Neo: “Why do my eyes hurt?”
Morpheus: “You’ve never used them before”.
Ask most SME company directors why they only trade in the UK, and they’ll tell you: “because I live here”. That home bias, I admit, is something we were guilty of at Copylab. However, in our own defence, our target market is the financial-services industry so our focus on London and Edinburgh wasn’t completely shortsighted.
Even so, as we’ve grown our UK business, we’ve recognised that to keep growing, we need to think about how to attack the huge opportunities that exist for us outside the City.
So the timing of our invitation to join Santander’s SME trade mission to Brazil in November was perfect. We had already been prioritising our target overseas markets and identified a potential market entry in São Paulo (the financial centre) and Rio (home to Brazil’s asset-management industry).
The week I spent in these two cities with owners of five other SMEs had a number of high points, but the business impact was game-changing for me in three ways:
First, I spent a lot of time with the other mission delegates and shared our war stories, experiences and ideas. If the guy audaciously selling coffee capsules to Brazilians can make his business work (and he is), then anything’s possible!
Second, the commitment of the Santander team to the SME market is unusual and welcome. What’s more, its exciting technology-based tools will unlock doors for us to a network of potential clients around the world.
And third, our strategy sessions with John Holmes from Core Business Solutions, have helped us create a path in which we can accelerate our growth in a way that’s affordable, scalable and global.
I liken my experience in Brazil to Keanu Reeves entering the Matrix for the first time. It’s opened our eyes: to the business opportunity there and in other financial centres around the world; but also to the different strategies we might employ to enter those markets.
The most valuable learning from my experience that I’d pass onto other SMEs is not the value of networking per se, but networking with the right people. Being in the right place at the right time is what is transforming our business.
As a result of our recent activity, we now have an affordable distribution strategy that means we’ll be able to serve as the communications and copywriting partner to our asset-management clients wherever they are in the world – New York, Singapore, London… or São Paulo.
And we’ve developed a clearer proposition that allows us to make better use of the fundamental skills in our business – English-language writing and investment knowledge – to support non-English-speaking clients in the investor-relations industry.
Another memorable quote from mind-bending movie The Matrix reads, “There is a difference between knowing the path and walking the path. Inside, I’ve always known what our path would be, but now, we know how to walk it”.
Ross Hunter is Managing Director of Copylab, a communications agency specialising in the financial- services sector, that is unlocking access to the international market for its services.