Building relationships is critical for doing business. Not just locally, but especially when taking your product or service overseas. There’s a lot of information around about HOW to do business, particularly with a country like China, but WHO can you reach out to for internationalising your business?
For many, finding the right connections is not easy. Especially for smaller businesses, who may not have the strength of big brand to open doors. Many SMEs don’t have high level business connections, and are unsure how to access government support.
If you are looking to take your business international, it’s just like setting up locally, but there are so many more factors to consider. Many of these, particularly for Asia, you may not even be aware of. This is why it is important to work with those who have relevant expertise, or have trodden the path before.
Where do you Start?
The first step is to research, research, research! Then armed with knowledge of how your product or service may fit into your chosen market, start developing your strategy for going international.
Having partners on the ground is often quoted as the key to success. So should you look for an investor, distribution channels or a Joint Venture relationship?
In considering your marketing strategy how should you position your message and what delivery channels should you use. There are-on-line channels including WeChat and off-line such as conferences and expos. So, based on your strategy, the client opportunity and the ideal partners who may be able to help, how can you find them?
Depending on what connections you are looking for, there are a range of options for seeking out introductions.
In China, government officials are held in high regard, so is essential to build strong relationships. This is where Australian government agencies can assist. Once you have a clear strategy and have made some progress on your plan, you can seek support from agencies such as the Australian Trade and Investment commission (Austrade) and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT).
2. Industry Associations
Your own industry association should be the first point of call and many have services such as the NSW Chamber of Commerce’s Export Growth China. Tapping into your target market, the Australian Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong is the second largest chamber there, and other cities include South China and Vietnam. Many have business matching services such as AustCham Shanghai’s Business Engagement program.
3. Private Consultants
Depending on your strategy and target market, it is important to find the right consultant, noting there are so many aspects to consider. Livia Wang from AccessCN has built a reputation for the Diagou market for getting your brand know in China, Cynthia Dearin has experience in the MENA region and has recently launched the International Business Accelerator coaching program, and Simon Kaiyu Li provides China Marketing and Cross Cultural support.
4. Corporates and Institutions
A lot of large Australian corporates have businesses or representative offices overseas. They may be able to assist or could even be interested in your specialist expertise.
Most banks have international departments and many have Asia Business Specialists. They assist their clients not just with inbound and outbound transactions but also to help facilitate business growth in supporting their customers. Banks are also good sources of contacts through their overseas branches or correspondent banks.
6. Accountants, lawyers and other professionals
Many professionals such as accountants and lawyers have assisted their clients with market entry strategies already. Start with your own relationships, and also seek out specialists in your industry. Many firms have offices on the ground, or are part of global networks, so can make local introductions.
7. Centres of Influence
With the internet and social media, it is not difficult to find industry thought leaders and those active in the sectors and countries you are interested in.
A directly targeted message via platforms such as LinkedIn, can help identify thought leaders and experts you can reach out to for assistance.
8. Friends and Business Colleagues
With today’s globally mobile workforce, many of our friends and colleagues have worked overseas. They are a good place to start for building international connections. Just ask them “Who do you know?”
There is no shortage of content today and it has never been easier to share successful strategies, tips and insights.
1. Articles & Blogs
The Expat Advisors Community website has a range of articles from developing your networking strategy, creating an elevator pitch, making the most of attending networking events and conferences including capturing your notes and how to exit a conversation gracefully.
2. Listen to Experts
My Aus-Asia Business Program features a range of experts sharing their own Aus-Asia journeys and providing their top tips for going international.
Recent guests have included:
- Stephanie Fahey, CEO of Austrade
- Bonnie Shek, Director of the Hong Kong Trade and Development Council
- Natalie Cope, NSW CEO of Australia China Business Council (ACBC)
- Drew Waters, past CEO of the Australian Australian Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong
- David Chin, CEO of BasisPoint
- Tony Dormer, past CEO of the NSW Chamber of CommerceAlina Bain, CEO of the Australian Services Roundtable
- Victor Jiang, Founder of Sapien Ventures
- Cynthia Dearin, founder of Dearin & Associates and author of Camels, Sheikhs and Billionaires.
3. Attend Events
Expat Advisors Community holds regular discussion groups and promotes curated events from relevant associations such as:
- Hong Kong Australia Business Association (HKABA)
- Australia Vietnam Business Council (AVBC)
- Australian Services Roundtable (ASR)
- Australia China Business Council (ACBC)
and a range of other events with a focus on China and South-East Asia.
Bringing it all Together
There’s nothing like getting on the ground and great way to do this is being part of a business mission such as the Asian Financial Forum in Hong Kong each January.
As mission leader for the last two years, my role is to understand delegates business strategies, market their messages, arrange opportunities to network, meet relevant connections and provide tools to promote their expertise including business matching both on-line and off-line. Plus, the comradery that comes from being in-country with like-minded business people, promoting each other’s expertise as brand Australia!
Watch this Space
I am currently working on a book entitled “Who do you know? Building networks locally and globally.” This will include interviews with leading global networkers and connectors.
It will be supported by a range of tools from how-to guides, keynotes and seminars as well as individual coaching and consulting to help fast-track those looking to connect across jurisdictions to expand their business internationally.
Today with the internet for research, social media for connecting with experts, and access to networking consultants, it has never been easier to grow your network locally and globally.
Stacey Martin has a financial services background working with expatriates and investor migrants. Founder of the Expat Advisors Community, today Stacey consults with those looking to do business in Asia. This article is an extract from Stacey’s 2017 AsiaLink Leaders project. graduation speech. A year long program, the mandate for AsiaLink is to develop an Asia Capable workforce. For details on the 2018 course go to the link here.