How do I find a business partner overseas?
We talk to Dick Brentnall – the Institute’s services expert – about how to make your offering attractive to potential overseas clients. You can also read our discussion about how to win the contract and retain the business.
When talking about B2B service companies once again we’re dealing with intangibles. It’s critical that before we approach new partners, the service provider must know for sure what it is that they are going to be offering to the foreign client and how this differs from what they offer the domestic client.
Making your business offering attractive to overseas prospects
Have an international website – not just a UK one. It needs to be accessible and understandable to foreign clients.
Be really clear on what it is that your business is uniquely offering – not just on price, but also what your innovative solutions are. Is it your teamwork, your expertise, the level of service, or a combination?
Prepare testimonials and case studies of people who have used your service before. You need to be able to demonstrate to an overseas client the intangible value of your business. The case studies or testimonials will add value to your offering.
Finding the right partners
Once you have a package in place, what do you do to find clients? First of all, do your research.
There are six things you will want to consider here.
- Look at what contacts you have in the UK. Are there existing UK clients that have their own connections overseas that you could lock into? Are there international businesses here in the UK you could pitch to? They may not be clients of yours today, but they may be an entrée to making contacts overseas.
- Look at where is your simply just want to sell your services. Is it into a particular country or to a particular client? What type of client is it that you want to be targeting?
- Are there companies you can literally identify that fit what it is you are offering?
- Look to use trade events to network and look for companies that might want your offering. You can go either as a visitor and identify potential international clients and competition. Or participate as an exhibitor to market and sell your services. You can exhibit on your own or with a non-competing exhibitor, one who will attract visitors to the exhibit and also share costs.
- You may want to focus on a particular city or region in a country.
- The biggest tip I can give is wherever it is you’re seeking an overseas client, start small. Focus a specific service rather than the whole business. The sooner you get a small project to earn credentials and testimonials that demonstrate your offering overseas, then the sooner you can use those international testimonials to build your business incrementally.
Build slowly and build from there.
How can trade associations help?
Trade associations and government agencies can be very useful, both in the UK and overseas. They can be a rich source of ideas and contacts. The theme again is to make sure you’re doing your networking – you’re using your trade association to find contacts in the way discussed earlier.
It’s a people business?
You can do a lot of research behind the desk of course, but you need to work at it. At the same time, you can’t just pick up the phone and find clients.
All too often I’ve come across service exporters who are very enthusiastic to work with overseas partners, but they’ve not got their business properly organised. You need to know how you’re going to service the client.
If you’re doing business with someone in Australia, where they’ll often be asleep while we in the UK are awake, how are you going to service them? You need to be organised to deal with these international demands.