Thinking about taking your small business global? Even if you’re a small business entrepreneur, it’s not as crazy as it sounds. Provided you take the right steps, moving into international markets can drive up your revenues and grow your brand awareness.
Whether you’re preparing to sell a product in Europe, starting to consult clients in Australia via Skype, or moving manufacturing into China, each international market has unique perks and pitfalls. Here are some common do’s and don’ts that will help you navigate your global ambitions.
Don‘t: Forget to research your market
Too many entrepreneurs fail to research their client base before they start expanding. With plenty of metrics at your fingertips, you should have a good idea if there is a global demand for what you’re selling. Is the market oversaturated in your sector or do you fill an undiscovered niche? Who are your competitors and who is succeeding in the market where you plan to expand? A quick Google search can give you some cursory information, and conducting some online surveys or targeted email campaigns might give you a more detailed picture.
Do: Travel and make connections
You probably won’t be the first entrepreneur to crack the market, so reach out to the people who have paved the path ahead of you. It’s helpful to meet new business contacts face to face, so make the trip to your new market if it’s in your budget. If you plan to travel frequently, sign up for frequent flyer miles or a similar travel reward program to take advantage of the savings and perks.
Is travel too much of a financial burden? The Internet is still a solid start when targeting new connections. Video chat sessions seamlessly connect you with partners and clients. Trade shows are also a great time investment when it comes to researching global markets and meeting new people.
Don‘t: Be disorganized with your paperwork
Each country has its own regulations, meaning you’ll have to fill out a lot of forms when you expand. Set up a cloud-based system to track your contracts, government forms, and correspondences so you can access them at any time. Study the local laws to avoid any legal exposure. If you don’t speak the language, be prepared to pay for a bilingual lawyer who can help you handle affairs.
Do: Get on international social media platforms
Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn may be popular in English-speaking countries, but if you’re aiming for international markets, you need to be on social platforms where your new customers are chatting. Are you familiar with QQ, WeChat, or Weibo in China? How about VKontakte in Russia? Research the most popular platforms in regions where you plan to grow.
Be aware that each country shares differently online. Singaporeans might want a business that takes itself seriously, while those in the U.K. may love it if your brand provides a good chuckle in its social media marketing. And don’t forget the time differences. Posting at 2 PM stateside could have your promotion popping up online at 1 AM overseas.
Going global isn’t easy, but if you’re willing to put in the hours, it’s extremely gratifying to see your brand cross borders.
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