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The most important question you need to ask when going international

Which region should we enter? Which roles will we need from day one? How will we find great local talent? Which products should we launch with? How profitable is this actually going to be?

But – there’s one question that far too few software companies remember to ask aloud. And in a lot of cases, it’s the most important question of all:

“What will this overseas expansion mean for our product roadmap?”

And it can be hard to admit, but your existing solution won’t automatically be the perfect fit for every new region. The new customer base you decide to target will have its own new needs.

If you’re not ready to reflect those needs in your product roadmap, you’re setting your salespeople – and your expansion exercise – up to fail. Here’s how to get it right.

Do your research, and let it guide your market expansion strategy.

When deciding where you’ll expand, thoroughly explore the market you’ll be selling into, including the integrations your customers will expect.

As Peter Larsson, Chairman of the Board for SaaS companies Outpost24, Lumera and Viedoc, explains, “Integration needs are often more localised than you might think. Many markets have their own ‘local champion’ when it comes to ERP systems. If you’re going to sell a B2B solution successfully, there’s every chance you’ll need to develop that extra integration.”

The more sophisticated your offering, and more regulated your industry, the more resources you may need to be ready to invest in additional product development.

Larsson underlines this point by drawing on a company he knows well. “Think about Itello, which provides solutions to the Nordic life and pension industry. If we wanted to take Itello to the UK, where the life and pension industry is very different, it would have a major impact on our product roadmap.”

For more tips and insights about international expansion – from identifying new markets to hiring the right people – read The field-guide to international expansion for Nordic software CEOs.