5. Consider your customer acquisition strategy

Define how you propose to acquire customers in your chosen overseas market. You must understand how your target customer finds out about your product/service, acquires it, uses it, gets value from it, pays for it, and buys more and/or tells others about it.

Before formulating your customer acquisition strategy, you will need to identify and evaluate all the people (end user, champion, primary economic buyer, influencers) involved in the decision to acquire your product or service. Once confirmed, you should determine the best way to influence these individuals through a targeted sales and marketing strategy.

You may wish to use salespeople, or influence and engage your target customer by utilising print (industry publications, magazines, newspapers) or online (web, social media, e-mail). Other options to consider are strategic partnerships - best initiated through a warm introduction – or participating at industry specific events.

The benefits Australian startups receive from utilising social media channels to enter overseas markets depends on the depth of engagement achieved with users within that market. Building a brand may require the assistance of a social media manager, and companies who operate within a new market may benefit from hiring these services from someone local to that market with local contacts, networks and followers that can be leveraged.

In addition to building the company brand, the benefits of accumulating follower data is invaluable to startups, with the ability to gain market insights by market stratification (division of any group into meaningful subgroups) allowing channels to provide an ongoing feedback loop of brand, product and service value.


In the short term, focus on creating demand for your product or service. Although you have created a product the customer wants, your product is still new to the market, therefore likely to require your direct interaction with the customer to explain the value proposition and why your product or service is unique. The importance of being in-market was highlighted in Australia’s International Business Survey 2018 results, with 55% of respondents considering undertaking research and development activities in overseas markets as “essential” or “very important” to their success. Direct interaction with the customer is also important as it allows you to rapidly iterate to improve your product or service based on customer feedback.

The marketing and promotion necessary for a startup entering a new market does not vary greatly to that of traditional business marketing principles. That said, a point of differentiation which startup companies may use to their advantage lies in how quickly they are able to respond and adjust their marketing and promotion strategy according to customer feedback. The most successful models are those that are flexible and adaptable in design and execution.

Startups may find it challenging to compete with the marketing budgets of larger competitors. However, the nimble nature of startups allows for creative and sometimes unorthodox solutions.

Docker - a software platform that allows developers to make and run apps on different operating systems - promoted its product particularly well through the use of gamification, a process of applying game-design elements and game principles to a non-game context. The game - Docker Dash - was a live video game-style simulation of Docker’s application platform, released at Docker’s developer conference, DockerCon 2017. The platform simulation had 5,000 attendees create an app together by solving a series of challenges inside the game. Each challenge corresponded to a particular feature of Docker’s product. In total, Docker Dash got the attention of more than 3.6 million people, this includes both attendees and those who watched the simulation online.

Case study

Luina Bio logo

“Relationship management and communication are so important for us... We need to be completely open with everything that we’re doing because essentially, we are manufacturing products which have never existed before.”
Les Tillack, CEO

There’s no hard and fast rule when it comes to developing a successful customer strategy. For some industries, a more traditional boots-on-the-ground approach is more valuable in attracting international customers to your business.

Brisbane-based biopharmaceutical contract manufacturing organisation (CMO), Luina Bio, have taken such an approach.

Trust is also fundamental for establishing relationships within Luina Bio’s industry. “The biggest hurdle we always have to overcome is the perception of distance. It’s likely they’ve heard of Australia, yet unlikely that they’ve heard of Queensland or Brisbane, and almost impossible that they’ve heard of Luina Bio before meeting us. So the big challenge is getting them to have the confidence in a little tiny company in Brisbane, and that we can actually be trusted to do their work for them. So we present a big face at these conferences,” says Tillack. These efforts have seen Luina Bio grow from a company of 12 employees to 50 employees in three years, with up to 90 per cent of their products exported globally.

Luina Bio specialise in manufacturing biopharmaceuticals for a variety of international clients who in turn administer the products during clinical trials. Given the sensitive nature of the industry, robust relationships and credibility are key factors for retaining global clients and generating further demand. “Relationship management and communication are so important for us. We have to be very open and transparent. A CMO acquired relationship is only as good as the communication. We need to be completely open with everything that we’re doing because essentially, we are manufacturing products which have never existed before,” explains Tillack. Luina Bio’s commitment to fostering strong relationships with their clients has also resulted in the company recruiting specifically for a variety of international markets. “Given that Asia isn’t as mature as Europe or the US, our customers in the region sometimes need to be guided a little more. As a result, we have a number of staff with Asian language capabilities, in addition to the various language speakers in other regions,” says Tillack. “Last time we counted, out of the 50 staff we had, there were 19 different nationalities.”

Trust, transparency and capability form the foundations of Luina Bio’s customer acquisition strategies. “The main driver of our new business and repeat business, is our in-house technical abilities, that’s what’s really bringing customers to us now,” says Tillack. However, the company also goes the extra mile to ensure their capability is matched with the highest integrity and transparency, “We also encourage customer presence on our site during the manufacturing process. We actually have a small residential unit close to our premises, which we make available to our global customers to stay in if they want to, so they can be here at all times of the day to be across what’s going on.”