Building A Go-To-Market Strategy: Geography & Culture

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Any business with ambitions to target a new international market or regional territory must carefully consider the impact different geographical locations and cultures will inevitably have on its go-to-market (GTM) strategy. Top of the priority list should be an honest assessment of whether the existing proposition is viable in different markets, and every GTM strategy should fully consider the culture of one market compared to another before any investments are made.

For example, understanding the different values held by various cultures, both as they appear regionally and how they fluctuate within singular regional markets, will help inform decision-making. Planning for how these may fit with existing organizational culture can also help create a cohesive international team, where building support behind corporate goals is more practical, irrespective of where people are based.

The importance of this process should not be underestimated because, without doubt, differences in geographic location and culture can have a significant impact on GTM planning. Something as fundamental as language barriers should always be a major consideration, especially for smaller businesses who perhaps don’t have the resources or in-house skills to devote to the complexities involved.

This helps explain why so many ambitious U.S. organizations establish their international presence in the UK or Ireland, where cultural and language similarities can help accelerate the initial stages of development. Elsewhere, hiring multilingual people who have English as a second language is commonplace across Europe and APAC so that businesses can understand how to conduct themselves, meet local requirements and demonstrate their cultural empathy.

In making these critical choices, nothing can substitute for background research and either hiring or working with local partners to understand the norms, laws and conventions of each country. Employer of Record (EOR) services, for example, can offer an extremely effective strategy for adding experienced local talent with minimal overheads. In doing so, it becomes much more practical for businesses of any size to turn an expansion opportunity into an international revenue stream.

GTM plans must, therefore, be bespoke to each country – adopting a ‘one size fits all’ approach is likely to result in a significantly higher risk of failure. The way a company acquires customers in Asia, for example, will usually be quite different from the approach required in Europe, where despite the reach of the EU across 27 nations, the cultural adjustments required to build a successful business in France, Germany and Italy, for instance, can be significant.

The situation in the UK has, of course, been complicated by Brexit, and while this should in no way deter U.S. business from moving across the pond, it does make sense to understand the various changes in regulation by taking advice from an experienced specialist.

On a more general level, the impact of COVID-19 has also brought about other changes that can impact GTM planning. Perhaps most significant is the growth in remote work, which has opened up the world to hiring people irrespective of where they are based. In many organizations, hiring decisions are now less to do with geography, because having proved to themselves that remote working is effective, they view the whole world as a potential talent pool. This mindset has become particularly important for organizations hiring against the backdrop of a skills shortage in certain positions.

However, even though the options for hiring talent to help implement a GTM strategy are increasing, it remains important to understand the nuances that apply in each country on any potential international expansion list. With close to 200 countries making up the global economy, the opportunities are out there for businesses with the drive and determination to succeed, but as far as geography and culture are concerned, the devil is in the details. With the right planning and advice, however, domestic success can quickly convert into international growth.

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