29 February 2012 By Northern Lights
Earlier this year we decided to look at new markets – and to go to Dubai. How do you go about researching and winning new business from an entirely new market? Here is how we did it – from a standing start in mid January. What worked? What didn’t? We share it all with you – and how LinkedIn proved the winning factor through it all.
1. Why Dubai?
We have a business partner who talked to us before Christmas about working with them in Dubai. Nothing has happened with this yet, but it set us thinking.
Around 15 January I put a note on my LinkedIn update ‘Anyone knowledgeable about the economy in Dubai? Any advice?’ Within 24 hours a contact at Yorkshire Water recommended someone who has been going out to Dubai for the last few years. I contacted him – and although he lives in Somerset, he offered to meet me the following week
He gave me three hours of time – and gave me enough confidence to say – let’s go.
2. Leverage your voluntary activities overseas
I offered to give a guest lecture on social media for business for the alumni network in Dubai. The impressive regional office snapped my hand off and within two weeks organised a hugely successful event with more than 70 business people attending. I paid for the room and refreshments so I was not abusing my position.
This event was a great focus to invite people to as I acquired contacts.
3. Use LinkedIn to get international introductions
All of our team trawled our LinkedIn accounts to find contacts in UAE. My colleague came up with the real trumpcard – a contact from years ago got in touch with three top quality people in Dubai. With David’s introduction, all three offered to meet me.
One is CEO of the largest equipment rental company in Dubai – and they are now a client. I am going out to Dubai for a week on 11 March with the hope on both our sides that this will be the start of a long term relationship. If this is successful, I will organise a trading licence in Dubai.
Through all the introductions, I had appointments with 20 people when I went out to Dubai. Because you are introduced through credible people and arrive ‘rated’, the quality of these introductions is superb. I have got genuine relationships to pursue with all these people.
4. Is UKTI helpful?
In the UK we were spontaneously offered country reports, introductions, the Ambassador to attend our event and more. Regrettably none of it was delivered. In Dubai I met the creative sector specialist – she was unable to say what typical consultancy rates in Dubai are; how UK companies bill for flights and hotel expenses; the cost and time to get a trading licence. However, in our meeting it all clicked into place: their role is to sell a service – 6 introductions for around £1000.
If you are not a networker, maybe this could be worth it. If you are on LinkedIn, have a lot of contacts and use it strategically – well, you can get better contacts and appointments yourself. Employing someone to introduce you to people you have no connection to is probably bad value for money.
5. Make time to follow up sales leads
Just before I went out to Dubai I had attended Nick Bramley’s Bite Size Director Forum. Part of these short, sharp early morning events is a peer problem-solving session.
Directors put in a particular question or challenge and the 30 or so others there share experiences and recommendations (and warnings!). I asked for advice on this trip to Dubai – and the one that rang in my ears was ‘make sure you clear time on your return to follow up all the leads’. Which is how I came to be emailing and making notes at 11pm in my hotel every night!
Sound advice and all of it has paid off. Our thanks to everyone who helped make the trip so successful.
And now having blitzed a completely new market in less than a month and won absolutely top quality work – should we be doing something similar in the UK?! Would this approach work in the UK?