Congratulations! Your startup has developed into a successful business and you’re ready to expand. Don’t be scared to think big. Going global may sound intimidating, but it’s surprisingly easy for small businesses to make their mark on international markets. Armed with the right knowledge, support, and tools, any business can establish a presence abroad and start realizing the benefits of doing so.
Why Go Global?
In a climate of political and economic uncertainty, many business owners shy away from expanding abroad. It’s certainly not the right move for every company, but here’s what you could be missing out on by keeping business local:
- Top talent. A business that recruits globally has access to a much broader pool of talent than one that only reaches out to local candidates. Your company may need employees with niche or exceptionally high-level skills that few people can offer. By advertising beyond the immediate locality of the business, there is a much higher chance of finding the perfect candidate who can help to propel the company to greater success.
- New revenue streams. Have you exhausted the local market and run out of new customers to pitch to? Expanding abroad provides access to a whole new group of potential customers, partners, and suppliers. More customers mean more business and increased revenues — sound good?
- Boost brand credibility. A global company commands the respect and trust of consumers. Only an established, reputable and successful company can take their business to the next level, right?
- Gain a new perspective. Exposure to different cultures is a great way to gain new perspectives on ways of working and the customer journey. This can breathe new life into marketing strategies, customer service and all aspects of a business.
Top Tips For Small Businesses
You’ve decided to take your business to the next level and branch out abroad. But how do you get started?
- Make sure you can expand. Run an audit of resources, staff and company finances to determine if expanding abroad is a viable option. Targeting a new market and attracting hundreds of customers is great, but if you cannot manage a dramatic increase in orders, you’ll soon land in hot water.
- Test the waters. Before leaping in and investing in new premises abroad, buy an international phone number and test the waters from the safety of home. An international virtual number allows consumers in your target location to call your business at their local rate. They will believe the company has a local presence and are therefore more likely to make a purchase. Calls can be directed to a preferred landline or mobile number in your home town.
- Expand gradually. Don’t try to expand into multiple locations at once. Use market research to prioritise one target destination to start with. International business requires compliance with new regulations, new business partnerships and potentially building a whole new team of staff. Find your feet in one location and expand to additional markets gradually.
- Research events, both online and live that will provide an opportunity for networking with useful contacts abroad. Local people will have the knowledge and connections to help you build a list of reliable suppliers and partners. They may also help you navigate the regulations and red tape involved in setting up a business in your chosen country.
- Make use of technology. There have been huge advances in business technology that make international communications a breeze. Make use of virtual numbers for low-cost international calls, utilise the internet to research potential markets and tap into your airline’s wi-fi to make the most of travel time.
- Take the time to understand new cultures and people. Don’t assume that the marketing and customer service strategies that have gone down a storm at home will reap the same rewards in a different country. Cultures and customs vary significantly between countries. Do your homework and take the time to understand the expectations of the new customer base and it will pay off. Business cultures will vary too and entrepreneurs must learn the etiquette and processes of doing business in a different country if they want to succeed.
- Learn the language. Small business owners who are new to international business may be wise to choose countries that speak the same language. However, this is not always possible — in Europe, your closest neighbours are likely to speak a different language. Learning even a few basic phrases and some business terms that are relevant to your industry could go a long way towards building positive new working relationships.
Global expansion can be daunting for business owners who have carefully built up a successful small business in their hometown. If it ain’t broken, don’t fix it, right? Branching out to international markets is not right for every business, but it can reap huge benefits if undertaken with careful consideration and the right tools to hand. Start small, do your homework and expand gradually and enjoy the thrill of taking your small business global.
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