Market Access Pitfalls 3: Product

Market Access Pitfalls 3: Product

As an entrepreneur, you are proud of your product and want to share it with the world (and make a profit in the process). You are seeing good results in your home market and in your initial export markets, too. To you it’s clear you have a winner.

Unfortunately, however, success at home is not a guarantee for success in other markets. Not every product will sell equally well around the world.

Let’s look at some of the reasons for that.

Markets Openness

Some markets embrace every new product and brand that knocks on their door. Others are slower.

Germany, while known for its innovative engineering, is usually a bit suspicious of new brands. Is it worth the money? Is it good quality? Is it cool? In fashion, for instance, it helps if you can show your brand has been successfully introduced in other European markets.

If your product or brand is truly worth the money, good quality, and cool, the next question the German market will ask is, Is it better than what we already have? You need to have an answer that is more than just promotional copy.

Product Characteristics

In a crowded market such as Germany, it is important to differentiate yourself. Is your product unique? Of course!, you will most likely say. After all, you came up with the idea, you built it, and the result is as unique as your own child. To your prospective customers, however, you may be just another brand selling socks. You will have to show them exactly what makes you unique.

Some other factors besides uniqueness that may impact a product’s success in the market are:

  • Look and feel
  • Colors
  • Material/ Ingredients
  • Packaging
  • Size

Another thing to consider: what makes you special in your home market may not be much of a factor abroad. I had clients who stressed that they were an Indigenous-owned business. „Indigenous“ is not really a concept, and therefore not a great USP, in Germany – especially not if the product in question is something Germans would not consider „typically“ Indigenous.

If you buy your product from a factory in Asia and simply slap your logo on it, it most likely isn’t unique. This means you will have to compete on price. A quick search on Amazon can help you determine whether a product like yours is already being sold in Germany (it probably is) and at what price. This will help you decide whether you want to enter the competition.

Market Needs

Why should people buy your product? Does it meet a need in your target market? Does it solve a relevant problem for consumers? For example, you can make the best bear spray in the world, but you will not find great demand in Germany. There are practically no bears in this country.

Are there factors or conditions in the market that might even make your product a poor choice? For instance, North American bed sheets don’t necessarily fit European mattresses.

Who Are Your Competitors?

„We have no competition anywhere,“ proclaimed more than one client proudly. A quick Google search would typically reveal plenty of competition, some already well-established in the market.

Research your competitors and what they are up to. Then determine whether it makes sense for you to enter the race. If your competitors‘ product is of comparable quality but they are already selling, they have a competitive advantage. Is it still worth the time and effort for you to go into the market? Or is it a smarter strategy to find a different market with less competition?

One of my clients had developed a highly effective and safe mosquito spray. Great! But. First issue: Germany does not have a much of a mosquito problem, so there was limited relevance and demand. Second issue, much bigger: the mozzie-spray market is dominated by one major (German) brand that is a household name. To get even a toe in the door would have required an enormous marketing effort – too enormous for the limited sales potential, too enormous for a small company.

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