Going Global? Choose Your Country Wisely

Guest
post from Anna Schlegel:

More than half
of
Google’s revenue comes from outside the United States.
Facebook, Apple, or PayPal, all enjoy global success. These companies have
“going global” down—they perform strongly in international markets, and can
execute across borders because they embed globalization on their daily executive
discussions.

Develop a Globalization Strategy

 
Part of the
agility for a company to stay strong globally is the makeup of their country
investment. Being decisive on how to prioritize global expansion is key here.
Many US companies fear the unknown and are not convinced you need to diversify
geographically to scale. However, those companies with a globalization strategy
will reap the benefits.

So, what countries do you
choose to start with? Most of these decisions are made in an HQ setting in
alignment with regional general managers tasked with global business expansion.
In a major corporation, it is common to see a general manager in charge of Asia
Pacific, another for Europe, Africa, Middle East, and another for the Americas.
Of course, there are countless combinations among those, depending on where
your company originated.

Most innovative and
technologically superior products have the potential to become global if they
are needed, are better than what exists, and will improve people’s lives. They
can see huge success in China or the United States simply because of its pure
customer diversity and thirst for constant improvements.  International growth by going global as an
importer-exporter offers opportunity aplenty. However, companies do not
typically start their operations with a global plan. Most companies spend years
perfecting product features, go global in a handful of countries and then go
global in a larger set.

Create
a Cluster of Countries
 
The
standard way of going global is to enter known territories such as a town
across the border of a neighboring country. Many companies take advantage of
their own treaties or free trade agreements. Most enterprises target top
economic powers such as the United States, China, and Japan.

Clusters can form for the
following reason:

·        
Compliance
with your government’s trade advisory rules.

·        
A
directive from the board of directors.

·        
OEM
models are ready to go.

·        
Joint
ventures become available and point to a handful of countries.

·        
Pathways
give reach to a specific set of countries.

No
two sets of country clusters will look the same, and an enterprise
globalization plan will look different for Japan than for Turkey. The following
examples are decisions to be made at the executive level:

·     Will
the company be selling indirectly through partners or will you hire sales
teams, or use both methodologies?

·     What
are the local teams needed to support each country in your company’s list: i.e.
HR, Legal, Facilities, Sales teams, Marketing, Support, Professional Services

·      Legal
entity creation.

·      Map
a plan for 1-2-3 year growth.

·     A
product globalization plan: what products are ready and internationalized?

What is
Geo-Alignment?
 

Organizing
a country strategy and explaining to the rest of the company which countries
matter most clarifies intent and aligns efforts to the right business
opportunities or calculated risks. You do not want everyone in your enterprise
supporting each country in the same capacity because no two countries are the
same, some bring back much more revenue. It is important that you have the list
of countries that matter in your company, and you understand who brings home
the top revenue.

Once
clusters of countries are defined, you can explain that to the full enterprise
and align your resources to countries and portfolios. That will help make
decisions on budget and resources, and will focus everyone on the top
opportunities. If you are leading globalization for your company, your first
questions should be: “What countries should we focus on, and what is the
strategy for each tier?” Your CEO and general managers will tell you if
focusing in the Philippines is more important than Vietnam.

Don’t Get Lost in Translation
 

You
will often need to factor in the tolerance of a language in the country if
localization cannot be budgeted for. For example, you will most likely want to
localize a product for Japan from English before you localize a product into
Norwegian, simply because Norwegians are more English tolerant. I am
generalizing here, but understanding what languages your countries can tolerate
will help you make decisions if you have to.

Ideally,
your company has a model that explains which countries deserve what
entitlements. This includes which countries will have a call center in the
primary language, localized products, a comprehensive digital presence, and
globalized partner programs.
This
is where your globalization strategists will spend the most time. They will
advocate for these entitlements to happen for specific countries. Rallying a
whole company to support local product sales with properly laid out
entitlements and plans is a winning strategy, and your globalization team
should have a major stake in this.


Anna Schlegel is the author of Truly Global, and named the first globalization innovator by SDL/Fortune. She is currently the Senior Director of Globalization and Information Engineering at NetApp, and has led globalization teams for over 20 years with firms including Cisco, VMware, Xerox, VeriSign and for two localization vendors as the CEO and General Manager.