The Pillars of International Growth: Study Hard AND Study Smart!


Hatched by Glasp

Aug 11, 2023

4 min read


The Pillars of International Growth: Study Hard AND Study Smart!

In today's globalized world, the ability to expand internationally is crucial for companies looking to achieve sustainable growth. However, just like students who strive to excel academically, companies must also adopt a mindset of studying hard and studying smart to succeed in foreign markets.

One of the first pillars of international growth is achieving product/culture fit. Similar to how a company must establish product/market fit before growing efficiently at home, it must ensure that its product aligns with the local culture and customer needs before expanding abroad. This requires companies to adapt their performance, pricing, and payment methods to meet the specific demands of the international market.

Another pillar is the need for universal currencies. Companies need to identify one or more universal currencies, such as cash, content, or connectors, to fuel their core growth loops across international borders. These currencies act as the driving force behind a company's expansion efforts and help establish a strong foundation in new markets.

However, it's important for companies not to be deceived by early traction in a market. Often, they may be fooled by a small subset of users who do not represent the majority of the market. It's crucial to constantly evaluate and measure progress toward product/culture fit by looking at customer retention and organic growth.

Furthermore, companies must not underestimate local competitors and must find a unique strategic advantage that differentiates their product offering. Each country has its own culture and habits, and understanding these nuances is essential for success in foreign markets.

To guide companies through the internationalization process, a 4-phase framework can be followed. It starts with making the product available in English, then progresses to language-level localization, investing in local content, and finally, developing market-specific features. This gradual approach ensures that companies are fully immersed in the local market and can cater to the needs and preferences of their target customers.

In addition to product/culture fit, companies must also ensure that their product is accessible to local customers. Factors such as product performance, internet speeds, pricing, and payment methods play a significant role in determining whether a company's product will gain traction in a new market. Optimizing website and mobile app performance is critical, especially in markets where internet speeds are slower than in the U.S. and Europe.

Moreover, pricing and payment methods must be tailored to the local market. If a company applies its U.S. price in a market where the target customer has less disposable income, it is unlikely to see significant traction. Accessibility is key, and sometimes seemingly inferior products can outperform advanced alternatives if they are more accessible to customers.

To illustrate the importance of accessibility, Pinterest serves as a notable example. The company relied heavily on content to scale internationally, taking advantage of its visual medium to expand rapidly into countries even before investing in extensive language-level or content-level localization. By making popular reviews available to international travelers and integrating on-demand translations, TripAdvisor also demonstrated the power of accessibility in attracting a global user base.

Before concluding, here are three actionable pieces of advice for companies looking to study hard and study smart in their international growth endeavors:

  • 1. Conduct thorough market research: Understand the local culture, habits, and preferences of your target customers. This will help you identify your unique strategic advantage and tailor your product offering accordingly.
  • 2. Optimize accessibility: Prioritize product performance, pricing, and payment methods that cater to the specific needs of the international market. Ensure that your product is easily accessible and usable for customers in different regions.
  • 3. Continuously measure progress: Regularly evaluate customer retention and organic growth to gauge your progress toward achieving product/culture fit. Adapt and iterate your strategies based on the data to enhance your international growth efforts.

In conclusion, expanding internationally requires companies to adopt a mindset of studying hard and studying smart. By achieving product/culture fit, leveraging universal currencies, and prioritizing accessibility, companies can position themselves for success in foreign markets. Remember, just like in academics, giving up is not an option. Keep pushing forward, learning, and adapting to unlock the full potential of your international growth journey.

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