Approaching export as plan-reseach-build will drain your bank account

The cost to export is much higher than the cost of developing your product. Your approach to new markets should reflect that. Yet, typically it doesn’t !

Costs are driven by shorter time-to-market requirements, shorter product life cycles, increased complexity in most business functions as logistics, branding and even product development (to name a few).

Hence, the traditional approach to new markets follows a linear thinking (waterfall modeling) whereby you start with a plan, then do the research, then consider how to enter given your research results, and then start realising it by adapting products and processes, securing funding and distribution.

Figure 1. Traditional ABC of go-to-market

The model is broken because you spend too many resources planning and preparing before you even know if there is a product market fit. Actually, 3 out of 4 companies don’t make it within the first year of trying.

The lean go-to-market model is a copycat of the lean methodology for developing businesses, which aims to shorten development cycles and rapidly discover if a proposed business model is viable.

This is achieved by adopting a combination of market scenarios and hypothesis-driven experimentation, iterative market tests, and validated learning expressed in an improved export model design. The core of the lean model is based on the Build-Measure-Learn feedback loop, which means marketers have to primarily focus on transforming their scenarios into tests and subsequently assess possible changes to the existing model. Thus each process within the loop requires to enhance the feedback.

The difference between planning first (traditional go-to-market) vs. testing first (lean go-to-market) is critical. With proper validation, marketers can recognize and address some of the key risks involved in new markets and make suitable adjustments to their export model design.

Figure 2. Lean go-to-market model

When we approach you, we typically have an understanding of what that first hypothesis should be – namely that the type of customer we bring to the table would serve as an interesting point of entry into the specific export market.


Approach your market backwards. First find your best guess customer. Then test your reasoning before you start using more resources on planning and implementation.