Whether it was Nestle in Africa, Ford in Europe, Mattel or Home Depot in China, there are too many examples of international business blunders to cover here, and these are just the ones we know about (with some of the worlds largest brands)!
Who knew that the Chinese preferred to hire a handyman rather than do it themselves (status) or Barbie was too frivolous for Chinese girls (distracts from the studies of perhaps their only child). When Ford owned Jaguar’s starting to look like, well Fords and not luxury cars this was a problem with Europeans (and Americans alike).
So, if corporations with dedicated staffs of hundreds sometimes can’t get it right when expanding to new global markets, what is small to medium-sized business to do? One solution may be to ask the right questions from those who can best answer them, and invariably these individuals are those actually living and working in the target markets.
All too often company management residing in the home market makes assumptions (falsely) about what markets are best suited for expansion, the best modes of entry, how to best adapt the product, and so on. These false assumptions most often occur because the actual in-market end-user customers (and distributors) were not fully consulted before the decision to expand.
It is critically important to do your due diligence in the very early stages of the international expansion process (do you have an international marketing plan?) to avoid the perils of making costly mistakes. If you don’t feel you have the internal resources to build and launch a fully effective international plan, then you may want to consider hiring experienced outside help.
Whatever you decide, take a lesson from some of the world’s leading brands that some upfront research can help avoid mistakes and help build long-lasting international business success!