If you own and operate your own business, bringing your products or services to an international market may seem like a completely intimidating task. There are a lot of challenges to taking your business global; not only will you be dealing with other countries’ policies and regulations, you may also be navigating these new markets speaking a foreign language and coming from an entirely different culture. While it may be true that breaking into the global marketplace will be a lot of hard work, businesses who are experiencing stateside success shouldn’t be tempted to exclusively pursue their domestic market. Entrepreneurs should always at least consider the possibility of bringing their business overseas since it could lead to dramatic growth and increased profitability.
If you’re interested in expanding your business globally and introducing your products and services to a wider audience, take these tips for stepping up to the challenge of international selling.
- Check your foundations. If you expect to thrive in a global marketplace, you should be experiencing at least some success in your current market before you make the jump into international waters. Make sure your processes are streamlined, that you’re able to fulfill orders quickly and efficiently, and that you have enough resources all around - time, money, employees, etc. - to go bigger. You don’t want to end up spreading yourself too thin since that could end up collapsing your entire business. “You have to be able to service your customers’ needs domestically,” Laurel Delaney, founder of GlobeTrade, told Small Business Trends. “If you don’t have all your ducks in a row with your products or services when you go to export, it is highly unlikely that you’ll be successful.” Before you do anything else, check the foundations of your business to ensure you can afford a big expansion.
- Do your research. The next step in preparing for your global expansion is doing plenty of research into potentially viable markets overseas. You want to confirm that you’ll have a customer base in any new markets you’re exploring, of course, but you also want to research what the cost of doing business will look like in the countries you’re considering. Singapore is one example of a thriving economic hotspot that is known for being business-friendly. PWC Cities of Opportunities ranked Singapore as the second best business hub in the world due to its “technological readiness, ease of doing business, demographics, and livability,” Entrepreneur reported. Invest the energy upfront to thoroughly research and really understand just one brand-new market at a time; remember, you don’t have to bring your product to several new countries at once to take your brand international.
- Pick a business structure. “There are many ways to take your business global, with various levels of complexity and investment,” explains The Next Web. “The solutions you use in one country may not be the same solution you use in others, depending on the challenge in those markets.” If you are expanding your business into a country with an entirely different language and culture from your own, you may want to consider using some consulting services or using inside sales strategies, which will help you create touchpoints, nurture relationships, and drive conversions in unfamiliar markets. In most cases, it’s preferable to establish your own local connections to gain traction in your international market, but you’ll have to find solutions that work best for your business and budget.
- Focus on disruption. “If you are not there to disrupt, what’s the point?” asks Langley Steinert, co-founder of TripAdvisor in an interview with Forbes. “Tread too carefully and you risk being a ‘me too’ company, and still an outsider, at that… if you are lucky, the core competencies are the differentiators that will drive your success abroad.” Think about the elements of your brand that contribute to your success in domestic markets, and consider how those defining features can be translated for an international market. Remember that what is culturally acceptable and endearing differs tremendously around the globe, so you’re going to have to strike a delicate balance between market disruption and market appeal.
Even though global expansion can seem like a daunting and overwhelming prospect, ambitious entrepreneurs can drive growth and maximize profits by introducing their products and services to international audiences. With careful consideration, thorough market research, regular communication and a lot of good-old-fashioned elbow grease, successful domestic startups can also succeed overseas.
Do you have a successful international business venture? Share your advice for building a global empire in the comments below.