Flemish exports reach record height in 2013

According to an article in the Flemish newspaper De Tijd exports from Flanders – one three regions in Belgium, the others are Wallonia and Brussels – grew in 2013 to a new record height. In comparison with the previous year exports increased by 1.64% to 294 billion euro. Flanders represents 83% of all Belgian exports. All the numbers originate from Flanders Investment and Trade.

Aside from all these positive macro-economic data, COGNEGY itself has seen a growing interest for the US market by many Belgian SMEs. More feasibility studies than ever before are being run, and more client businesses are enjoying our support with the execution of their growth strategies on the US market.
Another notable positive trend is the realization by many entrepreneurs that such a market entry has to be well prepared. Far more than in the recent past, they recognize the importance of early identification of ‘hurdles‘ and ‘springboards‘ (the opposite of a hurdle, an accelerator) and the understanding of competitive environments, which leads invariably to a stronger value proposition and in turn to more successful customer acquisition.
The original text was published in De Tijd – and can be found here http://www.tijd.be/r/t/1/id/9484774.
All numbers quoted originate from FIT – Flanders Investment & Trade.

 

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what is business development?

This blog has never been about us… but any good rule should have an exception.

Over time many people have asked me: ‘what do you do?’  I tell them: ‘…business development…’ And nine out of ten the reply comes: ‘so, you are a sales person, right…?’

Well, yes in a way, but actually no, not really…

Many people erroneously adhere to the idea that ‘business development’ is just another fancy name for selling. They see sales people as ego-hungry creatures, who are continuously looking to put something ‘new and improved’ on their business card. First they were simply sales guys, who then evolved into account managers and now have to be addressed as business development managers…

Or could ‘business development’ actually mean more than sales?

Sure, because others will tell you that business development is essentially the activity to forge new partnerships, alliances, joint ventures or even acquisitions, allowing the organization to grow non-organically.

Others again, will favor the concept that business development is in fact the opening up of new product – market combinations, and preach that actually its lifeblood lies within the R&D and new product development teams.

So, who is right? And, what do I actually do…?

In fact all of the definitions are accurate in a way – because business development is an effort that combines all of these elements and a couple more.

For us business development means ‘…leading the concerted efforts of a company’s profitable growth into new markets, new relationships and new business activities that typically take place outside the realm of its current day-to-day business…’

And that is what I enjoy doing – take businesses into unknown territory!

Fill in the blank …

I want to share with you a reply email I just sent to a European company who are looking at an opportunity on the USA market…

Fill in the <blank> for your product/service/solution and see if it also applies to you…

In this client’s case, having established that the market opportunity really exists, I observed that <blank>’s market is fast growing and therefore very attractive to many other players. In turn creating an environment prone to increased competitive pressure. Sounds familiar?

The <blank> opportunity

As a starting point, let us assume that the product/service/solution is competitive in its features, advantages and user benefits… Realize this (only) provides <blank> access to the market as a player, to become successful <blank> will first have to answer two key questions…

What is <blank>’s VALUE PROPOSITION

It is crucially important for <blank> to identify its differentiators versus its competitors

  • What makes <blank> a better total solution
  • Do not only think product or service – think solution package (sales, customer support, technical support, price, marketing, supply chain,…) through the eyes of  the customer

How does <blank> ACCESS the MARKET

  • What are the market segments with the highest return (depending on the company goal this can be profit, market share, volume, revenue, …)
  • Who are we talking to – who is asking, who is buying, who is paying, who is deciding, who is setting the selection criteria, …
  • What structure needs to be developed to access these markets, what channels are needed – an importer, a distributor, a fully owned structure, …

Formulate the answers to these two questions in a crystal clear manner and will know where to aim and how to get there.

Remember, there is no point worrying about execution (sales collateral, supply chain solutions, marketing, price, promotion, websites, import regulations,…) before these have been answered.

Do not draw a blank – come prepared!