Challenge: Growing a business in the region

Dave: We have tons of demand coming from markets like Vietnam, Indonesia, and Taiwan, but we don’t really know these markets. There’s the language barrier, also, we’re not sure how big that cultural gap is. Do we focus on localization? Or would it be better to work through partners?

Our growth is driven more from direct engagements with HubSpot rather than partner channels. We’re talking about small and medium businesses (SMBs) here.

There’s also the irony of being a company that pushes for inbound marketing. We’d love to practice what we preach because that’s what we believe in. But we’re also mindful of taking something that’s pretty Western and implementing it in Asia.

Another question we’re trying to figure is ‘how much resources do we dedicate to India?’ There’s so much demand there because it’s such a huge market and they do speak English. But it’s about balancing the ROI as well.

Doyle: Salesforce has a model of having (free entry) events every 2 weeks. It’s with a small, intimate crowd of around 20-50 pax, with a mix of thought leadership presentations and sales presentations.

Antoine: We do events too, and invite partners to give additional perspective. This helps us pretty well with conversion. It’s more of a soft sell for clients who aren’t really ready for what we have to offer and need a little more education and preparation, but would love to come to an event to learn.

Dave: We do webinars but the conversion is rather challenging.

Gerry: I work with a limited budget so I have to be scrappy. The approach I take towards getting that reach in new markets is to do a PR pitch for speaking opportunities, tying back to Antoine’s example, to be the partner that’s invited to give a different point of view. This helps us (Bridge Alliance) with building awareness while optimizing resources – be it travel budget, event budget or just employee time.

Mandy: Singlife operates rather differently. We engage with our customers directly, or through partner advisors who then sell our products to their customers.

Joe: It is important to also remember that there needs to be a product fit with the market too.

Dave: It’s funny because we are actually seeing a lot from Vietnam which is rather unexpected.

Joe: From my experience, Vietnam tends to be more tech savvy, so they would understand what you have to offer better – it requires less education of your product or services.

Doyle: You might also need to make a compromise. Vietnam is a market that might not pay you the same as Singapore, for example.

Joe: Taking a leaf from other software platforms, they offer discounts for developing markets…

Doyle: Indeed, there’s also this gap in terms of the education required to equip start-ups with information and how to go about their inbound marketing as it can be quite daunting for them at the start. It can feel like it’s too much, too early. You’ll need someone inhouse to manage the tool, use it, and create content. Most companies currently have these tools but don’t use it.

Antoine: We are feeling the same sentiments in Asia, where in terms of education, we need to help them understand digital marketing. For example, companies should be producing more videos than they are doing now, largely because there isn’t someone inhouse who understands its value and what it can bring.

Dave: Do you find that there’s a cultural gap in terms of the approach towards video content?

Antoine: Yes, a massive one in fact. How we fill this gap is that we’ll sell our services through someone who’s an expat or a foreign educated manager, since the language barrier is lower and they tend to understand the product’s value better. However, even when that goes through, the team gets scared. So what we’ve done is that we hired a creative director to create templates that will help with the onboarding of these clients. For example, if this is a video for a leadership update, follow this step, then this and then that.

Joe: A lot of Asian clients are rather hesitant to put themselves out there as well. So my partners and I found it useful when I share best practices and the likes during trainings.

Antoine: It is also about a mindset change. The video doesn’t have to be perfect. It could be really scrappy as well. It doesn’t have to be so polished.

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