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Earlier this year we decided to look at new markets – and to go to Dubai.  How do you go about researching and winning new business from an entirely new market?  Here is how we did it – from a standing start in mid January.  What worked?  What didn’t?  We share it all with you – and how LinkedIn proved the winning factor through it all.

1.       Why Dubai?

We have a business partner who talked to us before Christmas about working with them in Dubai.  Nothing has happened with this yet, but it set us thinking.

Around 15 January I put a note on my LinkedIn update ‘Anyone knowledgeable about the economy in Dubai?  Any advice?’   Within 24 hours a contact at Yorkshire Water recommended someone who has been going out to Dubai for the last few years.  I contacted him – and although he lives in Somerset, he offered to meet me the following week

He gave me three hours of time – and gave me enough confidence to say – let’s go.

2.       Leverage your voluntary activities overseas

I am on the advisory board of Bradford University School of Management – the North’s top business school.  We have run the largest MBA programme in Dubai for ten years.

I offered to give a guest lecture on social media for business for the alumni network in Dubai.  The impressive regional office snapped my hand off and within two weeks organised a hugely successful event with more than 70 business people attending.  I paid for the room and refreshments so I was not abusing my position.

This event was a great focus to invite people to as I acquired contacts.

3.       Use LinkedIn to get international introductions

All of our team trawled our LinkedIn accounts to find contacts in UAE.  My colleague came up with the real trumpcard – a contact from years ago got in touch with three top quality people in Dubai.  With David’s introduction, all three offered to meet me.

One is CEO of the largest equipment rental company in Dubai – and they are now a client.  I am going out to Dubai for a week on 11 March with the hope on both our sides that this will be the start of a long term relationship.  If this is successful, I will organise a trading licence in Dubai.

Through all the introductions, I had appointments with 20 people when I went out to Dubai.  Because you are introduced through credible people and arrive ‘rated’, the quality of these introductions is superb.  I have got genuine relationships to pursue with all these people.

4.       Is UKTI helpful?

In the UK we were spontaneously offered country reports, introductions, the Ambassador to attend our event and more.  Regrettably none of it was delivered.  In Dubai I met the creative sector specialist – she was unable to say what typical consultancy rates in Dubai are; how UK companies bill for flights and hotel expenses; the cost and time to get a trading licence.  However, in our meeting it all clicked into place:  their role is to sell a service – 6 introductions for around £1000. 

If you are not a networker, maybe this could be worth it. If you are on LinkedIn, have a lot of contacts and use it strategically – well, you can get better contacts and appointments yourself.  Employing someone to introduce you to people you have no connection to is probably bad value for money.

5.       Make time to follow up sales leads

Just before I went out to Dubai I had attended Nick Bramley’s Bite Size Director Forum.  Part of these short, sharp early morning events is a peer problem-solving session. 

Directors put in a particular question or challenge and the 30 or so others there share experiences and recommendations (and warnings!).  I asked for advice on this trip to Dubai – and the one that rang in my ears was ‘make sure you clear time on your return to follow up all the leads’.  Which is how I came to be emailing and making notes at 11pm in my hotel every night!

Sound advice and all of it has paid off.  Our thanks to everyone who helped make the trip so successful.

And now having blitzed a completely new market in less than a month and won absolutely top quality work – should we be doing something similar in the UK?!  Would this approach work in the UK?

11 Responses to “How do you get new business in Dubai from standing start in less than a month? Through LinkedIn. Here’s how”

  • on March 1st, 2012 11:22 am

    Great case study on how to use LinkedIn properly as a research tool and as a source of introductions. Well done Northern Lights team.

  • Claire Morley-Jones
    on March 5th, 2012 9:26 am

    Wow – this is phenominal! And you get to work somewhere hot and sunny on a few occassions in the year! I am not sure I am using LinkedIn this strategically but will now have a re-think!

  • on March 8th, 2012 3:27 pm

    Yes, getting a few comments on these ‘tough work’ lines!
    I’m back out in Dubai now and I am now working with these LinkedIn contacts to help with the next stage of legals and network of suppliers. Also meeting senior people who can be helpful to our new client.
    Feeling very part of the local scene already.

  • on March 15th, 2012 10:30 am

    Great example from @nlightspr- How to win overseas business overseas http://t.co/emdfDDFB

  • Alison Kinloch
    on March 28th, 2012 11:38 am

    Thanks for that inspiring case study VJ. We could all learn from your ‘get-up-and-go’ approach and how LinkedIn can be a really useful tool. I am now sharing this with my clients.

  • on March 28th, 2012 1:08 pm

    Great article Victoria and inspirationa! Since your recommendations earlier this year we’ve been using LinkedIn more strategically and it works! It always amazes how many people put such a huge effort into gaining contacts and then fail to follow up, it’s basic business sense.

  • on March 28th, 2012 1:47 pm

    Fantastic Victoria. Well done, you deserve it. Phil

  • on March 28th, 2012 3:35 pm

    Well done Victoria and the team – and you told me that you are not sales people!! I think this is a great example of how to use your networks effectively. I need to learn……..!!!

  • on March 29th, 2012 9:16 am

    Model article on how to do.
    Hope UKTI listen to your feedback.

  • on December 3rd, 2012 5:34 pm

    [...] Search function and type in a job title (if you are recruiting) or a company name (if you are targeting new business) and see who you know or who can help you with background information or [...]

  • on March 20th, 2013 8:07 pm

    [...] is what we did when I went out to Dubai earlier this year. The first meeting I had turned into a year’s contract – and I met the chief [...]

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