Three tips for successful international expansion

Expanding into other countries is as much about preparation as it is about execution. Jesper Frederiksen from Okta explains.

Back in June, we staged our second #SaasGrowth conference, at Here East, part of London’s Olympic Park. There were over 250 SaaS professionals in the audience, watching more than 40 of London’s foremost SaaS experts share their knowledge. Even if you couldn’t make it, we want to share the inspiration and education with you through our #SaaSGrowth2019 articles.

Jesper Frederiksen

Jesper Frederiksen is VP & GM, EMEA at Okta, the platform trusted by thousands of organisations to help them fulfil their missions as quickly as possible. Jesper has also spent time at Symantec and DocuSign, where he was a proud member of the team that launched in the UK, Europe and wider EMEA region.

Who better to talk to the #SaaSGrowth2019 audience about international success?

‘We have a saying at Okta, that nothing happens before someone sells something. We can have the best product, the best engineers, the best data centres. But, until we convince someone to call us a PO, sign an order form and use our services, nothing happens.’

Expanding internationally

Moving your business is one of the foremost ways to scale in 2019, but it requires thorough preparation. The days of dotting individuals over the world and telling them to get on with it are long gone. Jesper offered us three tips on how to prepare for international expansion.

1 — Prioritise and plan

The first step is to prioritise and plan. At this moment, it’s important to remember that you and your company are unique. You do not have to do something just because everybody else does it, or your closest competitors are doing it. What are your goals? What do you want to achieve from international expansion? This should help you prioritise where you will expand to.

‘Don’t just assume that the biggest GDP or the highest number of citizens in a given area means that it’s a good market for you.’

‘Think about your technology. At DocuSign, we learned very early on that going to Germany would be an awful idea because we would have to build a specific product for the German market.’

2 — Focus

While every company is different, in Jesper’s experience, focusing on one geographical area is the way to go. In today’s world, you cannot achieve critical mass across Europe in one fell swoop. You need to build.

‘You have to have scale in the market you define. When we scaled the business out, we focused on winning the London market.’

For Jesper, London had the market size, which meant the business could achieve its goals. However, there were more tactical reasons too.

‘There is a massive advantage in having hundreds of customers in a given market because those guys and girls that use your product will change jobs. They’ll go to a new place and they’ll buy you again.’

Once you have conquered an area like London, you can look further afield, such as The Netherlands and France, then on into Germany.

3 — Go all in

Once you have planned and chosen your area, it’s time to attack. You won’t get anywhere by doing it half-heartedly.

The plan should be to replicate what you do in your home territory.

‘We believe you have to put a full stack in, with marketing, with customer success, SC support. You have to back them up with PR etc.’

‘Have the ambition. Don’t be afraid to make those bets.’

Think about the team you are going to build in your new territory and how you will incentivise them. Expansion should be the next chapter of your business, the next step on the journey to success. There will be challenges, but with smart people, you can overcome them.

Over to you

It was great to welcome Jesper to the #SaasGrowth2019 stage. Now we want to know what you think.

What are your tips for a smooth entry into a new marketplace? What preparations would you recommend to the Sales Confidence community?

Let us know in the comments below.

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