Lessons learned: Developing Flowmon foreign operations

For six years I’ve been standing in the front line of Flowmon international business development. As an area manager I’ve launched operations on several markets across Europe. Usually with no brand awareness, no partners on the target market and with inexorable KPIs hanging over my head like the Sword of Damocles . In this article I’m sharing my experience and identifying six key must-haves when developing a new market.

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In many countries where I’ve started to build Flowmon’s presence, there is now an active channel and Flowmon keeps growing in terms of end clients and partner base, revenue, marketing etc. Looking back, maybe I was quite lucky, because I‘ve started working for a company whose solutions are easy to understand. Well, I don’t mean that something like flow-based network monitoring and security analytics are approachable topics for everyone. But when you are talking to the right people, they understand the benefits of the technology, no matter what country they come from. And that’s something you can build on.

But when establishing a business on a new market, you can’t leave everything to chance alone. So, let’s take a look at six key biz-dev rules.

Go-To-Market Strategy . In the very early stage of expansion, necessary to be sure whether you are going to penetrate the market with “must-have” or “nice to have” solutions. Are you operating with global powerful corporate solutions, or start-up solutions? Every market is different and wouldn’t be ready to implement let’s say “nice to have” start-up solutions even if they could help in operations, business intelligence, provide short Time-To-Resolution , ROI or have a reasonable TCO. I’ve experienced this situation many times in previous years. But the situation has changed and today every responsible administrator knows what’s inside the “network monitoring”.

Technology . Is your technology good enough? Some say that marketing can sell everything. In our branch, it’s not true. Do you bring something new? How does it simplify everyday operations? At the end of the day, you are presenting and doing PoC with IT guys who want to see results. If your solution won’t make it happen during the PoC, then it doesn’t matter you’re a silver-tongued salesman. And I’m glad that I can count on Flowmon when it comes to PoC.

Marketing . Are you ready for marketing? You can have the best product on earth, but with the brand awareness you will most likely fail. People simply like the things they know or they are familiar with (at best). Good marketing strongly enhances sales (and PR mostly). Accept it and get used to it. And yes, good marketing always means investments.

Sales Channel . How would you establish a sales channel? Since companies like Flowmon are almost exclusively channel companies, it’s always important to find reliable local partners. When you can leverage your relations from other markets, you’ve got one more ace up your sleeve (i.e. Flowmon works with Alef Distribution in South Eastern Europe where they have a local presence).

Product support . Can you count on your product support? Of course that once you have local partners, they can do that job for you. But they need to see your support. They will need graphic guides, product briefs and other materials that speak the voice of your company. And the market also requires technical support and it should have really short response time to resolution: 4 hours till response, 2 days till resolution.

Local manager . Will you hire a local manager? This is probably one of the trickiest parts of starting new operations. Are you thinking of relocating your colleague from headquarters to manage new operations instead of hiring a local guy? After years in the field, I would advise you to hire a local professional. Finding the right person for your local business, someone who is responsible, understands the technology and knows the market, is really helpful. I got my fingers burnt many times. But once you find him/her, you will benefit from your decision, since local guys know local games.

Some things are changing, some are not. Everytime I’m starting operations on a new market, I keep these six rules in mind. Is my technology good enough for this market? Can my product support handle the time-shift? How will my go-to-market strategy look like? Questions like these help me clarify next steps and lead me to the goal.

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