Marketing Director, Rainmaking Expand
We are back this week for our next article in the Expert Insights series where we cover some of the insights and learnings from the program by sitting down with the different speakers to hear their thoughts on the topics they specialise in.
This week, we sit down with Devin Graber to discuss product-market fit and how to generate B2B leads in a new market.
Thank you so much for joining us not only on the Rainmaking Expand: South Korea program, but also for this online series. To start with, would you be able to introduce yourself?
Devin: I’m Devin Graber and I help companies expand and grow. I’m originally from the US and have been in South Korea for the past 11 years. Initially I worked at larger companies in business development and sales & marketing roles, but now I work with startups at various stages helping to refine their business models and messaging, helping them understand what problem they are really solving. I’ve always respected founders, someone who could take an idea and turn it into something concrete and tangible. Every time you speak to one, there is an amazing opportunity to learn something. This is what I try to help founders with, seeing things from a new perspective. The exchange of information and continued learning has been my biggest motivation for most of my career decisions and the primary reason I enjoy working with founders.
That is really inspirational, and very true. I relate with you on the fact that you always learn something new when speaking to founders. In the workshop that you ran for Rainmaking Expand you covered some missteps that startups could make and how to avoid them, would you be able to share some of those insights here too?
Devin: The simple answer is not understanding the market. I mean this in the most general sense as well. People are more the same than they are different. We all have, generally, the same needs and wants. What differs is the manner and lexicon in which they are expressed. Some cultures are very direct and open to new ideas, others require more caution, a building of relationships before business gets underway and a demonstration of proof-of-concept before anything new will be accepted. Most issues arise from misunderstandings. Good news is that these misunderstandings are decreasing, particularly with the younger generations, as the world has become more interconnected and people realize there are multiple ways of doing something. South Korea has created many new and amazing companies in the past decade and established companies are really coming into their own in the global markets, but this is underlined by a certain conservatism. Your first sale or client will be the hardest, but after you have demonstrated you can provide value each subsequent sale becomes easier. (Read more about B2B Sales in our interview with Bruno) What all of this means is you must be very careful when selecting your target market and first customer as a bad reputation can inhibit not just rapid expansion, but any expansion at all. You have to prove to them you want to make their life better and easier. It also means that your operations do not need an overhaul just for any single market, and on some level, you can focus on determining how best to market and sell your offering in a way that appeals to the local senses.
Thank you, that is really insightful, and a very valid point, focusing on a good impression and building your reputation first is a must. As startups are looking to enter new markets, what advice do you have for them regarding validating their Product-Market Fit (PMF)?
Devin: For any market the most important thing is identifying and selecting the appropriate market. It’s relatively easy to say when you have PMF, sales increase rapidly, acquisition costs go down, and the offering sells itself. It’s more difficult to know you are moving towards PMF. But research has shown that by asking users how they would feel if they could no longer use your product or service and measuring the number of respondents answering “very disappointed.” The magic number seems to be about 40% and this seems to be the best leading indicator of PMF. Also remember, you are in control of what market you are measuring and the right one might not be what you initially anticipated. You can either change the product or change the intended market. Assuming you have achieved some level of PMF in your home market, if you are struggling internationally, make sure everything is expressed according to local norms. Even amongst the USA, Australia, Singapore, New Zealand, India, and the UK, all English-speaking countries, history, immigration, religion, cultural norms, etc., all influence the way the language is used. There is the possibility the market in the new target country is small and not yet ready for your offering and at that point you have to decide if you want to invest the time and resources on educating and growing the market to put yourself in a position to capture that growth.
You also took some time to share your insights to the companies on the program regarding B2B lead generation. What advice do you have for companies that are looking to do B2B lead generation in South Korea?
Devin: Most important is to craft an appropriate message, or messages. Here, brevity and lexicon should be the focus. You need to be short and direct while still being respectful of local norms. It should also go without saying, that even if you have a template, each message needs to be personalized. Next is selecting the best people at the target company to contact. Be as specific as possible. Within the target company, you want to determine what department and which department member would give you the best chance of establishing a partnership. But be aware, this person may not be the one you would end up working with. You have to find the gatekeepers. One way to circumvent this is to use your existing network. You may not know all of your friends’ and colleagues’ friends and acquaintances. A personal connection always goes a long way. In South Korea you may face a couple interesting issues. First, LinkedIn is growing in popularity rapidly but you may not be able to find the proper contacts there. Second, a lot of the email addresses seem to be a combination of random words and letters. These are generally correct and the newer email addresses follow a more conventional “name.name” format. Last, you will get a lot of “not my circus, not my monkeys.” There can appear to be a lack of agency amongst certain people at certain companies. What all of this means is you will have to play a numbers game, but by focusing on the first two points regarding messaging and targeting, you can reduce the number of attempts per response.
Thank you so much for sharing all your insights, Devin, they have been very helpful and shared some great points.