Europe is a viable and much sought after marketplace and many technology vendors want to tap its potential for their products. Vendors who have ‘tested’ the waters may have experienced some initial success with little or no effort, but don’t underestimate the resources required to build a channel in Europe. Launching a successful channel strategy is a substantial step and one that needs a solid game plan.
The European market has seen many foreign businesses attempt to develop routes to market, yet fail miserably and return home with their proverbial tail between their legs. One of the reasons this happens is because vendors fail to successfully integrate and adapt to the local markets throughout Europe.
The points below are summarised from the guide, "Destination Europe: A CEO’s Guide to Developing a Successful Channel Strategy,” and stem from channel experts who have devoted their careers to helping businesses succeed in Europe’s diverse markets.
Europe is not one market – Perhaps one of the greatest misconceptions vendors have when setting up new sales channels in Europe is that they believe ‘one size fits all’. Nothing could be further from the truth. Europe is more like a collection of 50+ unique markets, each with its own challenges, complexities, culture, or even language.
It may not happen as fast as you think - Vendors need to take into consideration that the majority of Europeans don’t fall into the ‘early adopters’ category. Setting up a channel in Europe will not follow the same timeline they may be accustomed to. A vendor must be prepared to invest the time and resource it takes to establish their presence in the marketplace which may take longer than they first anticipated.
Reputation is everything - Europeans can be cautious of vendors who parachute in and tout the greatness of their product. They’ve seen this one too many times. A vendor who is new to Europe must be able to showcase customer success stories and a proven track record in their own market.
Don’t start what you can’t finish – Nothing will swallow a vendor’s attempt to succeed in Europe more quickly than choosing channel partners they can’t properly support, be it in training, marketing etc... Sometimes vendors may be lured to a ‘brand name’ channel partner and expect that big partners will bring even bigger revenue. However, this is not always the case as they may quickly find out that they have overcommitted themselves and can’t deliver everything that’s expected of them. And the result is lost sales, and ultimately a failed partnership. Had the vendor been more patient and selective of their channel partners in the early stages and not blinded by the thoughts of quick success or far-reaching market presence, that vendor would have benefited from steady, manageable growth of their product and their revenue.
Don’t get lost in translation – As Europe consists of many different cultures and languages, all product materials, guides, marketing collateral, etc. must be flawless in their translation and sensitive to cultural differences. If this is overlooked, the vendor will risk losing credibility and the trust of channel partners.
Success in Europe is not only possible; it is likely when following a few simple but important steps.