We might spend our days helping technology companies succeed in new markets, but it’s important to recognize that international expansion isn’t the holy grail for everyone. At least, it might not be the best move for your business right now.
Too many executives, investors and founders get caught up in the global mindset without considering if they’re prepared to invest sufficiently to make it work. That’s not just in terms of budget, but also culture, process, and people. Not being ready or prepared to invest in these areas is a sure-fire way to end up disappointed, having spent money that might have been better spent elsewhere.
We see it all the time in localization. Company A wants to target XYZ country because they’ve hit a growth plateau at home and they see their peers scaling rapidly elsewhere. Or they see the SaaS stars they look up to evangelizing about the global growth phenomenon and how international scale is the only way to reach the $100m ARR tier.
Whatever it is, it may be true. It may be valid. It may be desirable. But it may not be right for you. Right now at least.
Because if your entire globalization plan consists of lining up a bunch of translation vendors and then placing their quotes in ascending order, or adding ‘EMEA’ or ‘Global’ to a few existing job titles — it might not work out so well. If you’re trying to ‘go international’ with a couple of thousand dollars, a hunch, and a vague promise of a big deal in your target country then the best thing to do is wait.
Wait until you have the funding to do it right. Wait until you have buy-in across finance, product, marketing and sales. Wait until you have a localization partner in place because they’re the right fit for you rather than the cheapest on the block.
That’s not to say you shouldn’t take a minimum viable localization approach, do some more research into your target market(s), or do some test marketing with properly localized landing pages and outbound campaigns. What I’m saying is that you might achieve more in the long term by waiting until you’re in a position financially, culturally and operationally to do it properly.
I know this flies in the face of much of the MVP and ‘fail fast’ advice that’s out there. But look at some of the SaaS superstars — Salesforce is a great example. From day one they built their product with international in mind, and their culture was always centred around a global mindset. This was all happening long before the first localized version of their CRM product was released. Sustainable growth, phased market launches, and a commitment to ‘doing it well or not at all’ have been key to Salesforce’s global success.
If you want to talk about your plans and get some honest feedback, we’re always happy to talk.