Targeting International Clients – how we bypassed into them
It was only when someone asked us- “How many Indian clients do you guys serve currently?”, did we realize that we were only serving 2 at that point and had directly gone international since PromptCloud’s inception. How this happened- unintentionally and why this happened- we can closely guess.
- The Indian ecosystem wasn’t ready for such a solutin yet. Mostly because there weren’t many problems being solved in the Big Data space. Big data was still taking shape and we were forerunning.
- The startup scene in India was evolving and enterprises (for whom this solution was meant), hadn’t said hello to startups.
- Randomness (call it luck if you like) has won all games by far. One of the early clients we had was an international entity with an urgent need for such a solution and a common connection referred them to us.
Once we crossed the artificial borders, the problem of hitting international didn’t persist (woes of marketing, branding and visibility still did though). The bigger question is- can you strategize to deal internationally? We will give you our story and
you try to answer it for yourself. I’m sure if the answers were collated, they wouldn’t remain boolean.
Below is an infographic that depicts a common approach vs. what happened during our journey.
There are “oops!” factors in both approaches. But which oops! is less harmful is a compulsory choice to be made. Agreed that branding and naming yourself that late (as in B) makes you look like the hare in the race. Nevertheless, waiting for your product to fit in that late (as in A) or assuming that your solution is the thing the world was waiting for probably gets you out of the race.
Given the focus on referrals and WOM but zero social media marketing, we gained visibility within our close network of enterprises but remained invisible to the rest of the world. Pros- people who were seeking DaaS solutions knew about us; cons- we never got to the long-tail. We realized that branding was essential to look beyond the closed loop. We started content marketing, sought media attention, attended high ROI events and tada! inbound leads curve gradually rose above the outbound one. Note that all of these efforts were targeted to the global audience and not just local (paying attention to the time zones).
Experiences? Well, there are many and there’s a learning from each. But its important to understand and adapt yourself to the effects of going international.
Stay ever ready for late night client meetings (between 10 PM to 1 AM to be precise).
You can’t escape long working hours because most of your clients will wake up to your emails when you’re wrapping up (and eventually unwrapping up).
Be open to all channels of communication. Although Skype is the most preferred, there are times when we have had to install webex on Windows partitions and struggled to make it work. Its equal fun when you’re restricted to communicating over emails because your client is a non-English speaker and uses Google translator. Let’s skip how sorry it can get there.
On a bitter note, don’t expect your finances to be cleared on time just because you’re dealing with international clients. Well, there are few who are extremely disciplined but exceptions are always there, no exception to that!
It’s interesting to analyze what really would have got us this far (just literally calculating the distances).
1. At the time we started, our solution was more fit to the international market where big data concepts had been incepted.
Lesson- Evaluate your product’s timing. That’s a basic go/no-go to factor in.
2. We were quite naive as to what the international market thought of Indian vendors. So we reached out to them with all the confidence & love for our solution and transferred it via undeterred execution.
Lesson- Staying ignorant about unnecessary things helps you surpass all the narrow-mindedness.
3. We didn’t let the money come into relationships. Extra support was provided before requested for and going beyond call of duty was a practice. We didn’t like bothering clients for clearing invoices and let them take their own sweet time (lesson for self- this is not always a good thing to do).
Lesson- It’s only humans you’ll be dealing with around the globe. Show them some sensibility and expect the same from them (rare cases excluded).
Lastly, it’s important that you’re sensitive to client needs- irrespective of dealing internationally or locally.
If you’re inquisitive about the stats, currently we serve customers from US, Canada, Brazil, almost all of Europe, India (yes we got there too), Singapore, Thailand, Japan, Malaysia and Australia.