mexico, it is very important to convey confidence and security when speaking and requesting personal data. For example, many people do not have a bank account and do not have a credit card. Those that do have a certain distrust when transmitting this information, so demonstrate total security in all processes in customer service.
In Portugal, try to be as direct and literal as possible, as the Portuguese have these characteristics. This will make your relationship easier.
In Spain, there is the official language and 4 other co-officials that are widely used depending on the region. When I send an email or start a conversation with a customer in Catalonia, I prefer to greet them in Catalan as a sign of respect.
4. Speak your customer’s language
Speaking in languages, having the fluency and mastery of what is spoken in the country in which you are working will open doors for you. In addition, it will be an advantage in negotiation processes with clients and investors.
If you trade in Spanish-speaking countries and think “portunhol” will be enough, you’re making a big mistake. More than that, it will be transmitting an image of amateurism.
Thus, when structuring your team of professionals for the company’s internationalization, define the necessary languages so that they can act in the best way possible.
5. Pay attention to time zones and holidays
A strong lesson I’ve had in these almost 2 years is to be aware of the client’s time zone. And not only that, but mainly to local times, holidays and customs. This is extremely important so that you don’t make the mistake of waking up your customer.
For example, did you know that Mexico has 4 time zones within the country? And which stores and companies start their work from 10 am and take their lunch break from 3 pm? Thus, they also end their activities later than in Brazil.
Colombia starts its activities at 8 am and starts its lunch break at noon, similar to Brazil. On the other hand, almost all of your holidays fall on Monday.
The examples above are just some of the challenges you will face in your day to day to reconcile your company’s service schedule with those of your customers.
6. Define the payment methods
Another big challenge is to define in which currency you will trade and which payment methods you will use in this new market. Remember that managing finances is essential for the company’s internationalization.
Currently, in RD, we are using the “Go Global, Think Local” strategy . In other words, we operate with the country’s local currency and its main payment methods. In Colombia, our customers can pay in Colombian pesos and choose either credit card, PSE or Baloto.
This strategy facilitates our entry into these markets, as a local company closer to the country. In addition, we give greater confidence to consumers, who are paying with known means and are not vulnerable to exchange rates.
7. Issue invoices
As in Brazil all services or products sold need to be formalized and proven, nationally we use the invoice, but in international transactions we use the invoice.
The invoice is extremely important, because through it your customer can prove to the country’s tax authorities the cash outflow and international purchase.
8. Set up a support and service team
A manager I had said the following sentence: “the customer support team is the first to open the window and the last to turn off the light” . This means that, in any commercial relationship between company and customer, there will be many doubts, questions and processes to be resolved, even more if your company is in one country and serving another.
As a suggestion, if you are focusing on the Latin market and the possibility exists, hire employees from these countries. This is because the cultural issue and the ease in creating rapport with the client will help in your internationalization process.
And, again, speak your customer’s language! Thus, it will transmit the greatest possible security during negotiations and service.
Now that you know all these tips, it’s time to implement, test your market, and scale your product or service. Don’t be afraid of the company’s internationalization process!
Remember that there will be many challenges and moments that will bring more questions than answers. However, when you organize yourself, know your client’s cultural issues and, above all, undertake and innovate, you will achieve great results.
Finally, the internationalization process will bring a feeling of pioneering that few people will have the opportunity to enjoy. So get on this rocket!