Great brands know no boundaries, once again demonstrated as Starbucks opens its first store in India. Some great brands have rapid success going into new markets, others take more time to get established, and some ultimately fail. Those that don’t succeed right from the start face certain problems in common. If you find yourself in a similar situation—a great brand entering a new market—consider the following:
- Don't Assume Consumers Know You: Sure, in your home markets almost everyone may know the brand and products or services you offer. But don’t let your perceptions and past experience inadvertently prevent you from seeing and fully understanding what you are getting into. Far too often, even great brands run by very, very smart and successful people apply the same approach to sales and marketing in a new market as they do in existing ones. Compounding matters, corporate headquarters unrealistically puts pressure on the local team to deliver the same financial results using an existing sales and marketing approach.
- Rethink: Usually everything has to be rethought: the messages, marketing spend levels, how and what information is communicated, how sales explains the product, and even who sales should pitch. One of the world’s greatest brands struggled for years in China until yet another new team arrived from the US headquarters and realized that instead of advertising in media then selling to newly emerging retail chains and existing distributors as was done in the US, they needed to go direct to consumers. Feet-on-the-ground sales people went into villages to show consumers how to use the product with very straightforward marketing collateral. Following the villages’ initiative, sales and marketing effectively transitioned to a media and retail chain approach leading the brand to a huge success.
- Warning Sign: You know you have trouble if the marketing and sales plan (including the financial plan) for a new market looks the same as for an existing one. Bring people in who know the new market well to develop market-specific plans, then guard that nobody in the organization—from finance to the current sales force—accidentally changes it later to conform to their view of the world.
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