There is a whole world full of customers out there who are waiting to benefit from your products and/or services. As you contemplate this intoxicating fact, it is no wonder that you are chomping at the bit to expand your company overseas. Before you do, however, it is important to follow some sage advice that will set you up for future success.
Gauge whether you are prepared to take the leap.
As you may have already guessed, expansion abroad is a risky and expensive undertaking. For those reasons, you need to be certain that you are not only in an excellent financial position to absorb the additional costs, but also that you have a potential customer base who is ready to buy what you are selling. Unless you are reasonably sure that you are financially ready, and have a sales base you can count on, this might not be the right time to take that overseas leap.
Another important consideration is the culture and language of the nation you want to expand into. Although you don’t necessarily need to have lived there for years, you should have a fairly good idea that your brand and corporate culture will integrate well with the local population. That might mean enlisting the services of a consultant who lives in your target country and who speaks the native language. In addition, you may want to hire bilingual customer service professionals who can interact with your international customers, and accurately communicate any payment gateway or other problems to you and your staff.
Understand the laws and regulations of your target country.
If you’re running a small to mid-sized business, you already know that there is a significant learning curve when it comes to understanding the rules and laws that apply to your company and the management of its finances. This is exponentially truer when evolving your business to prepare it for the international stage. There may be any number of regulations, packaging standards, language requirements, tax protocols, and bank mandates you’ll need to adhere to, and ignorance of them is no excuse. In short, success abroad is contingent upon a complete understanding of the rules and laws that bind you.
Outperform your competition.
Even the smallest local store will struggle with issues around keeping up with or surpassing their competitors. When you sell internationally, this challenge becomes all the more daunting. As an entrepreneur, you need to convince your overseas clientele that your goods or services surpass the local products buyers may already be familiar with.
This will involve creating a concerted marketing campaign that will appeal to your new customer base. To that end, learn what social media and online advertisements your target audience tends to respond to by using online analytics tools. Invest as much time and thought as you can into creating a memorable social media and brand identity that will put your products at the top of your potential customers’ minds.
Determine which currencies you will accept.
When you run an internationally focused organization, one of your first considerations should be which types of customers’ money you’ll choose to accept. In the most basic sense, buyers appreciate being able to purchase goods or services in their own local currency; any guide to multi-currency payment processing will tell you that. At the same time, you need to understand that with each type of currency you accept, there may be additional paperwork and tax considerations you’ll need to grapple with.
Multinational financing is a complex subject that should be addressed with forethought and care. The last thing you want is to be ignorant of laws or financial requirements that could cost you heavily in the long run. For that reason, it may well be in your best interests to enlist the services of an attorney who is well-versed in global business law and international finances.
Put a robust infrastructure in place.
Launching an international presence without a solid set of underpinnings is akin to deciding to sail across the ocean without a seaworthy craft. Before you take that leap, ask yourself the following questions:
- Do you have a locally based management team who can help lay the groundwork and address sensitive issues as they arise?
- Have you determined which decisions will be made at your home office and which can take place in your out-of-country headquarters?
- What steps have you taken to ensure data security, and do all staff members understand the protocols?
- Are you in compliance with all relevant standards, both in your home country and abroad?
- Are you capable of setting up secure IT and telephone systems in your new location?
Gain a direct understanding of your new target country.
Although you do not need to have lived for years in the nation you want to expand into, it definitely helps to physically visit the area, interact with the people, and gain some understanding of the local customs and culture, if you can. You can also conduct some internet research on your new target audiences. By doing so, you will be in a better position to predict potential roadblocks. Furthermore, you can forge relationships that may serve you well in the upcoming years as challenges arise. Once you have gained this information, you will be far more knowledgeable about the best pricing for your products, who your competition is, and what needs might still exist in the marketplace that you could fulfill in the future.
Strive for resiliency.
As you contemplate international expansion, one of the most important facts to realize is that crises will inevitably arise. Because a lot of variables will be new to you, they may appear to come from out of nowhere. Your challenge in the face of these inevitable crises is to figure out how to evolve your business to overcome them.
Seek to cultivate a rich understanding of your global customers. Once you do, you will have a much more accurate sense of their needs and wants, as well as how to evolve your offerings to accommodate their unique preferences.
International expansion is not for the faint of heart. While it can set you up for unparalleled success and rewards, it is a feat that must be accomplished methodically and carefully. The more you understand your buyers, the countries where they reside, and the laws and regulations that are involved, the more likely it is that you will increase your profits.