[Recently, a Vistage Connect member asked for insights on how to set up distribution in emerging market countries. What are the basic elements to success in entering emerging markets? And what kind of standard marketing templates can be created to make such a distribution plan work?]
As with many questions asked of consultants, the ultimate answer is “it depends.”
First: What is your definition of an emerging market? Vietnam and Thailand are both considered emerging markets — but they are different from each other and completely different from Middle East countries that might also be considered emerging markets.
Consider also how aware and comfortable your target market is, or is likely to be, with the type of product you wish to distribute. Marketing a staple like sugar is a lot different than the latest technical gizmo. Are you trying to promote your country’s fashion in that emerging market because you believe they would value it, or is there a demand for it that you are trying to fill?
Each country is different and must be approached separately for the greatest likelihood of success. In other words, trying to create an all-encompassing emerging market distribution strategy is likely to fail. While there may be elements of each country’s plan which are similar, the nuances will turn out to be critical.
That said, there are still universal questions to be answered for any country in which you want to expand. Begin by asking yourself these important questions:
- WHY does the market want my product? This isn’t the same as why you want to sell it to them. What have they been using prior to the arrival of your product, and why will they switch? Or, if your product is filling a new niche, what will it take to get customers to try it? Do you need post-sale support to assure the customer your product will be useful and usable?
- HOW does the customer in each country want to buy your product? Will it be available at retail? What does retail mean in that country? Whether retail or not, what’s the channel the customer wants to use to buy your product, as supported in that country?
- WHO is the right kind of partner for you to have in that country? The answers to the questions immediately above can help you understand what kind of partner you really need. In addition, in some emerging market countries the way business is “facilitated” could violate the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, or at least your values. If this is true and you want to do business there anyway, you need a third party who can insulate you from these practices.
Another aspect to consider is how to manage your partners in these countries. While a marketing plan for them could be helpful, it’d probably be better if they create the country specific plan they need you to support. Then, you can create a document detailing how you want them to represent you and your products or brands in their country.
Another key is the support you have to provide to your partners to allow them to succeed. Can you price profitably in their country? Do you have someone who can respond to their countless questions in a timely way, while also recognizing that the question would have been asked in a different time zone and if you want until your tomorrow to answer you’re making your customer or prospect wait two or three days before they get an answer.
Distribution in foreign countries can be a great way to expand your business, and it presents its own challenges. Add to that the emerging market nuances and the challenges multiply.
And, by the way, who at a senior level will plan to travel to these exotic locations two to four times per year to forge the bonds necessary to monitor and keep the business viable? Consider that final question along with all those above to begin mapping out a realistic strategy for marketing your products or services in another country or emerging market.
A recognized expert in marketing, innovation and leadership, strategic positioning, and customer relationships, Mitch Goozé is an experienced general manager and leader with operating experience in the high-technology and consumer products industries. Mr. Gooze has served as a member of the Board of Directors of several major private companies and is a Certified Speaking Professional (CSP) who’s been named Marketing Resource of the Year by Vistage International. Contact him at email@example.com.