You already think your ideas are worth spreading. And you've just heard that South Korea is a brilliant place to settle into and is a great emerging market. So what's next?
When you decide to expand your small business to this peninsula, the first thing you would probably do is go to Upwork to hire a freelance market researcher, translator, and SEO strategist who all speak Korean as their native language. Brainstorming begins and you give them your full trust. Think you're all set?
Hiring them won't guarantee your success because:
" The truth about great localization is that It's not about your business being a great fit for the market. It's about you creating a great value THAT they need."
You need to know the answers to the next three questions, since YOU should identify your value in Korea, not 'your Korean freelancers'. If you're clear about the following, you're already halfway there.
1. "Why should I help Korean people?"
Let's face it — South Korea is an economically developed country now. Most of the people get what they want. People in K-dramas seem to fare pretty well. So what then would do they want from you? Do you have a product or service that fulfills a specific need of theirs? Do you have technology that people could really use?
If you're here just to expand your territory and make good money, take a look and see how competitive the Korean market is. You might assume Koreans will like your product, but in the end, it's all about meeting their needs and solving their problems. Why is your product or service for them?
2. "What do I know about Korea?"
Let's talk about the country itself. We know Korea is great: a tech-savvy, undiscovered startup hub with nice people, great spicy food, etc. But are you also familiar enough with the facts and possible challenging aspects? Current political insecurities, a resistance to Google, racial homogeneity, and the huge infrastructure gap between rural and urban Korea -- just to name a few. Every nation is imperfect. So, which part of Korea can you relate to? Which part do you desperately want to improve?
Let's say you've been developing an amazing language learning app. If you've heard that South Korean's education system is, at least on paper, the best in the world, you might not want to test the waters out. But what if you knew that Korea's English education system is highly textbook-based and that more than half of Korean university students aren't willing to actually "speak" a word of English?
This piece of information should come before you get to your inner market research to find out what's missing in English lessons in schools, how many students are taking unreasonably expensive private lessons, and so on.
3. "Can I afford it?"
Last year, Seoul, the capital city of South Korea, was ranked the 8th most expensive city in the world (EIU Worldwide Cost of Living, 2016). That said, people are willing to pay for your service if it offers value to them. Likewise, when you consider your expenses, if you have a concrete plan to hire Koreans, you need to be aware of the average annual salary of their respective industry and type of employment (the hourly minimum wage in effect for 2017 is ￦6,470 = US$5.5).
If you're already proficient in the Korean language and quite familiar with the Korean culture and people, you probably won't need to hire any locals. But if this isn't the case, list the people you need to hire before you address any other part of your business plan. Here's a quick illustration:
A fashion company might need local professionals according to their executive plan:
So, are you willing to pay for these services, even if your first few months aren't successful?
(Localization is a whole new start.)
When you can answer all three questions and have a clear picture of your goal, then start looking for your employees. You will be far less clueless and far more confident than before — which will help you find the ideal freelancers and customers.
Make your own luck!
* Last but not the least: 70% of local resources and the majority of customer Internet activity is on Naver — the most dominant web portal in Korea — not Google. If you don't know Naver, you will probably never know what's going on in Korea.
Content Curator | Cebin Jeong
Still want IN with this tiny and bold country? Keep up with future posts to learn more about Korean culture, lifestyle, and language.