In September 2015, Fred Schebesta and his business partner Frank Restuccia launched finder.com in the United States, followed by the United Kingdom in February 2017. Launching a business in a global market creates an urgency to adapt to local market conditions, and it also presents a series of unique challenges, which Fred discusses candidly below.
They often say you can’t take a business model and mirror it a new market due to variations in industry regulation and compliance requirements, barriers to entry, local customer tastes and preferences, levels of demand and existing competition.
There's some truth to this when you looking to expand into new markets and build a global strategy. There are huge investments to be made in market research, technology and innovation and competitive analysis to ensure that your business remains afloat in unchartered waters.
Having said that, there are some elements of your business you can replicate (to some degree) in a new market. If you think you’ve nailed your first business model and strategy, and you’ve been in the game for several years, you can take some business parts and apply them in a new country – you just need to be smart about it.
In July 2015, my business partner and I launched finder.com in the United States, which had been a pipedream for as long as I can remember. More recently, we landed in the United Kingdom. In retrospect, here’s what I know now.
Get up to speed with different terminology
In any global market, there’s different terminology, both in a business sense and colloquially. The way people conduct business and the language they use with each other will vary from how things are done in your home country. It's crucial to take this into account when you're recruiting new employees in a new country; you want to speak their language.
From a business perspective, I learned that different terminology is also used in the financial product space, and this is key to every sector of the business. Whether it’s creating content for the site or communicating with stakeholders, you need to know how to converse on their terms. For example, if you used the term “variable interest rate” in the US, you’d raise a few eyebrows (stateside, it’s “adjustable rate mortgages”).
Take your investment up a notch
Upon entering the US market, and after comprehensive research, I realised you need to make bigger investments in a new country. The reality is you’re up against established and locally-trusted brands, so you need to make people trust you from the get-go so they don’t view you as an ‘outsider.’
One of the key areas I decided to do this was with our public relations research strategy. After great success in our native market, we decided to use a hybrid of Australian research and campaign strategy, but on a larger scale by investing more and using larger sample sizes for surveys.
Re-think localised content based on geographic breakdown
In going global, I discovered localised content doesn’t translate simply in the US. With so many different counties and states in the US, a “national” story won’t get as much coverage as it would here in Australia. With a population of 321 million, compared to Australia’s 23 million, industry noise is drastically higher in the US. To put things in perspective, Americans are estimated to have $747 billion worth of credit card debt compared to our credit card debt of only $32 billion.
Know your audience like the back of your hand
When we first hit the Australian market, users were curious about how we made money, so we made sure we were transparent about this on the website. When we launched in the US, we made the same transparency efforts, but soon realised our US audience were only concerned about whether our service was free to use. The learning here is: know what your audience wants and tailor your messages (and service) accordingly.
Creating a global brand gave me an invaluable opportunity to re-learn my business. It gave me the chance to evaluate our business model, to reflect on what does well and what doesn’t, and to apply my knowledge and experience in foreign markets.
Strategically, we adapted our approach in relation to industry compliance, terminology, research, and the number of partners we brought on board. We needed to make bigger investments, particularly in relation to research and search-engine optimisation (SEO), and we needed to understand our local audience.
Adaptation is the fabric of any decent global strategy. As long as you take time to understand the new market and audience, you’ll make waves in your industry no matter what location you choose.