Country launchers are a new species in Europe, and we have had these profiles with our customers for one or two years. Building a new international market for a company is a job in itself, and what the entrepreneur is for the start-up, the country launcher is for internationalization. He is the first to set up everything, the discoverer, the adventurer. These tasks require an exceptional profile.
What does a Country Launcher do?
Simply put, a Country Launcher is there to prepare and launch a new geographic market. For example, a French start-up wants to enter the German market or vice versa. The Country Launcher is more or less the project manager for this, starting the initiative and then handing it over to the teams in the company (which he or she probably built up during the project) before moving on to a new market. Usually, a Country Launcher hands off the reins to a Country Manager, VP of Sales or a Head of Sales of the local entity. So the job is really about the first actions to be tackled: from strategic market analysis to the first operational steps in the new market. It’s a bit like creating “a start-up within a start-up”. To do this, the Country Launcher ideally needs to know the company well, be very independent and communicative, and take on a lot of responsibility.
During the project, Country Launchers often create a Country Launching Playbook alone or with the team (if it doesn’t already exist). This playbook explains different steps and essential milestones to enter the market. Once it exists, it can be pulled out again for each expansion and serves as a common thread when entering new markets.
The remarkable thing about the Country Launcher is that they know the pitfalls and challenges of internationalization very well and therefore know how to approach a new market. Country Launchers do not necessarily speak the target country’s language, although this is, of course, better. However, it is important to be in contact with local experts in this phase and form a small task force together.
The Country Launcher will go through the following steps of preparation in their playbook:
- Market selection: which country, which market?
- Market analysis: Desk research, analyze the market comprehensively
- Market Assessment: go deeper and talk to the first partners and customers on-site
- Localization and product-market fit
- Recruitment and initial team building
- Launch of the first marketing and sales activities
The Country Launcher, a Team Player
The Country Launcher can start their job regardless of whether recruitment for the market is already in the works or running. Any recruitment can occur in parallel, and the company makes progress without waiting for local teams. Generally, it is better to start the first actions in the market before thinking about recruitment, as you will quickly understand the target market and the challenges after a first analysis. Then, these requirements can be integrated into the job profile and targeted search.
An essential point is the close collaboration of the Country Launcher with the operational teams. The person in this role must quickly share the initial analyses with those responsible for Marketing, Sales, Product, IT, and Operations and obtain their feedback and questions. As a result, they naturally know their area much better and can ask the detailed questions that ultimately determine the success of the go-to-market strategy.
What does a good Country Launcher have to bring to the table?
The key competencies of a Country Launcher are as follows:
- Flexibility and all-rounder: it’s a job that involves marketing, sales, strategy, and operations. In other words, an ultra-entrepreneurial job.
- High level of intercultural competence: ideally, a binational profile who understands the challenges of international cooperation.
- Multilingual, but at least fluent in English: This will get you pretty far in most countries.
- Analytical: Both the market analysis and the first budgets must be created (potentially in collaboration with the CFO).
- Sociable and willing to travel: The Country Launcher must be on-site as often as possible and research local conditions. They cannot have any contact inhibitions to do this, as they usually also have to address or interview someone in another language.
- Open to advice, curious, but determined: When gaining insights and discovering a new market, you will receive many tips and advice all over the place. It is crucial to analyse the information gained for the company and incorporate it into the existing plan without losing sight of the goal.
- Persuasive: You will often have to fight things through internally to open up the new market successfully.
- Risk-taking and adaptability: Expect the unexpected. It is important to be able to deal with this kind of unplanned change. Keep calm, (re)orient yourself, move on!
- A good navigator: A Country Launcher keeps an eye on the horizon and ensures that the ship reaches its destination with the help of the crew.
As you can see, a Country Launcher is a bit like a founder: opening a company in a market that is foreign for the first time under the most significant uncertainty.
It’s a job that involves marketing, sales, strategy, and operations.
Would that be something for you?