Conquering international markets is an indispensable growth lever for companies. Such a project can take different forms or follow different paths: from e-commerce to mergers and acquisitions.
International expansion can be an important growth factor for your company and an undeniable source of opportunities – both commercially and in terms of innovation or resilience. After a complete assessment of your current situation, an inevitable question follows: which strategy should you apply to realise your project? There's no magic formula or mapped-out path: in reality, you often adopt a wide-ranging approach based on various strategies. Nevertheless, we do see some broad outlines. And each has its own strengths and limitations. Whatever you decide, your choice should fit into an overall thinking and be in line with the current situation and the future of your business. The objective? Increasing your chances of success and keeping the risks under control as much as possible.
1. Direct and indirect export
This is naturally one of the most widely used strategies for conquering foreign markets. You can sell your products abroad through one or more channels:
- E-commerce: E-commerce is a fast and accessible solution to get 'far' with limited resources. Internet sales have grown very strongly in recent years but have a significant impact on the logistical workload. This includes not only technology and conformity, but also the commercial aspect. You are far from your target market and must deal with competitors from all over the world, while the internet knows no borders – and that's both an asset and an obstacle.
- A local intermediary: A gamble without too many risks, because you make use of the power of local sales – your agent delivers the customer's orders locally and you transfer them. The only thing left to do is to decide how to distribute your products. In this regard, it's important that you make full use of your knowledge of the foreign market. Think, for example, of consumers' consumption habits and expectations. Although this approach does not require major investments (payments on commission), it isn't entirely without risk. The success of your project is entirely in the hands of your local contact, leaving you to count on that partner's reliability.
- Commercial distribution: A similar approach to conquering the international market. This strategy can be implemented quickly and is the result of cooperation with independent distributors who are based in your target area. They buy the goods and then sell them, enabling you to benefit from their expertise and network. Unlike the intermediary, this distributor takes several tasks off your hands (invoicing, collection, marketing costs or import costs). Choosing the right partners and determining the terms of the contract is no easy task. After all, your project's success depends on it...
- Transfer of patents or technology: This is a way to make your know-how or technology pay off, not your products. This transfer of skills gives a foreign entity the right to use your methods or innovation within the framework of a previously established contract (geographical area, duration, etc.). An opportunity to go international where you 'outsource' production, sales and distribution. Contract preparation is one of the stumbling blocks of this approach.
2. Local establishment
Another model for internationalisation is to establish your business abroad. This means that you go local: you establish your entire value chain in another country, or you produce, distribute or sell your products there yourself. This geographical approach necessarily requires greater investment, but it also gives you more clout. This approach is also a way of reinforcing your resilience: the financial and commercial risks, as well as the pressure on your value chain, are spread over several areas. Over the years, a more flexible approach has also been introduced, allowing companies to move more flexibly in line with the international situation. Various options are also available here:
- Subsidiary or branch: In both cases, it's a matter of establishing a firm and lasting foothold in the local market. However, the project requires a solid foundation and a long-term vision. You should also think carefully about the legal status: do you opt for a subsidiary or for a branch? Consequently, when making this decision, take into account various factors: the degree of autonomy, the desired degree of decentralisation or consultation, the legal and tax implications, whether or not to produce locally (to take advantage of cheaper raw materials, for example), the financial resources that you can mobilise, and so on. In any case, a perfect lever for applying the well-known formula 'think globally, act locally'.
- International joint venture: This principle is based on the creation of synergies. Your company joins a company that already has a local presence and both companies complement each other. Each company benefits from the other's strengths while sharing the activity's risks, control and common costs. Such a joint venture or partnership often requires a customised legal structure. As you can see, a joint venture is not an easy marriage. It's therefore crucial that you find the right partner and come to an agreement with them concerning each party's input and responsibilities.
- Merger or acquisition: This growth strategy offers a few advantages. What's the greatest advantage? A merger or acquisition is a method of consolidating and diversifying your business. It's also a 'quick' way to conquer a new market by exploiting the local company's competitive advantages (technological, commercial, etc.). Such a project naturally entails not only potential benefits, but also risks. For example, you may misjudge the sources of value creation or the risks, or have difficulty integrating.
As you can see, your international project's success depends on many factors. And, first and foremost, on your own strategic choices and your ability to develop a clear vision of exactly what you want to achieve. From the development of a commercial partner network to a sustainable local presence, there are many options that deserve not only thorough consideration, but also professional guidance.
A full 'assessment' before you go abroad
We can no longer deny the benefits of internationalisation. But is your business ready for it? A thorough assessment to measure your project's success is therefore a must before you cross the border.
Just because your business is doing well in our country doesn't mean that you can just jump into the export market. An international breakthrough is an important strategic (and necessary) choice that requires extensive preparation. The first step is to take a detailed look at the state of affairs of your company. Because that way you can:
- Highlight your strengths and success factors: a specific skill, your expertise, your brand image, etc.;
- Identify your weaknesses: both internal (poor knowledge of the target market, need for funding, etc.) and external factors;
- Prepare your structure for 'new' demands: in terms of human resources and in financial, organisational, legal or commercial terms;
- Draw up your roadmap: make the necessary changes, maximise your assets and find the right solutions for your weaknesses.
A COMPLETE TOOLKIT
Such an assessment is not market research in the literal sense of the word, although some elements will eventually overlap or complement one another. The assessment should also enable you to gain insight into existing opportunities (competitive advantage, commercial trends, etc.) and threats (changes in legislation, major competition, etc.). To do that, you must be able to look at your foreign target group with the necessary distance.
There are many tools for this. Examples include the SWOT analysis, Porter's five forces model, the Boston Consulting Group matrix or the PESTEL analysis to measure the influence of macro-environmental factors. So, feel free to use those tools, but also remember the importance of step-by-step guidance.
A MUCH-NEEDED SELF-ANALYSIS
Give attention to different elements. To achieve a relevant assessment, you must also find answers to a series of important questions:
- Create your 'identity card'
Take an unbiased look at your organisation. What are your values, culture, references, image, etc.? How are you perceived by others? Does your positioning match your identity? Through these questions, you'll also gain insight into the reasons for your successes and failures on the international market. It's interesting to repeat the positive points and learn from your mistakes.
- Analyze your position on the domestic market
Take stock of your commercial position. Examine the evolution of your recent results and your weighting in your segment (market share, competition, degree of dependency, etc.). Find out what stage your products and services are in (launch, growth, saturation or decline). Next, you can consider your market's prospects and future: how will it evolve? A very important question at a time where the challenges of the sustainable transition are radically changing many sectors.
- Assess your products and services
Each country has its own specific obligations and standards. So, ask yourself whether your products and services are 'compliant', both commercially and legally. Perhaps you need to adapt them? Or maybe your production or delivery method needs to change (e.g. to respect the cold chain and guarantee reasonable delivery times)? In other words, are you ready for the step from a commercial point of view?
- Lay bare your capabilities
If you want to conquer foreign markets, you must be able to cope with that growth rate on an operational level as well. Can you increase or adapt your production capacity to the new demand? Are you ready for that in terms of supply and logistics? Also take into consideration the reliability of your partners and suppliers. And don't forget that your inventory will increase, and you must also have guarantees in that regard as well.
- Examine your financial situation carefully
Going international means a big investment for your company. So, take a close look at your finances and see whether you have enough funds to bring the project to a successful conclusion. You need these resources, for example, to launch commercial initiatives locally (while waiting for the first revenues), to 'transform' your company in the necessary areas, to support your activity in your own country or to recruit additional staff.
- Carry out an analysis in the area of human resourcesTo export, you need qualified and skilled staff (production, sales teams, communication, after-sales service, R&D, etc.). You may also need to train staff or recruit new talent with international experience. Although internationalisation can be an extra motivation for your employees, it will also require additional efforts from them. So, don't lose sight of the 'human' factor either!
This complete audit of your structure gives you everything you need to make the right choices. Have you got the commercial strengths, the human and financial resources, the operational capabilities and the necessary experience to take the step? Do you need some extra support to adjust certain parameters? Or are you postponing the launch to find the right solutions for some weak spots? The adventure can begin once you're ready!
Who will win a Private Equity Award this year?
The Private Equity Awards will be presented on 12 October 2022. We are organising this event for the fifth time, together with the Belgian Venture Capital & Private Equity Association (BVA). Check out this year’s nine nominees.
The Private Equity Awards reward Belgian companies that have received support from a private equity or venture capital investor for their growth and development. This is the fifth time that the Belgian Venture Capital & Private Equity Association (BVA) and BNP Paribas Fortis are organising this prestigious award ceremony.
The nine finalists were nominated based on criteria such as sustainable growth, authentic leadership, and active ownership. They are divided into three award categories: Venture capital, Growth, and Buy-out company of the year.
Venture company of the year:
Aerospacelab is an innovative scale-up specialising in satellite platforms and information obtained from geospatial technology. The company designs, manufactures and operates a constellation of satellites for remote sensing, collecting useful information.
Precirix is a biopharmaceutical company and a spin-off of the VUB. It is dedicated to extending and improving the lives of cancer patients by designing and developing precision radiopharmaceuticals.
Qover enables any digital company to embed insurance in its value proposition. The company has built a tech platform that can launch any insurance product in any market, language and currency in days.
Growth company of the year:
Efficy has developed a complete and highly customisable SaaS (Software as a Service) CRM (Customer Relationship Management) solution. The company wants to become five times bigger, increasing its market share to 5% of the independent CRM market in Europe, within five years.
- Fedrus International
Fedrus International is an international building materials group that manufactures and distributes roof and façade materials and services with a focus on EPDM rubber and zinc. The company wants to become the preferred partner of building professionals, with high quality standards and a great sense of innovation.
Lansweeper is an IT Asset Management platform provider that helps companies better understand, protect, and centrally manage their IT devices and network. The company has developed a software platform that can be used to create an inventory of all types of technology assets, installed software and users.
Buy-out company of the year:
- Baobab Collection
Baobab Collection sells diffusers and candles made from hand-blown glass or metal clad with precious leather. The Belgian brand remains true to its values of craftsmanship and excellence by supporting European expertise and craftsmen.
Sylphar develops and markets innovative and consumer-friendly OTC products worldwide. OTC products are medicines that are sold directly to the consumer without requiring a doctor's prescription. Examples include tooth whitening products and skin, hair and body care products.
- House of HR
House of HR is a leading European HR service provider focusing on Specialised Talent Solutions and Engineering & Consulting. Their goal is to connect people’s talents and dreams with successful companies.
Drive innovation and sustainable growth
"Private equity is a financial instrument that is perfectly suited to boost innovation and sustainable growth. The result is strong growth. But private equity involves after all so much more than just raising capital. Venture capital investors also share their knowledge and network, opening many doors. All the nominees have a solid track record and are all in with a chance to win. I am very curious to see which companies will take home an award", says Raf Moons, Head of BNP Paribas Fortis Private Equity.
Find out more about Private Equity at BNP Paribas Fortis.
Source: Press release BVA
Mobility Solutions of the Future
Your employees’ mobility needs are not standing still, and legislation is also changing at lightning speed. As a company, it is therefore crucial to work today on the mobility of tomorrow.
A changing world
Today you drive to visit customers, tomorrow you work from home and on Friday you take the train and the shared scooter from the station to the office... Your employees’ mobility needs are not standing still and the demand for sustainable, integrated and flexible solutions is increasing.
Legislation and economic conditions are also changing at an unprecedented pace. As part of its initiative to make the automobile sector more sustainable, the government has set a number of ambitious targets, such as greenhouse gas-free company cars by 2026 and betting on smart mobility for commuting. For this reason, many companies are currently considering a transition from a car policy to a mobility policy, in which employees are also given access to other alternative means of transport. In practice, however, there is a lot of extra administration involved when your employees opt for combined mobility to get around. A forward-thinking digital mobility solution tailored to your company will give you a big head start.
Employees want to choose for themselves
Multimodal mobility is an important asset for attracting and retaining talent. Not everyone benefits from a company car alone as a means of transport. Your employees want to be able to choose how they travel to and from work. One day the car is the best option, the next day, the bike or public transport. By moving towards a flexible mobility policy, employees will be able to choose the mobility solutions that suit them best in the future, so that they can go to work in complete freedom and with a good feeling.
Reducing CO² emissions
We are facing a real challenge in the coming years. Mobility and logistics account for as much as 22% of CO2 emissions in our country. If we are to achieve the European target – to reduce emissions by 55% by 2030 – we need to work urgently on greening our mobility. Electrification of your fleet in combination with soft mobility is already a step in the right direction. The government is driving this transition to zero-emission mobility by discouraging fossil-fuelled vehicles from a tax perspective and rewarding electrification. Think about more than just purchasing or leasing electric vehicles.
Towards Smart, Integrated Mobility Solutions
Mobility cards that offer an all-in-one solution for all your employees’ professional travel are still relatively unknown, but work very well. They allow you to book and pay for all necessary means of transport, from leased cars, public transport and taxis to shared mobility of bicycles, scooters and cars. Employees can also use them to fill up their lease cars, charge them and pay for parking and car wash.
Mobility platforms and apps go one step further: they offer the ideal multimodal solution in real time, depending on needs and traffic conditions. For example, taking the car to the outskirts of Brussels and then switching to an electric scooter or, in nice weather, biking to the office. The user of the mobility app can also buy a ticket directly from the suitable mobility provider, with a mobility budget that the employer makes available via a linked mobility platform. Such a platform allows employers to customise their mobility policy to meet their specific needs. This way, all employee mobility solutions are managed on the same platform. Moreover, all this is directly linked to the payroll of the payroll service provider. Thanks to the platform, the actual situation is displayed at all times and wages are always calculated correctly, taking into account individual mobility plans and expenses.
Say goodbye to congestion and administrative hassle, and hello to sustainable mobility!
Do you want a mobility policy that responds to the ever-changing needs of your employees and is committed to sustainability? Our experts will be happy to help you.
Mobility solutions are offered by Arval Belgium SA/NV via BNP Paribas Fortis SA/NV, Montagne du Parc/Warandeberg 3, B-1000 Brussels, Brussels Register of Companies VAT BE0403.199.702.
The information provided here does not constitute an offer. An offer will be made only after your dossier has been accepted and shall always be subject to the general terms and conditions of Arval Belgium SA/NV.
Leeuw van de Export for two Flemish companies
On Wednesday 14 September 2022, FIT presented its ‘Leeuw van de Export’ for the 21st time in Brabanthal in Leuven. Twipe Mobile Solutions and Kipco-Damaco won this prestigious award. Congratulations!
Every year Flanders Investment & Trade (FIT) honours two Flemish companies that excelled in exports with a ‘Leeuw van de Export’ award. At this year’s award ceremony - a live event at the Brabanthal in Leuven after two years of live streamed events -, tech player Twipe Mobile Solutions bagged the award in the category of 'Companies with up to 49 employees'. In the category of 'Companies with 50 or more employees' the award went to food producer Kipco-Damaco.
At the forefront of technology with Twipe Mobile Solutions
A user-friendly digital newspaper, insights into reading behaviour, and personalised news feeds: the winning features of the SaaS applications that Twipe Mobile Solutions develops. The Heverlee-based company helps approximately 80 influential newspaper titles engage more readers with digital subscriptions.
After a first mobile news app in collaboration with the Corelio media group and the first digital-only newspaper in France, JAMES was launched in the UK. This digital butler, which creates automated, personalised reading lists for subscribers, caught the attention of Google, which granted the company innovation funding.
Twipe Mobile Solutions serves newspapers in 13 countries, accounting for 92% of its turnover. While France is currently the largest market, Twipe has high ambitions for the UK and the US, is working on a growth formula for Germany, and is also targeting Asia.
Kipco-Damaco: from Oostrozebeke to Singapore
The chicken in your favourite deep-fryied snack or boiled sausage is probably produced at Kipco-Damaco. In recent years, the family-owned poultry slaughterhouse in West Flanders has developed into a global producer and distributor of chicken separator meat for further processing.
After a first foreign sales office in Singapore in 2008, the company established 4 production sites and 11 branches in countries such as Brazil, India, the Philippines and Vietnam. In 2020, Kipco-Damaco opened new offices in Hong Kong and Poland, exporting its products to a total of 150 countries. Exports account for 83% of the company's turnover, of which a significant proportion is bound for non-EU countries.
Year after year, the company is pushing its boundaries and expanding the operations of other business units. In addition to chicken, the company currently also exports frozen meat, French fries, vegetables and fish for the retail and food services segments.
Inspired by these two Lions?
Does your company have export plans? Discover our wide range of solutions to optimise, secure and finance your import and export activities.