Working on a Scottish-German marketing initiative over the last few months with David Scrimgeour MBE, a Scots lawyer now working as a strategy and business adviser in Germany for more than 25 years, has reminded me of the still untapped opportunities that the largest economy in Europe could present to many Scottish companies.
David is the founder of the British-German Business Network, a collaborative group which provides high quality support to UK companies in Germany and of which Wallace Marketing is a member. Having been a Germanophile since studying German at university (and having lived and worked there twice, and undertaken several consulting projects in the country), I’ve always been a bit bemused why more Scottish companies aren’t doing business there. Here David shares his thoughts on opportunities for Scottish companies in the German market.
“Germany has always been a great place to do business. However, it has been largely ignored by Scotland and Britain as a whole, which have curiously tended to avoid Europe’s largest market. Now, for a number of reasons, Germany seems to be coming back onto the radar. The main reason is that it is one of the few places in Europe at the moment which has money to spend. German citizens are currently sitting on over €5 trillion (£3.8tn) of private wealth, which is mostly languishing in current accounts at very low interest rates.
So the questions are: how can companies and organisations best access this market and what will the Germans buy? These are increasingly important questions for Scotland plc, with the latest forecasts predicting flatlining growth levels through 2016.
In recent years I have been helping German companies do business in the UK and a few Scottish companies explore opportunities here, on the back of being the Scottish Government’s investment representative in Germany and Austria during most of the 1990s. The good news is that there are lots of existing connections between the two countries which have generated revenue and goodwill for the Scots.
Actually the recipe is simple, at least initially. Explore. Do some research (or have someone do it for you) then get on a plane to Berlin, Hamburg, Bremen, Düsseldorf, Frankfurt, Stuttgart or Munich for meetings with potential partners, advisers, and customers. The purpose is to gather enough information to decide whether to invest time and resources in understanding the market.
Once you have an understanding of how Germany could work for your business, then it is time to engage. What are the opportunities? This is a mature market which already has everything it needs, so it will be necessary to identify a niche product or improve on an existing service.
The key to success in Germany is having a clear and long term strategy which will convince your new German contacts and encourage them to get into business with you.”
If you’re interested in exploring opportunities in Germany, please get in touch.