How to choose the right strategy for entering foreign markets?

When considering the best strategy for entering foreign markets, particularly in the EU and the USA, various tailored approaches stand out, adapted to individual business needs and circumstances.

My first business engagement with the American market dates back to 2016, when I went to Chicago for a several-month project after obtaining a work visa. As a fresh master’s graduate in international business, I experienced firsthand the vast differences between theoretical knowledge and the realities of the American market. As someone who travels extensively and explores different cultures, I was quite surprised and somewhat shocked, as many of the ideas presented earlier seemed somewhat “fabricated” or unrealistic. As an advocate of ecology and sustainable entrepreneurship, I initially felt a strong resistance in the new environment, which triggered a series of thoughts and encouraged me to deepen my understanding of their economy and economic structures.

After my initial experience in the USA, in 2018 I began learning and making my first attempts to enter European markets, from Germany, Austria, Serbia, Poland to Norway and Denmark (previously, as an economics student, I had only worked with countries like Bahrain, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia through an internship at the company Gorenje). Each market presented new challenges, both legal-formal and especially cultural, which required me to “feel” the market—from how consumers accept novelties to how various practices are valued in the business environment (Who collaborates with whom? What values are rooted in this area? Through which business organization will the market be more open for an XY company?). Since 2016, my business activities have been intertwined with numerous international connections, which has allowed me to learn to recognize key shifts in business both in Europe and the USA, consequently helping me in shaping various strategies for entering foreign markets. Here are some frameworks, and I hope my experiences and advice will also help you in your international endeavors.

Market Analysis and Strategic Planning:
When thinking about the best strategy for entering foreign markets, especially in the EU and the USA, a thorough initial market analysis is crucial. This includes understanding the size of the target market, growth potential, consumer behavior, preferences, and trends. For the American market, it’s particularly important to utilize channels that resonate with the local audience, such as specific social platforms popular in the region (Social networks: TikTok, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube; Business platforms: Crunchbase, Linkedin, TechCrush, Bloomberg Business, Forbes, Linkedin, Industry Dive, VentureBeat, etc.).

Market Entry Strategies through Various Acquisitions (higher initial capital):
Market entry strategies are diverse and tailored to the needs of each company:

  • Joint Ventures: This strategy is especially useful for leveraging local knowledge and resources, which can accelerate market entry. It involves sharing risks and rewards with a local partner, which can facilitate easier integration into the new market.
  • Franchising: This method offers low risk and rapid expansion, as the local franchisee invests capital and assumes most of the operational risks. This is a way to quickly expand your brand presence while ensuring consistency in customer experiences.
  • Acquisitions: Acquiring a local company provides an immediate market presence and a customer base. This is particularly suitable in markets where local knowledge and immediate size are of critical importance.
  • Greenfield Investments: Establishing a new operation from scratch allows full control over the subsidiary, but requires significant investments and carries greater risks. Suitable for companies that want complete control over their foreign operations.
  • Turnkey Solutions: In an industry where most contracts have similar requirements, many companies now offer turnkey solutions. These products are designed to be immediately integrated into any workflow and start operating. This is an efficient way to obtain contracts worldwide, especially for government projects.

Independent Market Entry Strategies
If you are considering entering foreign markets independently and wish to maintain complete independence, here are some strategies that can help you expand your business:

  1. Direct Export: Manage all aspects of exporting yourself, including direct sales to end-users, distributors, or wholesale buyers. This approach allows full control over distribution channels and pricing policies.
  2. Online Sales: Leverage the power of e-commerce to sell your products directly to consumers. This requires adapting your website to an international audience and possibly localizing content to meet the specific needs and expectations of different markets. → Optimize your website for SEO (Search Engine Optimization) globally, use keywords that are popular in target regions. Provide localized payment options and support for multiple currencies to facilitate purchases by foreign customers.
  3. Partnerships with Local Players: Even if you want to maintain independence, it is sometimes beneficial to collaborate with local marketing agencies or logistics partners. These partners can help you understand local market conditions and optimize your operations. → Regularly review and adjust partnership agreements to ensure they still align with your business goals and market conditions. In Europe, small businesses can utilize the Enterprise Europe Network (EEN), the largest European network supporting small and medium-sized enterprises in international business, to find business partners.
  4. Participation in International Fairs and Events: Increase your brand’s visibility and establish contacts with potential customers and partners by participating in fairs and industry conferences. → Use digital tools to track potential clients you meet at events for systematic follow-up and further communication. Prepare with materials that participants can easily take with them (e.g., USB drives with product information, interactive presentations) to leave a lasting impression.
  5. Market Testing with Small Shipments: Before making larger investments, test the market with smaller shipments. This approach allows you to gather valuable consumer feedback and tailor your offer. → Use data from test sales for A/B testing different marketing approaches to determine which works best in a specific region.
  6. Active Use of Social Media and Digital Marketing: Focus on targeted advertising on social media to reach specific demographic groups most likely interested in your products.

These strategies enable you to enter foreign markets with a clear vision and a solid strategy, while maintaining a high level of control and flexibility in your business operations.

Localization and Compliance: Do not overlook localization, which is crucial for success in foreign markets. It involves adapting your marketing strategies, product offerings, and operational tactics to fit local cultural and regulatory norms. A comprehensive localization strategy ensures that your brand is well-received on the target market and complies with local regulations.

Risk Management and Legal Considerations:
Understanding and adhering to local laws, regulations, and standards is extremely important. Additionally, developing a risk management strategy to address potential challenges such as political instability, currency fluctuations, or cultural misunderstandings is essential.

Each of these strategies has its advantages and suitability, depending on your business model, type of product, and specific characteristics of the target market. It’s crucial to thoroughly consider these factors before choosing the most appropriate strategy for market entry. For more detailed advice and examples, it’s beneficial to explore resources, in Europe this is the EU Access2Markets portal, which not only provides insights into how to navigate trade barriers but also offers comprehensive support for European companies looking to enter global markets.

As you consider expanding your business into foreign markets, it’s crucial to select the right strategies and take advantage of available resources to find reliable business partners. Whether you’re just starting out or looking for ways to enhance your international business, using reliable platforms and local resources can significantly increase your chances of success. Always be proactive, adaptable, and ready to learn from each new business experience. Feel free to pull me aside for any advice and collaborations.

Good luck!

Articles and websites used in this process:

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