Here we present practical tools you can use to:
- Find the right local partner and align expectations.
- Understand market dynamics and best position your product.
- Support and engage with your partner and increase mutual success.
- Monitor and prioritize your markets.
The toolbox is divided into three steps that walk you through a typical partnership process — from assessing a partner to developing a go-to-market plan. Click on the steps below to go to find the tools and descriptions that goes along with each step.
How to use the tools – a quick guide
When do I use the tools?
Most of the tools are designed to be used with your partner. You can use the tools for initial meetings with new partners or when you visit your existing partners. The tools focusing on Partner Match and Partner Monitoring are developed for internal use in your company.
How do I use the tools?
The tools consist of templates you bring to meetings with your partner. You can either print them or share them electronically. The templates focus on different issues related to your partnership, showing for example how to position your product on the market and jointly develop a go-to-market plan. By using the templates, you focus your dialogue, extract deeper market knowledge, and align expectations.
Either fill out the templates with your partner or use them to initiate discussion. Use the tools from A to Z or pick those that fit your needs.
You can download the full package of tools below on this page, or the individual tools on the tool pages. On each tool page, you can download an example of how to fill in the tool
Why do I need a tool?
Time is a scarce resource for most SMEs. The tools are designed to make the most of the time you already spend with your partner. These practical tools can help you save time by focusing on important issues and avoiding misunderstandings.
Why use visual dialogue tools?
Partners may be at the same meeting but conclude very different things. By using visual templates, you reduce misunderstandings caused by language barriers or cultural differences. You also focus your discussions and extract necessary information to complete your goals, which can help you understand the market and support your partner.
The templates do not exactly fit my business
The tools are simplified illustrations designed to cover many types of businesses and sectors. They should be seen as a source of inspiration and starting points for discussion.
Will I seem like I’m trying to interfere with my partner’s business?
This is definitely a risk. The tools encourage transparency and dialogue, but they can result in the opposite if your partner sees them as micromanagement or a lack of trust in their expertise. Emphasizing the mutual value and your interest in supporting your partner is important.
Growth market characteristics
Finding the right agent or distributor and developing a strong partnership is relevant in any market. Many of the tools are therefore widely applicable. The tools are, however, designed especially for growth markets. These countries are extremely diverse, but they are all significantly different than Nordic markets and often require a different partner approach due to language barriers and differences in business culture.
In India we do not say no. It is in our cultural mindset and is probably the most important thing to remember. It requires an understanding of the market dynamics in order to know what is possible and what seems too good to be true.– Krishnan Naganathan, Valcon
Growth markets are promising, but often hard to navigate. Market knowledge is often low and risks are higher. A number of interviews have been conducted to identify the key challenges Nordic SMEs and local partners meet when they work together. The following highlights some of the crosscutting themes mentioned:
Nordic companies and local partners often have different perceptions of agreements and plans. Business in many growth markets is often based on shorter-term planning and a high degree of flexibility and adaptation to changes, whereas Nordic companies often like to plan for the longer term and see frequent changes as breaches of agreement. You can use the tools to better understand the market dynamics and manage uncertainties more efficiently.
“Partners get annoyed when emails are not answered. Communication can be a problem, especially if written reporting is required. Egyptians prefer talking instead of writing, when an issue needs to be discussed.“
– Egyptian distributor
Networks are the foundation for many business transactions in growth markets. This means partners are not always willing to share information about their networks, making it difficult to assess a potential partner. By using these tools, you can often get your potential partner to “open the box” a bit more about specificity of networks and ways of working.
“My partner never asks about my family,” one local partner mentioned. Odds are the Nordic partner never thought about it. Nordic business people often want to be efficient and professional as well as formalize relations contractually, whereas local partners often prefer to build and maintain relations socially. A bit of effort in understanding the cultural etiquette often makes a big difference.
“Trust is something you earn, not the starting point. Prioritizing good relations makes the distributor prioritize your products and ensures conflicts are solved quickly. It can be small things such as remembering birthdays and inviting your partner for dinner. “
– Glenn Mikkelsen, manager DI China
“Egyptian companies are a bit more formal than Nordic companies. It is important that you do not say your opinion openly about everything. Egyptians are proud people and less direct. Going friendly is a good approach at any meeting.”
– Engy Basiouny, Danish Embassy in Cairo
“Gray hair and titles means power and respect. Mexican business people will often expect you to send the CEO or high-level managers to make decisions.” The quote is from Mexico but also represents sentiments in many other growth markets. While Nordic companies delegate authority and may find it more relevant to send a specialist, formal hierarchy often matters much more locally.
“There’s a reason why we have such a long lunch break – the Mexicans are very social, but we still work with a higher level of control than the Nordic Countries. The high Nordic ‘trust’ can actually in some cases be considered lack of power – so be aware of the balance.“
– Sergio Rivas, DI Mexico
Many SMEs interviewed said they don’t know much about what happens with their products once they reach the local partner. Understanding the formal and informal value chains and your end user’s needs can help you adapt packaging, manuals, marketing materials, etc., and enhance your product’s success in these markets.
In addition, growth markets often have large, informal market segments, which Nordic products reach, knowingly or not. Informal markets are often very organized and represent very high business volumes despite the lack of formality. The tools can help you understand market dynamics and best position your product.
A real partnership requires mutual value. This is a lot easier said than done. Often one forgets to focus on identifying the value for the local partner. Does the product really fit your partner’s product portfolio? Does your partner have the right sales tools? Does your partner have the right incentive structures? The tools can help you focus on defining and creating mutual value.
The SME tool is supported by Nordic Innovation. The aim is to ensure your company has the best possibilities for success in growth markets.
The tool is based on input from a number of Nordic partners, most importantly through dialogue with Nordic SMEs and local distributors and experts on a number of growth markets. This means the tool reflects the challenges and advice given by both Nordic companies and local partners.
A number of Nordic organizations working with SMEs working toward internationalization have also contributed; they are ready to help you use the tool and offer additional support services.