When you think about a business ‘going global’, what springs to mind may be a major corporation or large firm with plenty of funding behind it, but, in reality, it now makes sense for small start-ups to grow their businesses globally, for real, lasting success.
A global mindset
When starting up in business, some will always think small scale, with their sights staying firmly fixed on the home market, but increasingly the trend is to be what has been coined as the micro multinational – the small business with a global reach. With the technology now readily available to address a worldwide audience, at reasonably low cost, this is more of a mindset to adopt than anything else. Indeed, by careful use of tools such as websites, social media and even digital currency, for inexpensive international payments, and a few sensible strategies, you can plan to grow your business globally from the get-go.
In fact, although some nations may seem to be getting more insular in their attitudes toward foreign business moving in, pulling up the proverbial drawbridge, the long-term outlook of the upcoming iGeneration is that we are all part of a global community, which foretells the way of the future. So, thinking globally from day one of your start-up could give you promising long-term prospects. For example, one business which thought globally from day one is Learning Enterprises Organisation Ltd (LEO), an entrepreneurship training company. Launching in 2012, LEO has always had a global outlook and is now a highly successful international organisation with 375,000 Members in 193 countries and is celebrating its seventh year in business.
Worldwide shop window
Of course, many new small business owners will want to launch a website as part of their start-up strategy, which will obviously provide an invaluable shop window for a worldwide customer base. However, if you’re going global with a website and want to last the test of time, you must always be careful to be open and honest in your description of what you are offering, as your reputation rides on it.
Never be tempted to exaggerate to make a sale, which could land you in hot water with customers, the law and any organisation you partner with, for example as a franchisee or direct selling representative. Indeed, to give your business the best chance of success at home and overseas, and prevent it failing on the starting blocks, it is vital to always sell with integrity, as this will earn you word-of-mouth recommendations that can reach worldwide and boost your long-term global business prospects no end.
However, for real global business success, mastering the art of social media selling is most certainly a must. In fact, many enterprises, such as direct selling businesses, can achieve phenomenal global success this way. However, the fundamental key to building a successful global business using social media is to take care not to aggressively sell, as this can be counterproductive, turning others off to your products.
The trick is to provide plenty of engaging content for your customers and use what is called the 80/20 rule – that is 80% of the time you share valuable, relevant content and 20% of the time you promote your business. Become too pushy, and any global aspirations you have will disappear as quickly as your followers can click ‘Unfriend’. If you are serious about using social media to take your business global, it is also crucial that you research where your potential customers hang out. After all, Snapchat may be a non-starter if your target audience is the over thirties.
Know your market
Indeed, researching your market before wading in really is the name of the game if you want to truly succeed on a global scale. So, to expand in a specific location, first learn all you can about local legal regulations, tax requirements and cultural expectations you must comply with. Also, you need to know your numbers; analyzing local Small Business Stats can give you some ideas on local market’s characteristics and potentials.
A good place to start is to contact trade associations for the industry you work in, that oversee operations in the locality, which can provide inside info. It is also important to research how best to market your business in the area, as when it comes to marketing techniques, one size does not fit all.
While some markets will be more receptive to offline tactics, such as print materials or events, others may be more responsive to mobile channels. For example, for Africa, you would be wise to optimise your online content for mobile access, as this tends to be the favoured way of working. However, the bottom line is that you will need to form strong business relationships in any new area you cover, and while much can be done online, you must be willing to travel for face-to-face meetings, to network, train recruits and really cement connections.
Getting it right
Although no one says it will be simple to succeed in all global markets with your small business, you can boost your chances of getting it right. For example, finding yourself a mentor who has taken this step before is a wise move, to provide the guidance you need and set you on the path to success. Likewise, seeking training in the best ways to succeed, such as that offered by LEO CEO, and experienced global entrepreneur, Dan Andersson, can really set you in the right direction. It is also a good idea to take it one step at a time, starting your business with a global mindset but being careful not to run before you can walk.
When you are comfortable operating in your home market, try growing your business in one new overseas market at a time, to avoid overstretching yourself. Then, once you’ve achieved success in each new territory, expand out in adjacent countries, as your existing contacts may be able to ease the process by connecting you with people they know in nearby markets, where operating practices might also be similar.
So, to make a real splash with your small business start-up, try thinking globally from the get-go, and grow an enterprise that will truly stand the test of time.