Outsource or In-House: How to Break Into New Markets

It takes determination, informed planning and time to successfully break into a new market. No matter which sector you operate in, you will face hurdles such as limited market knowledge, a lack of a local track record and perhaps unfamiliarity with cultural practices and sensitivities.

In our increasingly globalized world, companies seeking to grow are tackling these challenges with more regularity, as we did when we recently launched finder.com here in the US. Like any expansion into a new geographical market, we faced two options across a number of areas of our business: rely on in-house capabilities to build it from the ground up or outsource to a reliable third party.

The answer will vary depending on the company's core business, but the considerations remain the same. Here is what we learned on our journey.

Human resources
HR is a critical function of any company, and one that has traditionally worked best when in-house. When breaking into a new market, however, an HR department's concerns become more complicated than recruitment, retention and workplace culture.

A key question would be whether your organization has in-house experience with local laws and regulations around issues such as wrongful termination, sexual harassment and workplace safety. But there are also other considerations, such as familiarity with cultural intricacies on how people work and what their expectations are of their employer.

Unless you already have this expertise in-house through an employee with direct experience in that market, turning HR over to outsourced experts can help you transition into a new market more smoothly.

Marketing and social media
There are strong arguments either way for marketing and the increasingly important platform of social media. However, if your primary channels are online you can retain control of your marketing efforts from anywhere in the world. As the custodian of a brand, I would argue in favor of in-house marketing capabilities.

On the other hand, while the best social media accounts are handled in-house, it's a different case when you are attempting to crack a new market. Social media management involves a lot of work and commitment and outsourcing can free up your organization to focus on the task at hand. Of course, you'll have to trust your chosen social media partner to nail the tone and personality of your brand, before you bring it back in-house in the longer term.

IT encompasses so many varied and diverse aspects of business that it's difficult to prescribe a one-size-fits-all approach. While tech development and construction can be done from anywhere in the world, there are specific intricacies to project management and the customer experience that require the input of people with on-the-ground presence in that market. So unless you can hire locals and bring them internally to perform this function, this is another case of leave it to an outsource partner.

Training & development
Every organization is defined by its company culture, a fact that is now widely - and wisely - accepted in the corporate world. The training and development of your employees is a crucial element in the nurturing of your company culture, and it's something that should not be outsourced. It is doubly important when launching a new operation: handling staff training in-house will preserve your company ethos and facilitate better relations and knowledge sharing between markets.

When it comes to sales, an on-the-ground presence that can facilitate a face-to-face relationship is critical for success when entering a new market. Rather than being restricted by your in-house sales expertise and location, local sales experts can provide you with instant access to potential customers. And, if you choose your partners wisely, they will give you an insight into those customers' needs, frustrations and behavior - more quickly and more efficiently than an internal sales department starting from scratch.

For any company that embarks on geographical expansion, the key is to implement the processes and solutions that work for your organization, remembering that successful outsourcing depends on good communication. If you go down the outsourcing path, be clear on your aims and the means of reporting.