Global Expansion and the Need for an Effective Distribution Channel Strategy
Successful companies have a fundamental understanding of what their customers want and how to provide solutions they will buy. They also understand where and how their customers want to buy. This success is ultimately dependent on the efficiency and scope of the company’s go-to-market strategies. Therefore, optimizing their distribution channel strategy is a crucial factor to companies achieving sustainable growth and competitiveness in both their domestic and foreign markets.
The rise of emergent market middle class and the resurgence of developing economies in the past two decades have accelerated globalization at an exponential rate. Tantalizing new opportunities in regions such as South East Asia and the Gulf Cooperation Council are complicated to achieve but impossible to ignore. Most companies are aware that global expansion carries risks but few truly appreciate the need for a comprehensive market entry strategy and the supplemental research. This is understandable; domestic success often breeds complacency and even undue confidence, the idea that “if it works here, it will work there” is not an uncommon one in the contemporary SME. Not uncommon but dangerous, understandable but avoidable. Many companies experience significant setbacks in growth and even bankruptcy following inefficient market entry.
Weaknesses and inefficiencies within a company’s distribution network can have detrimental consequences to both short-term financial results and long-term competitiveness. Additionally, poorly managed distributor relationships are an entirely preventable drain on supplier’s resources. These effects are significant within a domestic market but in a foreign market they can be disastrous. Potential consequences arising from ineffective market entry are poor-fit partners (often with exclusivity contracts); misaligned distributor objectives and cultural conflicts that disrupt channel partner relationships before they have a chance to succeed. This inevitably results in a failure to reach end-users allowing competitors the opportunity to establish significant market presence in your absence.
To achieve successful market expansion companies must engage in comprehensive market research to ascertain, not only the economic status and cultural preferences of the target market, but also to investigate the key players in their sector and the best-fit partners to sell their product and, ultimately grow their business. The factors to consider are numerous and diverse. Market maturity can guarantee stability and sustainability but may yield low margins through competitive pricing in a saturated market. Alternatively, emerging markets may yield greater margins at greater risk. Effective research applied to a methodical channel development strategy will reveal the intricate details of a target market, allowing suppliers to make truly informed decisions. When eventually a supplier is faced with choosing a distributor, they would do well to consider potential future market entry strategies. Larger distribution companies often have presence in multiple markets so a single long-term contract could yield multiple market entries facilitated by an ally that knows those markets well.
Market expansion is not just that, it is also a diversification of a company’s market portfolio. To maximize opportunity and dilute risk, companies should avoid over concentration in one region or sector and the eternal temptation of putting too many eggs in one basket!
International expansion of a company can be challenging but a comprehensive and methodical strategy that is founded in considering the distribution channel needs of each market separately will yield success. For any company considering or currently initiating expansion and diversification, start now! Develop and apply a global distribution channel strategy to support more effective business strategies, increase profitability and drive sustainable growth.