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Why SME market expansion skids off the track!

SME owners are always seeking opportunity to grow their business and market expansion is something which they pursue with lots of zeal. In my consulting experience, I have seen many good companies tumble on market expansion for various reasons. Some companies invest in market expansion on the back of juicy numbers by analysts without sufficient evaluation or considerations of how they are to manage that region. It is not uncommon to see companies moving out into new regions, taking fancy offices or space in fancier co-working spaces but with little thought on how to manage and guide the resources in the new region. Moreover, companies may not have sufficient management bandwidth or systems to manage remote associates. They may also lack comprehensive processes for reporting and review, the result the remote employee is often left high and dry. An advanced manufacturing company has hired resources Northern India coverage. With no continuous inputs or a comprehensive GTM the sales resources were relegated to office with no coverage or account mining. Some leaders believe in personally traveling to the region and carry out monthly face to face reviews. These efforts are time consuming, costly and suffer with inefficiencies including high lead times.  Many companies do not invest in market making including market research, event analysis, customer references of new markets. Successful domestic expansion requires reasonable investment in funnel support, market making support and continuous sales review.

On the international front many Indian companies have suffered on cultural fit side. International expansion requires smart infusion of local talent and efficient support from domestic operations. A machinery manufacturing company hired a local for their European operations. The expat was used to flying 1st class and other privileges, ran a huge bill and was unwilling to join the weekly reviews on Saturdays. For the Indian company, used to frugal spending and constant feedback with its leaders, the experiment cost a bomb and set them backwards by six quarters. Successful international expansion requires support with local talent. Many companies find promoting internal resources to lead with adequate local talent support a good recipe for success.

It is not just your associates who matter but also the partners whom you work can make a difference in international markets. Partners like any other resource need to be supported and guided to meet your market expansion outcomes. An Indian IT product company was quick to identify international partners, invested in a partner management teams but support from the delivery was patchy. With no strong support from pre-sales and delivery, the budding partnerships withered away.

Dr TR Madan Mohan