Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year in 2017 and Utah Business’s 2019 CEO of the Year, Case Lawrence, is the chairman and founder of the global trampoline park brand CircusTrix. What started as a side business to earn extra income during the 2008 recession, quickly turned into a nationwide and then international business. Throughout his experience growing locally and globally, Lawrence learned three valuable lessons:
- Never enter another country without local partners
- Don’t expect brands and products to translate one-to-one
- Understand that media and journalism don’t work the same for advertising abroad as they do in the U.S.
Find Local Partners
CircusTrix’s opening month in Hong Kong brought in almost half a million in revenue – their largest opening to date. Compared to expectations, building the first international location was surprisingly easy. It appeared unlikely they would find a location easily; however, after just a week of waiting, the perfect opportunity presented itself and preparations for opening day began. This experience left management unprepared for the challenges that were to come.
Entering other global markets was more difficult than Lawrence had anticipated, given the quick success in Hong Kong. Differing cultures, governments, and business practices can make it complicated to expand globally. After a few challenging entries, CircusTrix learned to never enter a foreign country again without finding a local partner first. Having someone who knows the demographics, culture, and regulations can certainly help businesses navigate the adversity that comes from inexperience in a new area.
Brands Don’t Translate
Coca Cola learned a hard lesson as Diet Coke failed to produce good profits in foreign markets—you’ll find it called Coke Light in many countries today. Similarly, CircusTrix had to learn to adapt its park layouts. While Americans love the space for trampoline dodgeball, foreigners didn’t seem to be as ready to throw nerf balls at each other in friendly combat. The large spaces which are consistently used in U.S. trampoline parks weren’t being used abroad. CircusTrix had to adjust their product.
Brands and products don’t always translate perfectly from the United States to other countries. Different cultural preferences and connotations for words, ideas, and actions can make one-to-one translations ineffective. When expanding abroad, businesses should always be prepared to adapt names, functions, and emphases of their products and services.
Companies advertising in the United States often use public relations and the media to spread the word about their products and services. But a strategy that works well in one location, doesn’t always carry the same weight in another. After trying the same marketing strategy they use in the United States in Europe, Lawrence learned that when expanding abroad, don’t expect the media and journalism to always work well for advertising.
Case Lawrence now knows what does and doesn’t work when expanding a business abroad. From failed dodgeball arenas to huge opening months, here are a few tips and trixs for expanding abroad. Always find trusted local partners to work with. Learn which products and services translate well and which ones don’t. And be prepared to use a different advertising strategy in foreign markets. For more stories and advice from the founder of CircusTrix, listen to the iHub Top Three Things podcast here.