By Chris Walsh, Sales Director at Alpha Generation Distribution.
Making the decision to open up shop in a new territory can be a daunting prospect for any business. It can also be a complex issue as that business has to consider – and relate to – the needs of both its end-users and vendors in an alien culture.
To succeed in cracking the UK, businesses must therefore consider which sectors they're going to focus on to get the best take-up. They need to work out how they're going to best communicate with locals in the new territory and what impact cultural differences may have on their relationship with these customers.
It's also vital that, for channel success, businesses find a platform country from which to operate (for example the UK if they're hoping to move from the US into Europe) and work from the ground up to build relationships and ultimately build their business.
1. Understanding trends
Just because a business specialises in one particular vertical in its home territory doesn't mean it will be able to target the same industry in the UK.
For example, if the company's focus is the private healthcare industry in the US, it may find when it arrives in the UK, it would struggle to sell its products and services into the public healthcare market, because the budget just isn't there. In the UK, healthcare organisations buy what they need and anything that's non-essential goes to the wish list.
Having that local knowledge, and knowing that just because it works in one country doesn't necessarily mean it's going to work in the UK is key. Partners need to understand the different dynamics associated with each different country.
The job of a distributor is to look through that filter and work out what can be transferred. The partners need to consider that too.
2. Local knowledge
Similarly, knowing the way customers think is vital. For example, if a reseller from outside the UK were to try and sell to a local authority, having no knowledge of how a British council worked, they would struggle to connect with the CIO.
If, however, the company's salesperson had spent their life working in the local area and knew the everyday problems of the residents in the area, they would have a much better chance of a sale. They know the language and have something in common with the key decision maker. Building that rapport is essential.
People buy from people, and building up trust takes time. But having a local presence and local knowledge can make that job a whole lot easier. In fact, it's an invaluable premise for launching a business in the UK.
3. Cultural differences
Cultural differences also come into play, and are seen both inside and outside of business. British people are typically polite while other countries can be a little more aggressive in their nature. This doesn't make it wrong; it's just the cultural way of doing things.
Whether an international business is setting up shop in the UK or the company originates from the UK but is now venturing across the Atlantic or Pacific – even the channel in some instances – it needs to understand these differences and adapt accordingly.
It may be that the local team is able to take this on and bridge the gap between the locals and the business, or it may be that culture must be taught before making the move. But, if the vendor is unable to culturally connect, it will find it much harder to build a business in a new territory.
4. Language variables
Culture aside, language is another barrier businesses will come across when they launch in a new country. Even the product documentation for US and UK products highlights the differences between American English and UK English.
Language doesn't just need to be translated in manuals, but marketing material, resources for partners, customers too – even the way the products themselves offer instructions and the information to end-users. All this needs to be localised and, typically, it's far easier to translate from American English to UK English rather than to German, Italian or French.
5. Using the UK as the key to European success
The UK is the perfect platform for those wanting to spread their wings into Europe without physically having to have a presence everywhere. The main language is English, which means it's an instant hit with the US, Australia and other English-speaking countries. It's culturally like the US and it's easy to get to the whole of Europe in just a few hours at most if the company's base is in the UK.
Alpha Generation's partner Bromium, for example, which is headquartered in the US and has an R&D centre in the UK, uses the UK as its European platform for pushing its solution to the enterprise. A lot of vendors wanting to expand overseas take a similar tactic, irrelevant of what people say about Brexit and how it's going to affect business.
The UK is a competitive market and, as such, businesses have to build that local presence, even if that's just through an experienced distributor. Even if the major growth areas are outside the UK, it would be foolish to set up anywhere else when looking to expand.
Businesses looking to make the leap must consider not just whether the technology fits, but whether it's targeting the right verticals, has the local knowledge and cultural acceptance to connect with customers. Only then can they truly succeed.