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Reach foreign markets through international partnerships

By Pernille Fischer Boulter Thursday, July 19 2012

CITP president & CEO of Kisserup International Trade Roots Inc. & Kisserup Europe

YOU have likely already tailored your marketing strategy around markets with a huge diaspora. This is what we in consulting lingo call “low hanging fruit”.

You can reach a segment of the population in a foreign country who are already loyal to your products or services and if not utterly loyal, the target audience will not need much persuasion to recognise the market of origin and are likely to support products and services originating from their region of the world.

The frequent markets for reaching English speaking Caribbean diaspora are Canada, USA and England. Many Caribbean islands even have national representation of some form in those countries: an investment promotion office, an export promotion office, both being great promotional efforts outside the reach of an Embassy or Consulate.

So why then, am I promoting international partnerships, and untraditional markets like Colombia, South Africa, Poland, Holland and Spain? It being in legal form of a joint venture, or in its most frequent form, private sector firms partnering to bid a project or join forces to co-manufacture or co-market products and services are a severely under-utilised way of entering new markets.

Bear in mind that Statistics Canada states that the number one thing that you can do as a private firm to become more competitive (nationally and internationally) is to EXPORT! So, I suggest that you focus your export efforts towards new markets, new opportunities and new approaches to market expansion.

Our firm is located both in Canada and in Europe. This gives us ultimate reach doing international consulting and trade training.

We do not have an office in the Caribbean, nor do we have one in Colombia. We prefer to partner locally when we bid projects locally. The model works for us, it works for the clients as they will always get the best of both worlds: local knowledge and cultural and politically fitting solutions combined with best practices and hands on knowledge transfer from Canada and the EU, both being huge potential destination markets for Caribbean products and services.

Every time our firm wins a contract, local consultants work with us. When we land regional projects, we have several local consultants working with us, side by side, learning from each other, optimising knowledge transfer for present and future projects.

However, it is not always easy to get to partner! Admittedly, we are a young firm (established in 1998), women owned and operated and we perhaps lack a bit of the corporate suit and ties in some people’s opinion. Not that this is reflected in our track record — we have a solid track record in creating results for private sector, for Governments and for international donors. We like to believe that it is our hard work combined with our consistent local partnering that has made us so successful. But, we often have to work long and hard in order to get to partner.

Some firms in the region have an apparent disdain for international partnerships, are reluctant to discuss partnering, fees, commitment and resources. Asking open questions on revenue expectations, day rates and track record are often received with a frown.

Our firm, like any other firm, local, regional or international, is judged by its track record.

We are only as good as our partners, as good as our consultants, as good as our trainers. We are thus vigilant about our partnerships. After 14 years, we have been successful in establishing great partnerships. We still pursue new ones.

The last partnership took almost two years! A firm in the Caribbean who was a great match, similar size revenue (a.k.a — no one is threatened), similar human resources, similar focus and even, similar project experience.

This meant that we would often compete for the same projects, be shortlisted on the same projects, even compete on price as our track record and proven approach was quite similar. We approached them.

We put an ‘‘ask’’ on the table, we asked for them to join us in a bid. We showed them our previous work, previous tenders, pricing and staff. We offered them full disclosure. They never answered.

Now, two years later, we frequently work together. We have plans for an actual joint venture. We are good at working together. We are entering new markets in the Caribbean, Pacific, and North and Latin America that neither of us would pursue on our own. Due to the strengths created as a result of our partnership.

We have approximately 40 local consultants in Africa Caribbean and Pacific that we work with.

Some more than others as they bring partnerships to the table too. Our reach, penetration of new markets and our market share in known markets are due to skills, enthusiasm, energy and most of all Great Local Partnerships!



The views expressed in this column are not necessarily those of Guardian Life of the Caribbean Limited.

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