In 2023 many SaaS companies are searching for what market(s) are going to drive their next phase of growth - and international markets, especially English-speaking countries are often considered by U.S. B2B SaaS companies.
Rick Pizzoli, moved to Europe over 25 years ago to launch the European presence for U.S. based software companies. Based upon that experience, Rick and Sales Force Europe has helped over 500 companies enter and/or expand their presence beyond the United States or a single country in Europe.
Rick shared that the majority of U.S. companies first start to consider entering the European market in the $5M - $10M ARR range. European companies begin to expand beyond their home country a little earlier, often in the $2M - $3M ARR range due to the more limited breadth of each country in Europe.
Understanding your positioning, messaging, value proposition, and efficiency of your "home market" customer acquisition motion as measured by metrics are critical foundational elements to planning for an entry into a new country. If a company has not captured and documented the keys to success in its home country, it will be impossible to be successful in a new country.
Another key factor to consider when entering into the European market is do you have a "lighthouse" account in a country you can build upon, and/or do you have a product that is localized for countries beyond English speaking? Rick's perspective is conducting market research to determine the "best" initial country is a better strategy than just saying let's just go to the United Kingdom, as it is the most like the US market and they speak English. At the same time, the UK market, especially in London is probably the most competitive market to enter, as so many U.S. based companies use the same "we similar" mentality.
Bringing on local talent that understands the local market, has relationships in the local market, and can translate the "messaging and positioning" that works well in the U.S. to the local European country. There are nuances of the "talent profile" that works in one country versus another, which suggests having a local team with local leadership will yield a faster return on investment than parachuting in one or two resources from the home country.
One key to success is seeding the market awareness and engagement with top-of-funnel activities beginning with a digital marketing strategy 3-6 months before having a local, on-the-ground presence. Having local Sales Development resources in place for at least 3 months before having a local Account Executive will also increase the productivity of those first 1-2 AEs. Having a local presence shows a true "commitment" to the local market and will make the majority of in-country buyers more comfortable with purchasing from a recent entrant to the local market.
Should a company start with a single or at least two resources when first entering into a new country? Two resources are always better, and could also allow for additional language skills for the second target country that is being considered in a pan-European presence. It also eliminates the "resource" vs "market" specific challenges.
If you are considering or just beginning the evaluation process to expand your U.S. or single European country B2B SaaS company into or across Europe, this conversation with Rick Pizzoli and Sales Force Europe is highly informative.