Yes, we’re Canadian. And as Canadians we’re sometimes mired by the stigma of being lesser than our American counterparts. But there’s one thing we probably know a little better, or at least have more experience in and that’s expanding our businesses internationally.
The United States is a humongous market and American companies can easily pick away at a very ripe consumer base. If all goes well, there’s no pressure to necessarily step outside of the comfort zone. Get in, stay put and watch the numbers rise exponentially.
But by necessity, Canadian business leaders often need to expand beyond their boarders to scale past an intermediate level of business. This reality has made north countrymen (and woman) extremely well-versed in the processes of expanding in global markets.
Skura President Jeff Wessenger recalls this very process, one of which can be attributed to Skura’s rising success over the better part of a decade.
“I call it a ten-year overnight success,” said Wessenger. We did have a head start because we had a background in services, which definitely helped a lot. We took a lot of existing relationships and leveraged them, transferring existing services agreements into a software and licensing relationship.”
“The idea that we created a product and took it to market and had success in 78 markets, it didn’t happen that way,” he said.
Humble as he may be, the process of expanding is not just a matter of packing up your product and throwing it across the ocean. There are many things to consider; taxes, exchange rates and culture to name a few. Skura can shamelessly give themselves a pat on the back, nearly 80 countries is no easy feat.
Tips For Global Expansion
Leverage Relationships and Win Those First Customers
Starting as a modest service company, Skura adjusted their strategy in 2006 and dove into the world of “sales enablement”. Today the company offers a software that collects sales data and allows outside sales reps to carry that information on the run. New data can be implemented remotely and everything added goes directly back to head office. It didn’t take long for the software to spread said Wessenger, but he notes Skura may have been working with an advantage in terms of expansion.
“I think we had relationships previously built through the services company and it was through those relationships that we were able to bring on our first global customers and develop that enterprise reference and reputation,” he said.
“Typically customers one through ten are the toughest to win and we won those almost immediately. Once you have those references, your go-to-market strategy is a lot easier than starting from nothing.”
A big part in global expansion, Wessenger notes, is continual growth and considering the impact of new ideas. So with that in mind…
“We want to expand beyond the current vertical, we have a pretty good presence in life sciences, but the solution we built is by no means specific to that vertical, there’s a much broader market out there.”
“It’s really a sales and marketing pivot, we need find a way to win those customers in the financial industry, how can we win customers in manufacturing market? That’s a deliberate plan we’ve started on this current year. It’s been fairly successful, we’ve brought on some pretty big customers.”
“We’re really trying to tackle the virtual customer from a product standpoint and helping inside sales reps.”