It is always worthwhile for internationalization newcomers to focus their strengths and open up one market after the other. It is more promising to establish a sustainable market position in one or two markets with commitment, focus and persistence than trying to juggle too many markets simultaneously. One exception may be e-commerce, although it is still important here to consider local regulations and tax requirements in individual cases, even in the case of multinational intra-European sales via online platforms.
Export start in neighboring, nearby and culturally similar countries
As one might expect, Western Europe constitutes the dominant export destination for Swiss SMEs. A company will initially begin by expanding into neighbouring countries, before exploring geographically and culturally distant regions such as North America, Eastern Europe, Asia and Central and South America.
Switzerland's most important export market is and remains Germany, where according to surveys by S-GE around 80% of exporting companies export goods or services, followed by France with 62%. It is followed by Italy and the USA with 54% each and Austria with 53%. 47% of Swiss SMEs will export to the Netherlands in the next six months, 43% to China and the United Kingdom. Spain follows with 42% and Scandinavia with 41%.
Contacts with business partners and end customers are decisive
Not infrequently, it is also chance contacts with business partners or end customers in a specific country that seem promising and can influence the choice of market. Good networks and business partners are always a key to success. Even a opportunity-driven principle can work as long as due consideration is given to the market, business partners and customers.
Initial recommendations for action
- Start with geographically, linguistically and culturally close markets that you can reach with short trips, especially in neighbouring countries such as Germany, Austria, Italy and France or Spain, the Netherlands, Belgium or the United Kingdom.
One country at a time: Begin with one market and focus on it until your business is stable before moving on to the next.
- Speak to other entrepreneurs who are already operating successfully in the target country. Your own learning curve may be eased by the experiences and assessments of others.
Different countries, different customs: The mechanisms are very different depending on the market. Read the next article to find out what Swiss companies need to especially watch out for to when it comes to market mechanisms abroad.
Would you like more information on how to get started with internationalization? Our “Export Compact” manual provides a solid introduction to the questions you should ask yourself during internationalization and how you can answer them.