How to take a company global?

This is a question on the minds of many startup founders and small business owners seeking to take their business to the next level.

While most US-based businesses consider America to be the hub of their business operations, over 95% of your consumers actually live outside the good old US of A. According to the USSMB (US Small Business Administration), these global customers actually make up 2/3 of the world’s purchasing powerhouse.

Worse, only an approximate 1 – 2% of all US-based companies are currently in the business of exporting their products overseas.

If you’re a startup owner on the precipice of launching or an SMB struggling in the minefield of this new economy, shouldn’t you be considering a multinational approach to selling your products and services?

Kunal Sarda and Ryan Frankel founded the mobile translation platform Verbalizeit completely on the premise of global domination. Obviously, a translation app is a front-runner for going international, but without the right business model, there’s no way a business can reach across oceans to gain a larger customer base.

Tips for taking a company global from COO Kunal Sarda

Sarda and his partner took their crowdsourced mobile translation platform Verbalizeit global by following these 3 core strategies:

1. Be very niche-focused

You can’t have it all — not yet! A small business needs to figure out where their product fits best and not be drawn into the allure of capturing each and every segment of the market that may want their product. Doing so drains resources including financial, time and the energy of you and your partners.

Be disciplined, Sarda warns. Focus on markets that offer at least one of the following advantages to your brand over other areas you’re considering:

  • A larger customer base, potentially with a higher willingness to pay.
  • Access to cheaper supply of labor or raw material, leading to cost efficiency.
  • Legal, regulatory, or other systemic factors that make it easier to do business.

2. Seek out those who know better

Language, cultural and legal snafus are all part of the equation when taking any business global. You have to seek out local experts (ie., your customers and/or international employees) in the areas you’ve identified as good selling ground, and figure out all the barriers you need to overcome before launching your business in said areas.

Sarda explains he and Frankel took this advice to heart as they readied the launch of their translation app. Rather than treat their translators like just another employee, they surveyed each of them individually to learn as much about them and their culture as they could. This gave them invaluable data on all fronts as they considered what areas to focus their business on most at the start.

He suggests other businesses can do the same by using the simple and free tool Google Forms to survey your customers — potential or otherwise.

3. Can they speak English?

This is obviously the biggest challenge to successfully emerging as an international business. While less than 20% of us speak a second language here in the US, less than 40% of consumers in the top emerging markets speak any English at all. Few who fail at taking their business global for the first time recognize this disparaging roadblock before it’s too late.

Keep in mind that recent poll data suggests that MOST (read: pretty much everyone) consumers say they’re more likely to buy when a product is described to them, and offers support in their own language.

Look for virtual assistants, affordable call centers, even apps like Sarda’s to make sure customers in the markets you choose feel confident that both of you are talking the same language.

Small businesses should feel empowered, not limited by their global ambitions

Rules are changing. You don’t need to be a huge corporation to take your company global. All you need is a product people need, a laser-focused marketing approach, touching base with and listening to your customer base, and a willingness to overcome language barriers at any cost are all that’s needed for global domination.

Don’t believe Sarda knows anything about international business?

He and Frankel had 3 “Sharks” chomping at the bit to get in on their startup on the season 4 finale of Shark Tank. I wanted to link to a video of the episode for you guys, but to no avail.

Any tips for taking a business global?

Feel free to share in the comments.