Few products these days are revolutionary, which means that companies need to be innovative in every aspect of their business in order to keep one step ahead. This is even more so for companies that want to compete in the regional and global arena.
Why go regional/ global?
- .Domestic markets may be well penetrated; share and revenue growth is now static or even declining.
- Foreign markets are growing, developing, showing attractive potential
- Competitors are investing in new overseas opportunities
- Customers are expanding globally and expecting their domestic partners to follow
- Foreign partners offer attractive capabilities, technologies, market access.
- Costs and regulatory pressures are lower in countries that want to attract foreign direct investment.
The process used to develop products for international markets is similar to that for domestic markets. The major difference is the increased requirement to analyse a product’s suitability for launch as several countries maybe targeted as opposed to one.
Your process for international product development should include:
Make sure you use all resources available to you both internal and external for new idea generation. Get everyone involved from employees, R&D, competitors, customers, sales personnel and distributors through to external experts. Ideas for new product may include:
- Neglected Niches: In any industry there will be several niches that for some reason have been unattractive to bigger players or perhaps aren’t served at all.
- Policy Changes: A change in government policy can create a new market overnight.
- A New Approach: Is it possible to deliver the same product/service but in a different way that is more convenient and saves time?
- Look At The Calendar: What are the significant holidays through the year in the countries you want to enter? Can you capitalise on them with a special offer? Can you come up with a special limited edition of your product, tied to the holiday?
- Look For Problems And Needs: There is a plethora of information available to us today – use it to find out what leads/ customers in the news markets need and what problems they are struggling with.
Develop tough criteria to test ideas for their suitability in all target regions or countries so opportunities and any country specific restrictions are not missed. What will work wonders in one country might not make it off the starting blocks in another. Also remember to assess the level of adaptation needed for the product to be accepted in each market. Decide whether the market requires your company to standardize or adapt your products to the market.
Establish criteria to measure launch success and failure and link these to your target markets. You should also make provision for contingencies and unexpected events that might just occur.
- The product must meet a market’s needs better than the competition and customer alternatives (your product strategy needs to be right)
- The product must be taken to market through competitive routes to market (you need a viable, volume go-to-market strategy and ability to execute in a way that drives sales growth)
- The product must be rock-solid, high-quality and actually deliver the value promised so customers actually get the benefits they’re seeking
- The pre-launch market conditioning must create enough awareness and “buzz” with both prospective customers and sales channels that this new product is coming to enable the product to gain enough early mindshare and traction that leads to both actual “proof” and “social proof” that the product is ready for the market.
All relevant functions from production to design should be involved in the product development process. Whether in-house or external R&D is used, it’s important that key management has easy access to the technology experts. It might also be practical if R&D were located close to your key target markets.
Test Your Market
The test area must be representative of your key target markets if the results are to be trusted. Infrastructure for market research, advertising and distribution will need to be established and you should remember to consider how your competitors may respond in your test market and globally. In order to test your target market , you need to:
- Ask the Right Questions: As a first step to determining the potential market for your product or service, you want to focus on asking the right questions about your company and your products.
- Google It :While it may seem obvious, using Google and other search engines can be an effective way to gauge the potential market for your idea and whether or not you’ll be facing competition.
- Collect Feedback: Getting direct feedback via surveys or interviews and product testing can be another very effective way to gauge interest in your product or service. It will prevent your company from making very costly mistakes.
- Sell Something, Anything: The most valuable feedback you can get is whether someone, regardless of what they tell you, will actually hand over money for it.
Depending on your budget, prepare a launch plan for either sequential launches where your primary focus is on lead markets or for a simultaneous launch where all countries are entered at the same time. Be ready for your competitors to react. If they are serious players they will not give up their slice of the market without a challenge.
Protect Your Competitive Advantage
Think about your competitor’s ability to copy and launch similar products. You should protect your Intellectual Property by taking out patent protection. Establishing a licensing agreement could also protect your position by enabling fast widespread distribution of your product on a regional or even worldwide basis.
Firms can increase their international competitiveness by:
•Rationalisation of output to get rid of high cost plants
•Relocating to places where labour costs are lower
•Process and product innovation
•Incorporating the latest technology into investment
•Sourcing from abroad where appropriate
•Seeking out new market opportunities
•Improving relationships with suppliers and customer
Timing Is Everything
Finally, timing is critical for new market entry and internationalisation to succeed. Get it right and you’ll be able to fully exploit opportunities or competitor weaknesses in regional or global markets. Get the timing wrong and your company could pay for it for a long time.
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