Local Strength: The Power of In-Country Presence  

Establishing international strategic channel partners in the edtech market.

SMARTER SCHOOLS | by Michael Spencer

Courtesy BC MapsEstablishing a presence internationally is best accomplished via in-country strategic partners and resellers. Attempting to conduct international business from U.S.-based offices is not the way to go. There are several reasons for this, which I will explore in more depth here. But first, let’s have a closer look at what having a strategic partner and reseller means. Then, we will explore the value and benefit derived from such an in-country approach.

A Smart Partnership

In the context we are talking about, a strategic partner would mean an established individual or organization who is aligned to your needs and wants, where there would be mutual benefit, and who is also aligned to your goals and purposes.

While our world has never been more interconnected thanks to various communication and collaboration technologies, nothing beats the real thing when it comes to getting business done internationally.

For example, this might be an organization doing global business on the ground in-country and is deeply involved and working in the education vertical; one that already has strong relationships in place and is continually creating more and deeper relationships with interests in that country. You have made known what you need and want, and they are clearly aligned to your goals and purposes.

In working with such a person or group, here are eight clear advantages:

Smoother, cost-effective expansion. International (local) strategic channel partners work more efficiently being on the ground, in-country, and can thereby more cost-effectively grow your business in-country.   

Scalability and sustainability. Key to any successful international expansion strategy is the ability to scale revenue and subsequently sustain scalability year over year, something much easier to achieve with a strategic channel partner well in-tune with and servicing the customers’ ongoing needs and wants.

Ability to create new market opportunities. International strategic resellers can uncover new niche or vertical markets that would otherwise not be possible from a U.S.-based sales team.

Local representation. Nearly all in-country customers would prefer to deal with a local representative for a variety of reasons that stem from the fact (and strength) of being in closer communication to ‘see it through’ – to really execute on plans and strategies by providing whatever live communication and follow-through is necessary.

Mitigate financial risk. On the flip side, attempting to collect from late or delinquent accounts from your home country can make collecting money very difficult. Having a local representative can greatly alleviate this challenge. Additionally, strategic partners are more in tune with country protectionist laws and have better insight into transferring funds for payment of goods and services without being heavily taxed.

Localization. Speaking the local language and having marketing materials in the local language, and communicating within those realities (including idioms, styles, values, customs and senses of humor or culture uniquely understood by the local public) all work to avoid missing the mark, and lower any barriers to effectively delivering the message about features and benefits of your product or service.

Logistics. Local strategic channel partners are very in tune with import duties, taxes and tariffs and, if experienced, will advise you on the best means for shipping product to the country without high import fees, and through the most expedited way possible.

Costs. The costs associated with implementing international strategic channel partners is far more inexpensive than implementing an international, salary-based sales team.

Complications, hidden difficulties, and other barriers all related to time, distance, language, culture and simply not being there ‘on the ground’ — inevitably arise when administering business from afar.

While our world has never been more interconnected thanks to various communication and collaboration technologies, nothing beats the real thing when it comes to getting business done internationally.

Companies working in the international arena need to establish international strategic channel partners with the ability to be there locally, to see business through, and to ensure that your investment in the international market is an expansion that adds strength to your mission.

Michael Spencer is Senior Director of International Business Development at K12. He is past SVP at The American Education Corporation, past president of One2OneMate and a co-founder and investor in multiple edtech startups. With years of success in taking educational products to the domestic and international market, Michael has proven to be an industry expert in effective expansions both stateside and abroad. Write to: mspencer52163@gmail.com

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