Gaining a foothold in foreign markets through strategy consulting
Drawing from a wealth of overseas experience, IPI Innovation Advisor Benny Goh guides companies to plan and execute effective outward growth strategies.

Whether to diversify their customer base or fuel growth, an increasing number of businesses in Singapore are embarking on internationalisation plans. In 2019 alone, statutory board Enterprise Singapore supported 600 overseas expansion projects from local small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), with an anticipated return of S$8.9 billion in overseas sales.

As promising as the global market may be, not all firms that venture out find success. Challenges such as differences in consumer needs, regulatory hurdles and entrenched local competition mean cohesive plans backed by thorough market analyses are needed to turn innovations into international success stories. To this end, IPI Innovation Advisor Benny Goh helps companies figure out the right direction for their growth on a global stage.

Conquering unfamiliar terrain

Influenced by cultural values and socioeconomic factors, consumer behaviour can vary greatly among countries. Firms wishing to expand overseas therefore need to begin by attaining a thorough understanding of their end-consumers, Goh shared.

“Most companies mistakenly believe that so long as they have a good product, they will be able to conquer new markets. This is far from the truth,” he said. Products that have been well-received in the home market may garner little interest in a foreign one, especially if go-to-market strategies are not adjusted accordingly, he added.

Other complications such as bureaucratic regulatory processes, patent issues and qualms over copycat competitors may also arise when venturing abroad. While such obstacles pose a daunting challenge for any management team, Goh’s familiarity with overseas markets gives him a unique vantage point to aid companies in their expansion efforts.

Providing an external and experienced voice

For over two decades, Goh has served in various executive and consultancy positions, helping both SMEs and multinational corporations (MNCs) to launch products in foreign countries. His experience helming the Asia-Pacific region at MNCs such as Tyco and Aggreko PLC translate to a wealth of insights on Asian markets, complemented by his deep knowledge in diverse industries ranging from smart building technologies to Internet of Things digitalisation. Leveraging these extensive experiences, Goh coaches senior level management to maximise global opportunities and ensure that their innovations satisfy consumer needs.

“As an advisor, I act as a sounding board for the management team, providing an objective pair of eyes and ears to help them make better decisions,” he said. “Ultimately, any decision would rest with them, but the knowledge that they are better informed when making these decisions is very gratifying for me.”

Goh cited the example of an automated manufacturing enterprise that was looking to enter Europe, believing that its offerings would not fare well on local shores. However, this line of thinking overlooked the Singapore and Southeast Asian SMEs which would likely be interested in automation to increase business efficiency. Recognising this yet untapped market, Goh helped the company to rethink its assumptions and redirect its focus towards building a customer base and a strong reputation locally. This regional presence would then serve as a springboard for attracting European customers.

Looking inward to grow outward

While a good internationalisation strategy is the first step towards success, proper execution is essential for a company to achieve its desired results. At times, the leadership may lack the willpower to push the project through. In other cases, poor communication down the ranks, lack of supervision and monitoring, and changing market conditions can derail the best plans, said Goh. To foster success, cultivating the right skill sets and mentality is as vital as analysing the market.

Under Goh's guidance, a local manufacturing SME drew up a new business model for a value-added service it had wanted to introduce. Aside from evaluating the product and market characteristics, the team carefully assessed their work culture and personnel competencies. The result was a comprehensive action plan with marketing strategies catering to end customer preferences, as well as training initiatives to develop a skilled workforce for delivering the service to its customers.

By conducting these internal appraisals, companies become better equipped to execute their plans and reduce the likelihood of miscommunications, Goh alluded. For the veteran consultant, effective strategic planning for internationalisation is a matter of alignment—whether with internal employees or external customers. “The company that can execute better because it understands the customer better will be the one to succeed,” he concluded.

Is your company tech-centric or -enabled?  Are you launching an innovative product, services or business model into the foreign markets? Find out how you can enhance your growth and execution plans successfully with the help of an IPI Innovation Advisor.