Develop Your Go To Market Strategy

An international expansion guide for scale-ups

Brought to you by TechNation in collaboration with GTM Global

About this Guide

an introduction to the guide & how to use it

Introduction

Welcome to the Go-to-Market Guide (GTM Guide) the aim and intention is to develop a comprehensive navigable online resource with content and commensurate events covering the critical topics/aspects of international expansion for the owner-manager of a tech scale-up business.

For a scale-up business expanding to international markets, in one sense, has never been easier, as tech ignores borders and can move seamlessly and with agility into any part of the world. To a point. Conversely, the road map for that expansion is muddied by several critical factors, those are - time, resource, disruption, application, and regulation.

C-suite scale-up business owners are in a perpetual state of no time and stretched resources. They must maintain and encourage business at home but lacks the bandwidth in human, physical resources into other markets to understand and contextualise what expansion really looks like, over there. Furthermore, as they are constantly looking for funds to finance any expansion, it is unlikely they will commission a boutique international management consultancy to charge a mouth-watering hourly rate to deliver their international expansion planning for them.

A Process Map

What is more the roadmap for expansion is not a black and white linear process of simply finding an overseas office, staff and throwing at it a pile of money at an in-country lawyer. These days with tech in the cloud its collaborative, nuanced, fast moving, disruptive and highly individualised. This landscape is further compromised by the differences of landing and expanding into – say, US as opposed to the Middle East, EU, APAC, or China. There is no one size that fits all.

That is where the GTM Guide comes in. Based on detailed conversations and data points of some 4,000 UK scale-up companies that have been accumulated and logged over the last 4 years, we have been able to create a process map for an individual company to go-to-market Globally. Not only does this save C-suiters time that they do not have but it pin-points mission critical elements to consider or discount and connects to resonant commercial, trade and government bodies to enhance enablement, by country or by region.

A Journey, Not A Destination

Furthermore, international expansion is not a destination but a journey. Once you land in a country or region, that is the start, not the finish. The GTM Guide focuses on understanding and delineating your route-to-market, by country, sector, virtual or physical and how that all applies to the culture, jurisdictions, and markets therein.

Any guide cannot just be created as data-points but must have some context and application to it too. Having access to expert in country conversations, connections and peer-to-peer engagements that are delivered via a series of interactive 1-2-1 virtual events, is a vital part of this journey.

Our GTM Guide, provides verified and valuable right-sized advice for any ambitious, but overstretched scale-up business, to successfully go-to-market globally.

Using The Guide

The following content in this guide is set out in three sections.

The first section, entitled International Expansion, captures key information and data points from the 4,000+ scale-ups who we have worked with during the last four years in supporting their international expansion. We hope you will find this useful in understanding some of the challenges involved and being able to benchmark your company against those that have come before. We recommend you read this before diving into the next two sections.

The second section, Business Considerations, provides a categorised listing of the key functional, operational, tactical and strategic factors that influence your plans, your go-to-market strategy and importantly, your chances of success.

It is organised into categorised headings such as Financial, Marketplace, Sales, Operations etc. Within each category, is a list of the critical business topics that should be considered in developing your go to market plans. The category structure and the topics within each category, plus some useful commentary and contextual information, reflect our learnings over the last four years, from working with the 4,000+ scale-ups and 350+ international partners in our ecosystem.

If you are in your early stages of considering or planning your international expansion, we recommend you work through each topic, assimilating the information provided and thinking about the relevance/importance to your business, and how you would develop your plans – the options available, the resources needed, the ideal strategy and so on.

If you are at a more advanced stage of planning or already on your journey, we hope theis section will provide a useful aide memoire and reference document to help you refine and develop a more informed/complete business plan.

At the end of this process, you should have a good idea of the depth and breadth of the factors you must consider and address and also of the way they will influence your direction of travel and ultimately your chances of success.

International Expansion

we share our learnings from supporting over 4,000 UK companies in their overseas expansion

The GTM Global Ecosystem

GTM Global helps UK companies expand internationally and supports overseas companies looking to setup or do business in the UK and Europe.

Our global ecosystem comprises an international network of 4,000+ tech, digital & eCommerce scale-ups; 500+ in-country specialists, commercial partners & trade bodies, and a global network of economic development organisations, international investors and global infrastructure companies.

We also work with government bodies, economic development agencies, FDI organisations and independent trade bodies to deliver virtual trade missions, business development services and deal flow for inward-investment.

Over the last 4 years GTM Global has developed a high-touch programme of virtual Go-to-Market expansion workshops, webinars, 1-2-1 mentoring, online resources, and consultancy services, leveraging close connections with the ecosystem partners & their regional networks. Such is the strength of our connections we often facilitate game-changing introductions, expanding reach, minimising risk & accelerating both revenues & growth.

Our international expansion workshop programme offers a unique approach to acquiring the knowledge, connections and know-how necessary for successful overseas market entry. In a matter of a few hours’ delegates get prescient information through a series of 1-2-1 consultations with experts in different aspects of international business. Delegates also meet with specialist in-country service providers, economic development agencies, infrastructure companies and specialist commercial organisations who can support them on the ground.

The net result is that participants in the programme significantly refine and advance their international planning and get introductions & access to opportunities that would have taken weeks or months of research and qualification.

This eco-system has given us some mission critical insights that we can share and engage with C-suite scale-up owner managers to fast-track any planned international expansion.

What Makes A Successful GTM Strategy?

Successful expansion is like a jig-saw puzzle. Many owner managers will have some of the pieces clearly defined. However, it is identifying those missing pieces and aligning them into place that is key.

Local knowledge, expert advice and validation from people who know the sector/product is vital, alongside considering all aspects of market entry that can be tested through reaching out to in-country government and regional business networks, partners, trade bodies and economic development organisations.

Knowing how much any planned expansion will really cost you, having a well thought through risk/impact analysis as well as understanding the target marketplace, competition, consumer behaviour, supply-chain, stakeholders, trends etc. will be pivotal.

There will be skews in terms of unregulated versus regulated sectors plus product approvals and how that will impact timing and costs. Furthermore, this will vary from country or region in terms of general regulations, taxes, cultural, political, business and consumer behaviours.

Add to this that many companies will have already done some ‘fishing trips’ following up leads, attending (in those good old pre-pandemic days) conferences and events, or may have already gotten some direct sales online or via 3rd party distributors. Those trips will have given them parts of the jigsaw – but not all. That is where the GTM Strategy comes in.

The Four Stages of Expansion

In the course of working with the thousands of companies in our ecosystem, we realised that there are four distinct stages that each company goes through in their international expansion journey. At each stage, we see that the needs of the business vary, initially being more research focused but quickly moving into planning and execution modes, both of which have different support needs. The four stages are explained below.

Discovery

Broadly speaking this stage is about doing research and acquiring sufficient knowledge to identify the geographies and locations where opportunities exist and to understand (most notably) the likely barriers to entry, the legislative and regulatory compliance requirements, the potential routes to market, risk factors and likely costs.

Many companies start their journey not with a single focus on international expansion but as a result of having gained a few customers overseas and then contemplating whether this is a sign of potential worthy of pursuit. For these their discovery efforts are likely to focus on the locations where their customers already exist: nonetheless, there is a lot to discover when moving from the reactive sales situation to a more proactive strategic position.

Others have already identified a clear opportunity where they can focus on a particular region and the discovery is then about market entry strategy: Whether to setup an office, work through a local partner or distributor, attempt to support remotely and so on. These considerations and others, will be influenced by the geography and sector in question, and importantly the choice of routes to market for your products or services. There is more on this in the Business Considerations section below.

Planning

We find that in reality, the discovery and planning stages tend to merge together which is not surprising. However, a good number of companies do their discovery and then pause for thought, perhaps recognising that the business is not quite ready to commit the time and resources or that additional funding is required to do the job properly.

Whatever your circumstances, the need for a market entry plan is fundamental, just like any other business plan. And as is the case there, a well thought our strategy is a pre-requisite and critical to achieving successful market entry.

During the planning stage it can be hugely beneficial to get feedback from in-country specialists who know the local market and have intimate knowledge of your sector. At GTM Global we can often facilitate this by connecting you to relevant partners in our ecosystem. Not only does this help to validate your plan, but often, the specialist can make introductions to relevant business partners and sales opportunities. These can be invaluable.

In the next section of this guide, you can find useful information to help raise awareness of the business factors to consider when formulating your strategy and plans. The final section then provides a template for developing and documenting your strategy.

Execution

Your market-entry strategy will provide the over-arching direction of travel, but in practical terms, you are likely to need a support infrastructure on the ground especially if you are setting up an operation in the region.

For example, in your planning stage you may have determined that the best corporate structure from a tax perspective involves the incorporation of a local entity, and that this entity will hire local staff to support your operation.

To deliver on this, you will most certainly need a good lawyer and accountant with intimate knowledge of local practices and ideally with experience of representing similar companies with their market-entry structuring and operational agreements.

In addition to professional services support, there may also be benefits of connecting with local marketing agencies, logistics companies, supply chain organisations and so on. Rather than build these relationships from the ground up, many companies in the GTM Global ecosystem reach out to us to facilitate warm introductions from trusted partners.

There also good support infrastructures available in certain cities and regions operated by government departments, economic development agencies and other FDI organisations – and indeed trade partners and membership bodies. Many have incentives and benefits to attract inward investment and they provide access to important business networks & opportunities, including funding.

We have strong evidence within our ecosystem that this support is real and tangible so don’t underestimate the potential!

Growth

You’ve done the hard part; your market entry has been successful, and you have established your business in the region. Hungry for more success, you are now thinking about expansion.

Do you do this organically, raise further investment, acquire a business etc. Is it about duplicating operations in additional cities, states or countries? Are there new GTM strategies that are now in play given your local presence, market credibility and knowledge?

Addressing these questions and developing the right strategy will touch upon aspects of your earlier discovery and planning stages. However, this time round the scale, size and costs may necessitate advice and support from a different level of professional services organisations and trade partners. For example, M&A specialists, international investors, global structuring & tax optimisation etc.

This need might seem a long way off, but when the time is right, we hope to be able to support you through our global network of partners. Increasingly these include international VC firms and family offices, M&A practitioners, specialist IP lawyers, global law firms and corporate venturing companies.

Are You Ready?

GTM Global (GTM) success.

Understanding Risk

GTM Global (GTM) success.

Business Considerations

IMPORTANT BUSINESS CONSIDERATIONS FOR DEVELOPING YOUR GTM STRATEGY
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  • Vision: In describing your vision for overseas expansion, think about how you would articulate your achievements in say three years time.
  • Objectives: Define your short & medium term objectives for overseas expansion.
  • Key metrics: Specify the critical KPIs that will allow you to measure progress & success.
  • Success criteria: In the early stages of market development, many normal KPIs won’t be meaningful. Think about some alternative measures and milestones to allow you to measure short term successes.
  • Current status: Note your current turnover and percentage of export revenues plus other key metrics like products shipped, active users etc. It’s good to context this in relation to your objectives and also start to validate your thinking about budgets for international expansion.
  • Sector: Think about the sectors & industries you target and whether they are B2B or B2C (or any other combination). With a clear definition, it will be easier to consider routes to market, channels and potential partnerships.
  • Investment: Note your investments & and grants obtained to date and think about how you will fund your international expansion. Companies often consider overseas growth as a tactical extension of domestic sales activities. This may work for short term market testing and to get early sales but you should know the cost of supporting these sales into the future and importantly, consider how your are going to fund strategic expansion plans especially setting up a local operation.
  • Elevator pitch: Prepare or hone your elevator pitch so that it’s relevant to your new market & the stakeholders you will engage there. You will be surprised how useful this will be in discussions with new stakeholders.

  • Research: It is imperative for the success of your market entry plans that you conduct market research. Sizing the opportunity, analysing trends, looking at market/product fit,
  • Value proposition: Explain succinctly what the business does and it’s value to your customers, thinking about how this may be subtly different in your target market given cultural & competitive influences.
  • Competitive landscape: Research carefully the competitive landscape to identify direct & indirect competition in your target market. Specifically note UK competition and other non-domestic competitors. Consider how successful they are and learn from their market positioning & pricing models etc. Prepare a SWOT analysis & be honest about the risks & your assumptions.
  • Positioning: When selling overseas, competition can be strong and it can take a while for a new entrant to raise awareness and credibility in a new market. How you position your business, your brand, your products and services, and how you leverage your USPs and competitive advantages, will be key to establishing early credibility. Consider how you can articulate and promulgate this new positioning (in all promotional material & digital assets) so as to re-enforce your brand messaging & differentiation.
  • Pricing strategy: Consider the price points & pricing models of comparable products & services in your target market. Develop a realistic pricing strategy that considers the accepted norm and recognises that until you are known in the new territory, the barriers to entry are already high. Don’t forget to factor-in additional local costs related to import taxes and customs duties, sales taxes, delivery charges, and any other compliance-related fees.
  • Localisation: There are many aspects of localisation to consider including website domains & SEO, product packaging, content translation, cultural & behavioural factors, & local regulatory & legislative compliance requirements.
  • Segmentation: Consider whether you will segment your audiences using the same parameters as in your domestic market or whether local customer behaviour dictates different segmentation. It is also worth revisiting your definition of personas to make sure these align, or there may be new personas to consider. Remember also in some countries, such as the USA, geographic segmentation at State and regional level may be desirable or essential.
  • Routes to market: The choice of routes to market will be crucial in developing your market entry strategy and should be considered carefully. In some cases it can be advantageous to get early sales directly so that you have the intimate knowledge of how things differ from your home market before engaging with distributors or channel partners. Equally, for some products & services, the opposite may apply, in that an established local partner has that critical knowledge which you can leverage by working through them. Whatever your circumstances, do consider the range of possible routes to market from direct selling, via distribution, agent or representative organisation, via a channel partner, via membership bodies, trade organisations, marketplaces and so on. Note also, the mix and indeed your strategy may change over time especially as your local knowledge & experience improves. Of course your routes to market will also be driven by where your target audiences like to buy products and services and hence one reason why market research is so important.
  • Marketing

  • Online: If you have a light-touch online sales process that allows you to sell from outside your target country, you should still consider any localisation and compliance needs including messaging, brand perception, translation, domain strategy, SEO, terms of use & privacy policy, local legislation/regulatory requirements etc. If you are shipping physical product, there may be further localisation & compliance requirements. If your sales process includes an online interaction such as a product demo, then do ensure you take account of time zone differences.
  • Remote: Many companies start selling overseas as a result of attending conferences and trade shows or getting sales enquiries via their online presence. Often, to progress such opportunities, it needs a face-to-face meeting in-country and many companies arrange intermittent or regular sales trips for this purpose. This works to an extent, especially in the early stages of quantifying the opportunity. However, most successful businesses, quickly learn that a permanent local presence is required. Your options then include: one of your team on secondment for a period of time; hiring a local sales person or country manager; working through a rep organisation, distributor or even channel partner, to name but a few. Each has their pros and cons and should be considered carefully in relation to the complexities and intricacies of your product or service and the sales process.
  • Local Office: A local office is essential for some businesses because of the nature of their product, service and customers. However, in some geographies and cultures, it can be essential because face to face contact is the expected norm and the act of setting up an office is s strong indication of your commitment, beyond just closing the first deal or two. These and similar factors can be show-stoppers, so due consideration should be given to your strategy. Another important consideration is the location of the office. Should it be amid a cluster of similar tech companies, as an accelerator or tech cluster, or is it more important to be near your most important customers? Of course there are many other permutations to consider such as access to communication networks, availability of affordable skilled labour, local infrastructure and so on. It is possible to obtain advice & guidance from FDI organisations and overseas trade bodies etc and you can find out more in the sections below.
  • Outsourced: If you are not ready to commit to your own sales office, you might consider whether sales be entrusted to a 3rd party? This could be through a channel partner, a distributor, a systems integrator or even as a JV. This is a critical question which needs careful consideration. There are big advantages to gaining the local knowledge and experience first hand which might be possible if one of your team camps out for a period of time. Equally, the right partner, is likely to have significant local knowledge and connections which could shorten the learning process and give you immediate reach. These decisions are likely to be driven by the nature of your products and services, the sales process, your customer needs etc. But remember, selecting a supplier or business partner in your domestic market is hard enough; overseas it can be even tougher.
  • Reach: is this a B2B, B2C, or a B2B/ C or D2C model?

  • Objectives – define your short & medium term objectives for overseas expansion
  • Key metrics – specify the critical KPIs that will allow you to measure progress & success
  • Success criteria – in the early stages of market development, many normal KPIs won’t be meaningful. Think about some alternative measures and milestones to allow you to measure success
  • Online: How much of the sales effort can be supported remotely from HQ / online?
  • Local Office: How important will a local physical office presence be? How close to clients will you need to be to ensure sales growth? Time zone coordination with HQ, how easy / difficult will this be?
  • Outsourced: Can sales be entrusted to a 3rd party? Would this be through, channels, distributors, systems integrators or as a JV?
  • Reach: is this a B2B, B2C, or a B2B/ C or D2C model?

  • Online: How much of the customer support effort can be supported remotely from HQ / online? Time zone differences may be important here.
  • Local Office: How important will a local physical office presence be? How close to clients will you need to be to ensure effective customer support? Time zone coordination with HQ, how easy / difficult will this be?
  • Outsourced: Can customer support be entrusted to a 3rd party? Would this be through, channels, distributors, systems integrators or as a JV?
  • Reach: is this a B2B, B2C, or a B2B/ C or D2C model?

  • Objectives – define your short & medium term objectives for overseas expansion
  • Key metrics – specify the critical KPIs that will allow you to measure progress & success
  • Success criteria – in the early stages of market development, many normal KPIs won’t be meaningful. Think about some alternative measures and milestones to allow you to measure success

  • Objectives – define your short & medium term objectives for overseas expansion
  • Key metrics – specify the critical KPIs that will allow you to measure progress & success
  • Success criteria – in the early stages of market development, many normal KPIs won’t be meaningful. Think about some alternative measures and milestones to allow you to measure success

  • Objectives – define your short & medium term objectives for overseas expansion
  • Key metrics – specify the critical KPIs that will allow you to measure progress & success
  • Success criteria – in the early stages of market development, many normal KPIs won’t be meaningful. Think about some alternative measures and milestones to allow you to measure success

  • Objectives – define your short & medium term objectives for overseas expansion
  • Key metrics – specify the critical KPIs that will allow you to measure progress & success
  • Success criteria – in the early stages of market development, many normal KPIs won’t be meaningful. Think about some alternative measures and milestones to allow you to measure success

  • Objectives – define your short & medium term objectives for overseas expansion
  • Key metrics – specify the critical KPIs that will allow you to measure progress & success
  • Success criteria – in the early stages of market development, many normal KPIs won’t be meaningful. Think about some alternative measures and milestones to allow you to measure success

Develop Your GTM Strategy

your strategy co-developed or reviewed by market-entry experts
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