If your business is looking to expand its presence abroad, there are a few things you need to anticipate in order to successfully capture new international customers. In this article, we’ll take a look at a number of important tips that can aid how you do business internationally.
Physical Presence Isn’t Necessary
The traditional method of doing business has always been to set up a physical presence to interface with international customers. This standard format included:
- Leasing or purchasing property
- Renovating the space for your business
- Filing documents to do business in a new country
- Adhering to guidelines and restrictions
- Opening up a foreign bank account (or investing capital)
- Hiring and training foreign staff and contractors
- Paying taxes in the country you’re doing business in
The truth of the matter is that going through all of these steps can cost significant amounts of time, capital, and resources. This is a risky decision for many businesses, particularly newer small businesses and bootstrapped startups. The reason is that in most situations, setting up a physical presence has to be fully established and approved before making a single transaction with new customers and clients. It’s only once that these are set up that your business can recoup the cost of setting up a physical presence in foreign markets.
Luckily, the way that global business is conducted in the 21st century has moved to more virtual methods, eliminating the necessity of a physical presence (i.e. branch office). Many businesses simply choose to expand their operations with “virtual offices,” with call forwarding capabilities which create the functionality of traditional business structures, but without needing physical means.
For instance, instead of an actual “office,” virtual offices fulfill this role with a fully comprehensive website (with e-commerce, for instance), online collaboration platforms (like Slack or Trello), and most importantly, virtual phone numbers.
Virtual phone numbers instantly route phone calls across the globe, which can put your business on the map, so to speak, in new territories. With the call forwarding capabilities of virtual phone numbers from United World Telecom, you can tap into new markets almost as soon as you purchase a subscription and market your new virtual phone number accordingly.
Once you’ve adequately put the word out with virtual phone numbers, you can begin guiding international customers down your sales funnel and begin integrating new customers — without the overheads that come with setting up a physical presence.
Making Your Organization Accessible
The truth of international commerce is that you have to offer as many ways as possible to be in contact with new customers. This includes the aforementioned virtual phone numbers, but also includes having a comprehensive presence on social media, email, live chat, customer support forums, and so forth.
Understanding The Culture
Culture is a broad term when it comes to doing international business, but it all boils down to treating customers on their own terms. The most obvious of these cultural differences is language. While English may be the lingua franca of international business, it goes a long way towards the acceptance of your business to offer fluent customer service staff.
After all, imagine if you went to a foreign country and the natives refused to speak your language — or even offer to try. Therefore, bilingual or even multilingual staff are a necessity to accommodate new customers.
Beyond language, there are also cultural norms across cultures, especially in business. For instance, the United States is known as a place where business is incredibly direct and formal, where rapport is usually established after transactions have occurred.
On the other hand, the Middle East is renowned for its business culture where trust has to be established between two parties before business can take place. Training your customer service representatives to have a general overview of what each country expects in business interactions (and informal interactions) can make or break whether your business is accepted in foreign markets.
Lastly, you’ll have to allow for time zone differences. For countries that are several hours away, you’ll have to take into consideration which part of the day your customers are in. No one wants to receive a call in the middle of the night or after a long day’s work — especially days that border on the weekend or before the work week begins.
Author Bio: As an international entrepreneur with a chronic suffering from wanderlust, Tom Senkus shares his entrepreneurial insights while traveling the globe. For more information on his list of services and published work, visit www.tomsenkuswriter.com
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