I am a strong advocate of Korean global business. I see great opportunities and am passionate about seeing Korean brands succeed overseas as well as international brands thriving in Korea. However, as I have shared in a previous Brand in Asia article, my experience is that companies, Korean and global, need to recognize the considerable upfront investment required to enter markets outside their home countries.
In this follow up commentary I would like to share what I see as best practices.
Step 1: Do your homework
Invest time and resources in Discovery of the local market. Seek out an expert knowledgeable in both the local market and business sector to perform an objective detailed competitive analysis. The report should identify the strengths and weaknesses of the competition within the market, strategies that will provide you with a distinct advantage, the barriers that may prevent you from entering your market, and weaknesses in the competition that can be exploited.
Frankly, too often we see a company just scratch the surface. In some cases this is to control initial investment costs by assigning in-house teams to work remotely by researching via Google search. In other cases the staff at headquarters dispatches a team to do some “field work,” attend trade shows, and perhaps arrange to visit a few potential partners. This falls short of a legitimate competitive analysis.
Step 2: Get in front of the right people
For highly recognized U.S. or global brands, there is less a barrier in setting up meetings because product or service name recognition does open doors. I have found that this recognition at least generates enough interest for a potential partner to want to learn more. For Korean brands entering an overseas market there is considerably more effort in establishing upfront credibility.
I should point out that a cost comes with arranging solid introductions. This process is very time consuming for both international and Korea market entry. Additionally, anyone with the skill set, savvy and reputation to make introductions, especially with decision-makers, cannot be expected to do so as a favor.
Top consultants with a proven track record also do not work contingent on a potential partner and the company signing a contract.
Step 3: Share your brand, product and service like a first date
Although best done in person, I recognize introductions and first contact today is often “virtual.” That said, any content presented at this stage should be the very highest quality and well localized. Far too often, I see re-purposed PDF and PPT presentations—not unique, custom tailored content. Then, make sure the grammar, spelling and punctuation are double-checked by a native speaker, and the pages are free of format glitches.
Step 4: Share the Vision
During their screening and selection process global companies will select a top candidate among potential partners based on a number of criteria—foremost being the partner’s solid vision and business plan in the market. They will ask if the local partner has performed a detailed competitive analysis (see Step 1). They will then ask for a comprehensive Go To Market Business Plan. As a best practice, the Business Plan needs to be detailed, not a 3-4 page overview. As with PDFs or PPTs shared in introductions, the Plan needs to be free of glitches, poor grammar or spelling errors. The documents need to present an attractive, sound business opportunity.
All said, these 4 steps are best practices that can lead to a successful Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) and then agreement. They require time, resources, and commitment—with up front cost and many steps counter to past and current practices in Korea that traditionally require less investment.
Frankly, global business comes with challenges and risks. The effort requires embracing a new model and taking bold action by committing resources to a project that takes them into uncharted waters even when they feel a more practical approach is to tackle each stage as it unfolds.