Small businesses often start out as one person’s clever idea which over time has the potential to expand and grow on the back of early success. Many small business owners are content to maintain their business at a manageable level so it only provides enough work for them and wish to remain a one man band.
Others, however, have dreams of global domination and try to grow their business aggressively. If they achieve enough success on the domestic scene, they can start to consider breaking into the international market. But how difficult is it to ‘go global’? Is going global the right strategy for your business? And what do you need to consider to be a success internationally?
Below are 5 tips and actions to consider before breaking out into a worldwide market:
Research the tax, legal and HR environment abroad
If your expansion into other locales will involve employing staff in those different places, it’s crucial you’re aware of the necessary regulations beforehand. Different countries have different rules and you don’t want to invest a lot of time and money setting up an office in a different location only to find there are additional costs associated which will cut into your profits at the last minute.
Likewise, if your business involves shipping, be sure you’re aware of every inch of the small print involved in that process. Discovering there is additional duty or costs incurred at the other end of the line in a new territory could significantly cut any potential profit.
Adapt Your Product
Depending on your business, it may be necessary to adapt your product to gain success overseas. It’s important before you decide to take the plunge that you thoroughly research your target locations and establish any cultural sensitivities and potential demand for your product/service. There’s no point charging all guns blazing into a new location only to find out your logo offends the president or there’s already someone locally dominating your niche. Do what’s necessary to create demand and you’re more likely to be successful.
Invest in the right technology immediately
Having the right technology at your fingertips is crucial for international growth. As distances increase and communication becomes more difficult, access to high quality software and online services can be the difference between success and failure. Store files and company data “˜in the cloud’ so that everyone has access to the same documents and it is not reliant on a box somewhere in a specific location.
Communication technology is also crucial to international success, both from a production and a marketing perspective. Being able to keep your finger on the pulse of activity in your different locations around the world is essential to running a streamlined outfit and staying in touch with key members of your team.
Likewise, using technology which allows you to communicate with your customers is crucial to growing an international audience. Social media outlets like Twitter and Facebook allow you to reach people on the web no matter what corner of the earth they sit in, and by using them effectively you can build a demand for your product before you even set foot in their country. Invest time and effort into build a strong community around your brand and product and you will have people talking about you from Japan to Alaska.
Marketing is always one of the most challenging aspects of growing a business, and this is compounded when you venture into new countries and different languages. Social media is one way of establishing a presence worldwide, and international SEO is another great way to grow awareness of your website by ranking for key phrases in your target market and language. Not all countries use Google.com and Google.co.uk, so you need to start investing in gaining a presence in other versions of Google like Google.fr, Google.es and Google.ca etc.
It’s not all about Google either, in some countries there are more popular search engines – Yandex is top of the tree in Russia for example. If you can establish a strong presence in the popular local search engines through good international SEO then you can rely on a strong stream of traffic and leads to your website.
Establish a Payment System
Another potential stumbling block when moving your business abroad is the matter of payment. For smaller ticket transactions services like Paypal and Moneybookers are good options, though charges for using them need to be incorporated into the business plan and costings. Not all these services are available in every country though (Romania doesn’t have paypal for example) so ensure you do thorough research into each target location so you’re aware of any hoops you may have to jump through. This means your business plan will remain sound and you won’t be left with any nasty surprises (or empty pockets) down the line.
Moving into new territories is an exciting time for any small business, and you certainly don’t have to be a large company to trade internationally. Hopefully the points above will help small businesses have the confidence to take their product or service over international waters and take their business to the next level.
Image: Idea go