The Nordic markets are characterized by well-developed logistics routes, good infrastructure, efficient customs clearance and a high price level compared with the rest of the EU. The strong purchasing power there is positive for Swiss products, which tend to be more expensive. In addition, the topic of innovation is as important in these countries as it in Switzerland. As Michael Kühn's sees it, the cultural similarity and language barriers also speak in favor of market entry. As English is part of primary school education in the Nordics, the language level is very high in many places.
Sweden: a good starting point in the north
“The most important and largest export market for Swiss companies in the north is definitely Sweden.”
Kühn is convinced that to be sustainably successful in these markets, interested Swiss companies have to visit regularly; it is not possible to do everything by email or telephone. “Although Sweden is a good starting point in itself, a local representation or presence should be considered. There are also sensitivities between the Nordic countries that should not be underestimated, in addition to the not deep, but still existing, language barriers.
Particularly attractive for IT and consumer goods
The signs are particularly good for the IT and consumer goods sectors: “As in Switzerland, the Nordic countries have a strong innovation and startup scene. We therefore see great potential for Swiss providers across the whole IT market. Because purchasing power is high and consumers are aware of sustainable and healthy production with organic labels, Swiss suppliers from the food and cosmetics industries can also benefit.” Kühn also sees industry as having an advantage because it can often build on long-term relationships.
Despite all the good general conditions, interested SMEs need to analyze the market in the Nordic countries well before they begin with their adventure. The attractive market situation has produced correspondingly strong competition. In addition to domestic suppliers, there are already a large number of international suppliers in most sectors, particularly from the other Nordic countries and from Germany. It therefore makes sense to carry out a well-founded market analysis at the beginning.
Kühn summarizes the current situation as follows: “I find the already highly saturated markets to be the biggest hurdle; in other words, the strong competition in the region. There are practically no cultural, regulatory or logistical obstacles. On the one hand, this is because Sweden, Denmark and Finland are in the EU; and on the other, because Switzerland has free trade agreements with Norway and Iceland under the EFTA.
The ideal sales model depends on the industry
The appropriate sales model varies from industry to industry. In most cases, however, a sales partner is the right channel to gain a foothold in the market. In a few cases, this can be done with one central partner in Denmark or Sweden, but according to Kühn, it is better to have a partner in each country. Thanks to the comparatively simple communication, it can also be very easy to work directly with customers; this involves additional logistical and administrative work in Switzerland, but saves the margin taken by a distributor.
Get started in the market with a reliable partner
According to Kühn, most companies start with a local partner: “A separate presence with a subsidiary is important if companies want to play a part in public procurement or in certain infrastructure or service businesses. Otherwise, representation by a local company or direct business is usually the better and cheaper option.”
Swiss companies have various options open to them when it comes to finding the right business partner in the Nordic counties. There is a plethora of information about industries and companies available on the internet. However, in cases where an in-depth analysis is unavoidable, Kühn recommends the services of S-GE: “We offer valuable support in all Nordic countries with our Trade Point Nordics, which serves the entire region from Stockholm, and our many local partners. In particular, Swiss SMEs can capitalize on S-GE's many years of experience when it comes to market clarifications and contact mediation with customers, sales partners or other decision-makers."