How to take your business global


International business expansion is the goal for many modern scale-ups that seek to maximise opportunities and spread their risk by developing a foothold in different territories worldwide. An exciting prospect, yes, but with government funding and resources often targeted at smaller organisations - and large conglomerates able to do their own networking and due diligence, what's the opportunity for the mid-sized scale-up?

We spoke to Mark Stimpfig, co-founder of Go To Market Global (GTM Global) and a partner of gigCMO, to explain the business's background and where and how scale-up companies can find support for their international expansion ambitions.

How did GTM Global start?

GTM Global came about in response to a client request which allowed me to see a gap in the services provided to scale-up companies looking to expand internationally.

In context, my background is that I read history at Cambridge, and from there, I got into consumer publishing, starting in print and moving towards digital in the 2000s. During that time, I ran my own business and did a lot of global work, which was where GTM started. Over 30 years of experience gave me an insight into what companies need to go international and where many lacked the proper support.

I had a serendipitous moment when a guy on LinkedIn was looking to take a business to the UK, and I realised we could help him with an address book and connections that would put the right brands and partnerships in front of him. We developed that in the form of events, and that worked to a point, but what we learned is that anyone who internationalises doesn't just want sales and marketing; they want a 360-degree approach that includes everything from talent, tax and compliance to how to find funding, resellers, and understanding the risk and liability as well as the opportunity.

What is GTM Global?

Now, GTM Global is an online ecosystem that helps ambitious tech and digital scale-up companies expand internationally through various services, including a high-touch programme of workshops, webinars, 1-2-1 mentoring, online resources and consultancy services. We leverage contacts and close connections with economic development organisations, key public sector agencies and curated private sector partners to help companies achieve their goals, whatever they may be.

What is the importance of GTM Global?

What we do is necessary and important is that increasingly in the scale-up space, owner-managers haven't got the capacity to know how to do all those things involved in international expansion themselves. They also don't tend to have the resources to pay a large consultancy to do it for them.

I met my business partner, Ian Collins, and our goal was to help scale ups with a complete approach to international expansion. What's happened since is that the world has become more agile, cordless and digital.

How does GTM Global work?

We focus on helping innovative, cloud-based platforms, from life sciences, smart and sustainable tech, aerospace, financial services, and big data to cyber security, reach new markets. It's an innovative economy, and many of our best exports are around those categories. We help companies grow in America, Northern Europe and the UK. We're an ecosystem which provides management consultancy directly or through third parties like gigCMO.

What is your role in international market expansion?

GTM Global helps businesses expand into new international markets by providing the tools and connections they need but probably wouldn’t otherwise be able to find without considerable resources.

In short, we're the catalyst for them achieving positive outcomes. If you want to enter a new market because you think you have some demand, the question is how. That's more important in the scale-up space as you don't necessarily have an in-country manager or the bandwidth to explore as a much larger organisation would.

Conversely, the government increasingly hasn't got the capacity to help either. They're interested in the GSKs and Rolls Royces of the world, and they're very interested in start-up businesses because they're vote winners, but scale-ups are harder because their needs need to be more concise and their demands are more nuanced.

For example, we talk a lot about expansion in this space being a journey rather than a destination. A business's needs depend on its growth stage and the country it's coming from or expanding into. Those nuances become important and inform when you do things and who you trust to address particular actions.

Our USP is looking objectively at how we can help a company through suggestions, strategies, and enablements that either we partially do or connect to a partner network. Central to the way we work is our ability to leverage our connections and knowledge for the benefit of the individual organisation.

Are you looking to expand your scale-up into new markets? Find out how our Fractional CMO service, which partners with GTM Global, could help you.

What unique perspective do you bring to businesses looking to expand internationally?

It's this idea of city-to-city trade. As I said, I read history at Cambridge, and one of the things that strikes me powerfully if you looked at other significant moments when trade got bigger, is that it's always around cities.

The Renaissance started after the Black Death (another pandemic), and if you look at how things are going now, applying that agile, borderless, digital trade mantra, it's around cities. They have knowledge hubs that specialise in specific areas, and once that hub grows and becomes successful in its own country, they look at how to internationalise. The obvious way is to look at cities with the same talent pool. A great example in the UK is Manchester, led by visionary mayor Andy Burnham. You can see other cities doing the same thing as well - they develop a strong sense of community, trust and vision, and they're in there for the long haul.

The other thing is that bigger cities are the most expensive, but now there's an argument that you can play in London without being in London. I was the European development director for an economic development board based in Phoenix, Arizona, and one thing they spoke a lot about as a top economic development board is proximity play. Do you need to be in LA? Or can you have a small office there and have all my big back office support in a place like Phoenix, which is 40% cheaper in tax and living expenses and is only an hour's flight away? The concept of the second city is powerful and changing.

What benefits do clients receive for international expansion?

Initially, it gives clients a vision, or confirmation of their vision, for where to go and how to get there. It's also about the connectivity that can ensue. You meet people and generate conversations that, over a period of time, can lead to investment, collaborations and new ideas.

The benefits of international market expansion

There are lots of benefits to international market expansion and the specifics vary from one business to the next. Not everyone has exactly the same aspirations. However, broadly speaking the range of benefits include:

  • Better profit margins via economies of scale
  • Less competition by being first to market in a new territory
  • It can drive innovation as you adapt to new competitive pressures, tastes and business structures
  • Attracting new talent by opening your business to a global talent pool with new energy and ideas

You have several partners like gigCMO - what role do they play?

We have different types of partnerships. We have commercial partners like our exclusive US lawyer. We take any legal connections in the US to him, which is a classic sponsor relationship. He's also our oldest client and a friend. We also do a lot of work with global economic development boards that pay us. Conversely, we work with UK embassies, who don't pay but propagate our messaging and get deal flow back in. For us, it's all about building connectivity and creating a scale-up ecosystem around international expansion.

gigCMO is a great partner for that because they work in a similarly supportive way. They work strategically and systematically to help companies achieve their goals, tailoring their approach not only to the individual scale-up but also to the way the journey evolves for that client.

Want to expand internationally but not sure where to start? Speak to the team at gigCMO to find out how.

How do you work with different levels of government?

The national government can be challenging to work with because decision-making is slow, but if they can give you access to their networks and endorsement, that can provide value. We sometimes get paid by government organisations for specific projects. Still, it's more about understanding where the government is, what the gaps are and where we can work collaboratively and creatively.

We also work with regional governments, particularly in the form of economic development boards. We do get paid by them because we provide a better and more commercial understanding of what they're looking for and deliver results.

At what point should a company considering international expansion tap into your services?

It ultimately depends on where we will give the best advice and where they haven't got resources. Broadly speaking, if you're in a high growth phase, but you haven't got the knowledge or address book to know how to expand internationally yourself, you could spend the money on, but it would divert resources away from other things - that's when to contact us. We can help you create that journey - a series of inflection points that help you navigate that process and make it a success.

One of the benefits our clients receive with gigCMO's Fractional CMO service is the combination of our knowledge and network, knowing who to engage and when to maximise the success of your international expansion strategy.

Discover gigCMO’s marketing playbook for successfully expanding your business internationally

gigCMO’s playbook approach to marketing gives scale-ups access to business experts that deliver the return on the marketing investment to grow your business. It’s a process that combines the best of tried and tested processes alongside experienced learnings, real-time market research and continuous evolution involving technological opportunities and best practices. A bottom-line driven approach, it’s tailored to the individual organisation and their goals whilst being rooted in proven methodology.

Read more about how our playbook approach can help your business grow