The shock stage of the war is over, and now Ukrainian businesses are trying to get out of the survival mode — recovering, scaling, transforming. Many companies have undergone a kind of reset and have almost returned to the initial development stage. However, businesses focusing on the local market have suffered the most.
One of the key challenges companies have faced is retaining and finding new customers and entering foreign markets.
The young Ukrainian company Belkins is a B2B sales and lead generation leader, which helps companies attract new clients.
Список крупнейших экспортеров, год войны Зеленского, приключения Баффета в Украине, реанимация бизнеса Rozetka и еще два десятка эксклюзивных материалов. Forbes Украина выпустила новый номер журнала. Купить его с бесплатной доставкой можно по этой ссылке.
Belkins quickly reached 95% of pre-war efficiency and opened new vacancies. Founder and CEO Vladislav Podolyako shared with Forbes his solutions and strategies that businesses should now use to work and evolve effectively.
Belkins company profile
Year of foundation: 2017
Staff: 204 employees
Key specialization: B2B lead generation, email marketing, sales.
Subsidiary: Folderly is an automated platform for email marketing and email deliverability.
Clients: Berkeley University of California, Texas Association of Business, HiBob, Helios Energy, Cemtrex, Born and Bred, DeepDyve, WSI, and others.
How did you manage to restore business productivity so fast?
In the first week after the full-scale invasion, our team managed to reach 95% of pre-war efficiency — those are the quick adaptation results thanks to our teamʼs training and cohesion.
We, like many others, did not quite believe in the possibility of war but prepared plans of evacuation and action in case of force majeure in advance. It helped a lot to get our bearings and not panic: during the first days of the invasion, we took the team out of Kyiv and other locations and placed them in a shelter in the countryʼs west. Already on Monday, we were able to work as usual.
Team cohesion and mutual support helped survive this critical period: everyone knew they could rely on the coworkers and the company. Trusting relationships with clients, which we have been building for more than a year, have also become apparent: our partners have been actively helping and supporting us. In our turn, we tried to ensure the work process as soon as possible and showed eagerness to work despite our reality.
We also took into account every team member’s state. Although we found ourselves relatively safe in the early days, it wasnʼt easy mentally. While the automated work resumed in a few days, full-fledged sales and customer communication took a few weeks to reset.
For example, empathy and a good mood determine everything when you work in sales. It is clear that it is impossible to keep your mental resources when the war has started in your country and relatives are in danger.
How do companies retain customers and build communication properly?
Everyone has sensed the war, and most businesses are now ʼhonedʼ to maintain and strengthen relationships with existing customers. For us, the critical components of a successful partnership remain honest communication, an individual approach, and searching for winning strategies.
This is a fairly typical case when a company is a superstar in Ukraine, but, in case of an attempt to enter foreign markets — the doors are shut
Building trusting and strong relationships with partners is essential for business. The first thing this trust is based on is complete honesty. This principle always guides our customers and us. Of course, we didnʼt pretend that everything was fine — we clearly explained the situation, but we also took full responsibility for employees and projects. When you integrate deeply with the clientʼs marketing teams, loyalty to the crisis becomes an integral part of the collaboration.
Most of the clients immediately started offering help with work equipment, humanitarian aid, and started donating. Some even arranged the transportation of women and children from the Polish border to Europe. Therefore, in such situations, honesty and confidence in the future can strengthen relationships with partners. If you work hard and show that itʼs important to you, clients reflect that philosophy.
Ukrainian clients should feel supported; the foreign ones should be confident about the quality of services
How to enter a foreign market and attract new customers?
When we first entered the American market, I faced the displeasing discovery that we were not in demand there, at least in our beginning condition. We had to radically change our approach to communications, positioning, and work on the brand.
Adaptation of a product or service to a new market
This is a fairly typical case when a company is a superstar in Ukraine, but, in case of an attempt to enter foreign markets — the doors are shut. It is worth starting with the basic things that often seem unobvious: studying the differences between the audience, cultural peculiarities, and adapting your brand to the needs of a particular market.
First, you should bet on brand awareness and focus on business educating content. It is a reliable source of organic traffic that demonstrates the companyʼs expertise.
Currently, 40% of our customers come through organic search channels — it is about 1,000 leads per month. It does not consider potential customers attracted through calls or other outbound tools. Therefore, high-quality content and clever email marketing are good foundations.
Besides, our primary service is the organization of companyʼs meetings with their potential customers.
My advice to other companies is to pay attention to communication and brand image. Ukraine now has the whole worldʼs attention, so entrepreneurs have a chance to stand out and demonstrate their strengths.
First of all, foreign clients need confidence — if they see a positive attitude, successfully executed projects, and a willingness to do quality work, they will be open to partnership.
40% of our customers come through organic search channels
For companies that do not yet have a big name, personal communication works best. The founder tells about their product at meetings with customers. Often, this is the person who is most passionate about the concept and will be able to openly and convincingly represent the product values, as well as find a win-win strategy for the customer.
The American market is very sales-driven, and here you need to know how to present yourself. Delving into the processes and giving customers a clearer understanding of your businessʼs specific benefits and values are the essence of this approach.
Willingness to scale
Now a few companies can afford to grow. Often it is not as necessary as it seems. We have a kind of ʼrule of 100 employeesʼ: growth is easy and rapid while a team is below a hundred employees. And then, if the company is not ready and its processes are not sharpened for quick scaling, complications begin.
It is better to concentrate on harmonizing current processes and the quality of service delivery. Foreign clients seriously value the expertise and dedication to a project. Sometimes, it is better to perform fewer projects but exceed customer expectations than to work indifferently on more orders.
In five years, we have become a leader in the niche of lead generation and email marketing with our Belkins services and Folderly product. Understanding things that now seem apparent has come with experience. Now I realize that we at Belkins are fortunate with a team that puts the maximum effort into our favorite business, even in such conditions, and does not lose heart.