Lukewarm is not enough when you go international – 6 branding tips

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How should a growth company aiming for international markets brand themselves? Mia Sirkiä and Pirjo Kiiski, founding partners at the Saari Partners investment fund, give six of their best tips.

1. Target with skill

Global markets are huge, and you will not get attention by doing the same things as in Finland. Define your competitive advantages and bring them out in a clear and focused manner. Find out, who your potential clients are and what are their needs. Target your message to them without employing every possible channel.

In order to utilize your limited resources, you have to make wise choices. If, for example, you offer a B2B product, you will soon notice, how vast even limited segments are. In a big company with many employees you need to find the right door to set your foot into. You have to be sharp to evoke interest.

2. Create networks

Internationally merely having a good product is not enough. At least as important is to find the right people and the right way to approach them. Outside Finland, you will find yourself in a different, softer and less fact-based culture, which has to be recognized and adapted to. You cannot make it internationally without actually locating.

3. Listen and understand

In branding it is not relevant, whether your logo is red or blue. Instead, you must listen to and understand the customer. You will reap the benefits if your brand is based on a genuine competitive advantage and you work systematically to push it. When a brand is meticulously planned, the marketing actions are easier to choose, and they are also more effective. Success cannot, however, be guaranteed. Often the best way to proceed is to try different approaches, measure the results and change directions when needed. Courage is always a necessity, nobody is interested in a lukewarm approach.

4. Test your message

Many a successful international company believes in research. In a new market, the feedback about the product should be listened to carefully before bigger push. Does a message created in Finland also work in the target area? A market survey can give you definite answers. If there are not enough resources for a research, you have to listen to the customers ever more attentively. A shot in the dark will be of no use.

5. Believe in yourself

When you know, what the competitive advantages are, march out boldly with them. You don’t have to lie, but Finnish modesty should be left out. In Finland we develop excellent services and concepts, but they are easily left out in the shadow when others communicate more boldly about much weaker products.

 6. Find professional help

The founders of a company are seldom experts in internationalization, neither do they have to be. Professional guidance can be found. Especially small companies should first develop their brand into a good shape with a Finnish partner. When searching for local partners in foreign countries, it is best to begin by asking for recommendations and visiting potential candidates. It is good to be honest in negotiations as to goals and the available money. It is important that the levels of ambition of both partners be on the same level. This way the future actions will be scaled right.

Read more from Pirjo and Mia: How to brand your company for success?


Pirjo Kiiski

  • Who: A founding partner at Saari Partners Oy, specialized in financial management, financing and working processes. Member of the Board of Directors, Arctia Ltd
  • Education: MBA, Helsinki School of Economics. Bachelor’s degree in International Business and Finance, The George Washington University
  • Experience: Group CFO, Lumene, CFO, L’Oréal Nordic countries, Senior Vice President, Evli Optiot, Chief Dealer and Dealer, The Bank of Finland.

 Mia Sirkiä

  • Who: A founding partner at Saari Partners Oy, specialized in brand-building and Go-To-Market. Board Member of Tecnoware Oy
  • Education: Master of Science (econ.), Aalto University School of Business
  • Experience: Partner and Head of B-to-B unit, advertising agency Hasan & Partners. Program Manager, Go-To-Market, Nokia.

Saari Partners

  • A Finnish capital investor founded by Mikael Lönnroth, Pirjo Kiiski, Mia Sirkiä and Ben Wrede in 2018.
  • Fund: Saari Partners manages a private equity fund (Saari I) that invests in Finnish small and mid-sized service companies with good entrepreneurial drive and potential to gain competitive edge through digitalisation, branding and consolidation. Saari I has capital commitments of 40 million euros. The life span of the fund is 10 years.
  • Investors: In Saari I, investments by e.g. Tesi, Ilmarinen and pension insurance company Elo.
  • Location: Helsinki