SupaPass – channelling content for business

Over recent months, I’ve been quite active on Social Media. No, not tweeting rage or sharing my latest fashion buys. Rather, I’ve been out to try to prove that it can be a viable way of marketing B2B professional services – in my case, consultancy on international business expansion.

I was told it couldn’t be done. There is a lot of reticence to engage with social media from what I’ll call the “Decision Maker Class” in the UK. That’s been exacerbated by recent revelations of misuse of data and hacking. However, the biggest barriers seem to be first discovering good content, and second to find the time to watch or listen.

So how do those, like me, who are determined to make it work and have a story to tell, get our message across? Social Media gurus will tell you that you have to be in it for the long haul, posting new content frequently – and I can confirm that’s true, as, with “shares” and “follows”, whilst it takes time, one’s following does start to grow exponentially.

With sufficient content – lots of videos or articles – it’s nice and easy to have one’s own “channel” on YouTube or a podcast platform. The downside is that these introduce unwanted diversions.

Firstly, there’s advertising. These platforms have to make money, of course, so their use of advertising is understandable. There are now plenty of enthusiastic young “youtubers” and podcasters who seek to make money from their work, and the advertising these platforms bring gives them welcome income. However, if you’re really promoting yourself and your services, and not looking for that type of revenue, it’s at best unhelpful – especially when the adverts have nothing to do with your content, or could even promote a competitor.

Secondly, there’s the “suggestions”. A viewer of your YouTube videos will then be taken to another made by someone else – and also see a list of alternatives. As the algorithm chooses them hose may have nothing to do with your subject – and there’s a big risk that a viewer who goes on to watch one of them then forgets the content of your own that you so carefully crafted.

It’s not just those promoting B2B services that face these issues. Consumer marketers do too. Any business wanting to monetize their services, or just promote them through video or sound clips or articles – training in particular comes to mind – will feel the same.

I found the answer in SupaPass – a novel solution created by a really engaging and committed team in Norwich, headed by Juliana Meyer and Kathryn Wright. They’ve developed what is essentially a white label app that a business can own-brand, and then load and update its own content. It’s low cost, sold on a monthly subscription basis, and includes all the necessary functionality to charge users on a subscription basis. The app works on Apple and Android as well as using a web browser.

SupaPass was originally conceived for the many bands and artists that have a substantial following but maybe aren’t yet in the major league. For an affordable monthly fee, the artists can have their own label app and get their fans to subscribe. With sufficient followers, their costs are covered and they make money from it.

However, the thinking has evolved. I think SupaPass is actually ideal for businesses that want to promote their services and have content to show – even when they don’t want to charge their viewers. Big companies already build their own apps, but that costs a fortune and takes ages. With SupaPass, there’s no need to build an app or maintain it – so it’s very quick and cheap to launch, at a cost that any SME should find affordable.

I can think of so many uses. Financial advisors could use it to post their daily or weekly updates to their customers. Manufacturers or suppliers can use it to show do-it-yourselfers and hobbyists how to use their products. It’s a great way to deliver almost any form of training – in fact, many SupaPass customers originally got hooked by a channel with dozens of videos demonstrating to would-be anglers how to catch different kinds of fish.

All these businesses should also find this to be a great sales tool. Prospective customers could be given the app itself and some of the content for free. When they see that there is additional content only available to that company’s customers, that’s certain to build curiosity and generate valuable inquiries.

Unlike using social media channels, users should have no worries about personal data security – and marketers have total control of the medium.

SupaPass is a great, logical development from the social media phenomenon and it’s destined to be a hugely valuable disruptor, not just for musicians and artists but a wide business community.

Their website with full details is www.supapass.com

Global Thinking for Digital Health and MedTech

I’m getting ever more excited by the new businesses that I’m seeing in the healthcare sector. Whilst the introduction of new drugs largely remains with established companies, there’s a proliferation of new technology and software, promoted by some really smart entrepreneurs, that will bring real benefits to all of us.

The most visible are physical devices, which have acquired a class label of MedTech. There’s already a vast number of patient-centric apps, covering everything from lifestyle improvement to self-management of medical care. And behind the scenes, there are new apps and software tools for professional use in hospitals and care homes – classed as “Digital Health” – destined to really improve patient outcomes and healthcare sector efficiency. Efficiency is really important, as ever-increasing demands on healthcare both push up costs and create issues of logistical availability.

We’re working on some great healthcare-related projects at ICC, one helping to expand international markets for a very smart UK business and another searching for the best global sector investment opportunities for a wealth fund, so I’m seeing a lot of these developments at first hand.

One thing that’s clear is how critical it is for MedTech and Digital Health app companies to plan for global dominance in their fields as early as possible. Healthcare and wellbeing are universal concerns, and these new products and service are needed in every country of the world.

Postponing or neglecting that is very risky. There’s the usual chance of finding that entrepreneurs in other markets have developed near-identical products – quite possibly having spotted the opportunity here first. Patents and copyrights aren’t enough, especially with software – the route to conquering international markets is getting there first and establishing one’s brand.

Additionally, there are often several different ways of achieving the same improvement in health outcome, and delay risks overseas markets adopting an alternative. And, if those foreign alternatives are more internationally agile, they may enter and start to dominate the domestic market. Even if the competition is not as good, that could easily destroy the local business. It’s therefore essential that entrepreneurs and investors ensure that their business plans aim for the earliest possible international expansion.

It’s sad for me to find young, gifted and enthusiastic entrepreneurs with great health care startups who aren’t thinking that way. The usual reasons are cited – it’s distracting and diversionary, we need to get established first, we don’t have the funding – but those can all be overcome.

Admittedly, initial trials and test marketing can take much longer than with other business propositions, perhaps especially where those require getting buy-in from the UK NHS. But maybe it’s quicker elsewhere.

Products and software might need adapting to other markets – but, until you study them, you won’t know, and there’s therefore the risk that, whilst what’s needed could have been achieved easily at an early stage in development, doing it later becomes difficult and costly.

So, whilst it’s easy to say that it can’t be afforded, the question is whether startups – especially those in the healthcare sectors – can afford not to start planning their international expansion from Day One. And it needn’t be either costly or disruptive. International Corporate Creations can help!

Whilst in some areas of politics, globalisation may be becoming a dirty word, in the world of MedTech and Digital Health it’s essential thinking.

THE ICC DIFFERENCE

by Oliver Dowson, CEO, International Corporate Creations

People often ask me “What’s your USP?”.  I’m increasingly realising that it can be difficult for others to understand how ICC is different to other professional services – and difficult for us to explain concisely!  So I’m going to take a stab here at getting the message across more clearly, specifically for one of our core services of setting up new overseas business operations.

My “elevator pitch” is that, unlike other professional services, we put ourselves in the position of each client, and act as if we are spending our own money, prepared to undertake each step of the process ourselves.  We don’t just tell companies what to do, we’re actually prepared to do it.  So we have to give complete, accurate and practical details.

But that’s compressing a big project into a few words, so for those who are interested (and I hope that includes you, since you’ve read this far), here’s a more detailed explanation.

International Corporate Creations is unique in its approach to helping its clients expand globally through research and implementing the creation of new wholly-owned subsidiary and Joint Venture companies in any country of the world.

  • Before starting each project, we immerse ourselves in understanding our client’s business and their approach and objectives, to ensure that the recommendations we make are those that we would choose ourselves were it our own business.
  • We aim to think of absolutely everything that our clients need to know and act on
  • We always look for the most cost-effective solution, using trustworthy and reliable local service providers and partners in each country and location that our clients want to enter.
  • We’re not a conventional consultancy. We don’t just make recommendations, we’re ready to act on them.  Nothing is vague, everything is detailed.  If a client wishes, we can implement every step to deliver their new international business as a turnkey solution.
  • When we set up a new international operation, we QA every step to ensure that everything will work perfectly from the first day it opens for business.
  • We endeavour to quote firm, fixed prices for our services for each stage of each project. Where we cannot do that, we make that clear upfront, with the best estimates we can.

Setting up a new Overseas Operation

We divide setup of a new operation into three stages.

FIRST STEPS (STAGE 0)

This stage costs nothing, and carries no obligation.  Our objective is to prepare a proposal for the next stages – but if we find that a project won’t work, we’ll be honest enough to say so.  Usually this stage includes:

  • Exploratory meetings with the client, by WebEx or face-to-face
  • Further research and understanding of the client’s business sufficient to ensure that any Proposal that we submit is likely to be suitable
  • Our team brainstorms alternative solutions for the most appropriate and cost-effective solution for the client
  • Exploratory discussions are undertaken with ICC contacts in the relevant country
  • Initial research into legal and regulatory issues, restrictions and competition, to try to avoid any foreseeable hurdles
  • Project evaluation by ICC team
  • Preparation of Report and Proposal
    • Includes fixed price proposal for Stage 1 (next steps) which would be chargeable
    • Includes timeline for performing Stage 1
    • Includes a general indication of Stage 2 (if stage 1 approved)
  • Presentation to Client – findings of Stage 0 and Proposal for Stage 1 – and Agreement on Next Steps

RESEARCH & ANALYSIS (STAGE 1)

This stage creates a complete model, not only of how to create an overseas subsidiary or JV company, but of how it will work in the future.   Depending on country and complexity, this typically takes 6-12 weeks, keeping the client informed of progress on a weekly basis.

  • Detailed market study
  • High-level discussions with client to agree approach to different aspects of the project and understand corporate methodologies and objectives (Finance, IT, Marketing)
  • Analysis of alternative business locations (country and city) and recommendation of the most suitable one(s)
  • Research and analysis of relevant business legal, regulatory and employment issues in sufficient detail to enable fully-informed business decisions to be taken
  • Identification and selection of suitable local business partners (legal, accountancy, real estate, HR, banking, etc), usually located in or near the recommended destination city
  • Analysis of IT infrastructure requirements and any issues
  • Evaluation of employment situation (availability of staff with suitable technical and language skills, local competition and retention risks, salary levels and other employment costs. Recommendation for methodology of recruitment and salaries and benefits to be offered.
  • Evaluation of training requirements and where this would be done (bring trainer to country or take staff to home base)
  • Infrastructure and costs for future client routine visits – transport, hotels with corporate rates, etc.
  • Fully detailed costing for Stage 2 Actual Implementation (as accurate as is possible)
  • Detailed step by step costed operational plan for the first full year of operation, including all necessary bureaucracy, legal documentation, financial plan, recruitment, training, local promotion and marketing.
  • Detailed “Road Map” and proposed timetable for implementation and first year operation. ICC use their skill and experience to identify steps in setup that can be carried out contemporaneously and that therefore make the overall setup process as efficient as possible
  • Stage by Stage client update meetings (usually by WebEx)
  • Detailed business “Model” presented as a fully-illustrated Report on conclusion of Stage 1
    • Exactly what the business would look like on Day One
    • What it will look like after 3 months
    • What it will look like after 12 months
  • “On the ground” presentation – face-to-face meetings at the recommended destination location, with presentation of the detailed business models mentioned above, meetings with suggested local business partners, visits to competitors or similar operations where possible, visits to possible office/property locations, etc. These meetings would be spread over 1-3 days depending on the size of the project, and have the objective of ensuring that ICC’s Stage 1 Report is clearly understood and all client questions are completely answered on the spot.

MAKING IT HAPPEN (STAGE 2)

At the completion of this stage, our client will have a fully-operational overseas company!

  • Research and implement any modifications to the Model developed in Stage 1 as required by the client
  • Agree implementation plan with client – refine timescale to adjust to client needs and objectives and decide “who does what”. ICC are willing to undertake the entire implementation of setting up an overseas operation for a client, but most clients want to be involved to varying degrees, and every country and project is different, so there is no single model for this stage.
  • Carry out implementation of project to set up overseas operation following the step by step plan developed in Stage 1. Typically this will take between 3 and 6 months and include
    • Business legalisation (including company name registration, regulatory matters, tax registration, etc)
    • Banking arrangements
    • Contracts with local business partners for accountancy, legal and other required services
    • Business premises acquisition and furnishing
    • Staff recruitment and training
    • IT infrastructure acquisition/import and installation
    • Communications (telephone, internet, etc)
  • QA – we test every step of the way to ensure that everything works the way it should
  • Complete Transparency Guarantee – When things don’t happen as expected, we consult with our clients immediately and adapt the plan to overcome issues and get back on track as efficiently as possible

At ICC we offer a host of other services revolving around the creation and management of overseas operations of all kinds, in all countries of the world.  We aim to take a similarly comprehensive approach to all of them.