To expand a company: Foreign markets adventures
This year has been quite challenging. It was the first time I had the chance to help a company penetrating foreign markets, especially the US and Europe. After 6 months, I'm happy with the results and all the signed deals in Africa, US, Central - South America and Europe.
I have had the chance to engage in discussions and business meetings with professionals from Kenya, Bolivia, Puerto Rico, Morocco, Australia, Italy, US or Germany. Each one has different ways to conduct meetings, negotiate and close deals. You can read more about it here. It has been quite rewarding and different.
Now, after all those deals, partnerships and resellers have been onboarded, what weighs the most? Revenue and user acquisition (later on, retention and profit). I have no clue what makes a good number, but I do know that is quite difficult to make inroads in new markets where competition has the first mover advantage or the entry barriers are quite high for an "x" amount of reasons.
What are my learnings after this first half in India?
Understand the user
This is something I learned back in school. The insights are key to improve our product (we actually deploy changes every 2 weeks and most of my time it´ll be spend with the PM´s) and solve whatever issue the user might have. Once you find those “aha” moments, you get one invisible, yet valuable step ahead of competition. After so many calls I can tell I have gotten really deep in the mind of a hackathon organizer, a computing science school-club, a potential reseller and overall, a developer. Also, you need to create buckets for your stakeholders: Bucket A is different than bucket C and B. For each you´ll have to develop a good profiling and segmentation
Create a value ecosystem
Just like Apple did, when you have the eyeballs of your community, you can start delivering products to keep them coming back. The famous engagement happens when your retention is high (at least 30% will be back more than 2 a month) and you can start creating actual value for your users. Companies like Dropbox and Airbnb have cracked this properly with its referral program. Why do you referral? Because you see value on the service. More on that here
Share one vision
I worked in the middle of developers, PM´s, marketing, sales and ops. Every time I go to someone, I feel some sort of shared vision. Some “why we bothered” shared thing. We bothered because we have a pretty good chunk of the users and the whole universe of developers is growing exponentially worldwide. We are doing it because every single industry is going into software and everything is digital now. We are doing it because we want to create and lead this industry. We are doing it because we cared and because it matters. When you have that support and internal engagement, things turn out way better.
Find the earned, owned and paid balance
Now that I have seen the final numbers for international user acquisition, I realized the number is good for organic efforts. Next year I think we will start paying to acquire new users and keep banking on our strong community to have the new accounts flowing in organically. There´s not a single thing wrong with paying for quality users, it's fair and it´s smart. However, it is not smart if you don't track every penny. Once you have the ROI, you can make smarter calls. Don't trust the gut entirely. 80% science 20% art like one of my professors used to say.
OKR´s in place
I can't put enough emphasis on this one. I have got 0.7 and 0.5 for my last quarter. I have forecasted pretty good and I know my numbers are solid. OKR´s (Objectives and Key Results) are something I learned back in IBM and then continued in Zomato. Here, I decided to push it personally and then with my team. OKR´s are the best single way (at least for me) to structure your team goals and meet them.
I have the eyeballs!
This is something I learned with Zomato. When the former unicorn (sorry Z, it´s the numbers) entered a new market, they scanned all the restaurants, whether they were upscale or just a tiny joint. Once they have done and invested in this, they basically had everyone looking for a place to eat. They were the monopoly, the Google for food. Once they had the organic traffic, they could start charging restaurants to place ads and be first when someone felt like ´pad thai in Solna´. Then, once they had X amount of traffic, Zomato would release new products such as Book (table managemente) or Base (POS). By then, the business was vertically integrated and most of the time, it belonged to the indians. Restaurant owners could solve most of their needs using their platform.
Reply in time. Don´t reply them all
I learned this from Guido Gerlotti, former global vice president of IBM. He taught me how to answer people that mattered. Business and calls that could go somewhere . Don't waste time with people that do not reply and once a good lead has hit your inbox, be on top of it, doing a constant follow up until you get a yes or a no.
Those are my learnings after a great year at work. Let´s see how things turn out for 2017. OKR´s are in placed and the roadmap is ready to be delivered.