It is not always reasonable to expand to new markets. The growth might still be much easier in your own country or even just in your own town. That way you are usually able to keep the expenses on a lower level and it is easier to get more visibility in a smaller market – around your own corners.
Then again in some cases, internationalization really means going to the next level and a huge opportunity to increase your sales. You just need to consider and decide if it is really the right thing for you on this stage of your business. You shouldn’t do it just because it is cool.
We at Nordic Business Forum Oy formalized a ten year goal in early 2011 of making our annual main event one of the most significant business seminars in the world. This goal alone means, of course, that we have to internationalize, so we built up a plan for it. With the help of a university course on Intenationalization actually.
We chose the Uppsala model of internationalization, which means that we have first gained experience and momentum in our domestic market and then started our internationalization process from the nearest countries to Finland. In our case, there are two main reasons for this: the easier logistics for the customers nearest to Finland and the existing business relations between Finland and the neighboring countries.
In 2012, we started recruiting our first international full-time employee. We decided to look for one from Sweden and Estonia, look what we find and to choose on which market we focus on first when we find the right person to work with.
We ended up finding a nice line-up of great applicants from Estonia, so we decided that Estonia will be the first. Now we have had a tiny office at Technopolis next to Tallinn Airport for 15 months. We have one magical person working there with amazing results. There are almost 400 guest who have bought a ticket for Nordic Business Forum 2014 from Estonia alone. We also had our first local event in Tallinn in November with 630 attendees.
After Priit joined us, we had to begin also having all of our weekly meetings in English. It has probably been one of the best things that have happened to us. Everyone in our team is learning English on a whole new level and will be able to do international business in their future, with us or where ever their path leads them.
After Priit joined us, we had to begin also having all of our weekly meetings in English.
We also changed our main language on our websites, marketing materials, montly letters and social media from Finnish to English. Internationalization starts with simple things. The first one is: speak English and produce content for an international audience.
Lately I’ve traveled in St. Petersburg, Stockholm and Oslo. The trips have been all about establishing international business connections, meetings with potential customer & partners and helping and training the few individual agents, who are trying out selling NBF on a commission basis. We will see soon who from which county will be our next full time employee.
Russia has been the most difficult one to learn and we are still in the process. For months I wondered why we don’t see almost any registrations from Russia through our website until I learned that they need all kinds of documents for the taxation in order to buy our seminar tickets. The culture is a bit different otherwise as well, but not as different as one might think. Language is a barrier there, but we are working with local sales people in each country anyway. Right now Russia looks promising.
Thanks to our great product and all the international content that we have produced, we have started to see a growing number of registrations from many other different European countries as well. And we even have some tickets sold to Africa and Asia; 20 tickets sold to China!
What can I say… To us at Nordic Business Forum, it looks promising and the value of all the learning experiences is almost unmeasurable. To you: you can expect great internationalization opportunities at our events in the future. Let’s bring Finland up with some exports!