If you’re looking to expand your business overseas but you’re feeling a little uncertain on what steps to take next, you’ve come to the right place!
As an ever-growing international business ourselves, we’ve seen first-hand what it can take to run a business abroad – and so we’ve pulled together plenty of small business advice to help you navigate your way to the top.
Let’s take your business international!
The challenges of expanding your business abroad
Of course, expanding your business overseas is not an easy task, and it comes with its own set of challenges and obstacles to overcome. Here are a few of the ones you may be facing:
- Language barriers
It’s a simple one, but not being able to speak the same language as your customers can often leave you facing huge barriers in the day to day life of your business.
- Cultural differences
Not only do you need to consider the fact that you may not speak the language, but there can also be differences in business etiquette. For example, when exchanging business cards in China, make sure you offer your card with both hands and take a few moments to examine any business cards you are handed.
- Different regulations
Cultural differences aside, every single country has its own set of rules and regulations – and these may be vastly different to those you’re used to at home. You’ll need to read up on these to avoid any simple mistakes costing you big.
- Local competition
When you’re not as familiar with other locations as your home area, it can be harder to know what business are around that are similar to yours, or what the local vibe is towards your area of business.
Whilst these challenges might seem like setbacks, they shouldn’t stand in the way of your plans. Here’s how to get started on the road to international business success!
Top tips to help your small business succeed abroad
1. Save money on international business transfers
On top of the high costs for sending money abroad, many banks will also charge what are known as recipient fees. These are fees of around £20 that will be charged to your recipient when you send them money (or you can choose to pay these fees yourself).
At WorldRemit, we don’t ever charge recipient fees. The price you see up front is the price you’ll pay – and we offer a great deal on your international business transfers to employees and contractors!
2. Do your research
Like most things in life, the best place to start when looking to take your business global is with a good foundation of knowledge. And so, before you begin your business expansion into different markets abroad, you’ll need to do some homework.
Is there a market for your product or service overseas? How much interest is there? Is there tough competition already out there and is the market oversaturated? These are the kinds of questions you’ll need to consider.
Once you’ve established that there is a potential gap for your small business amongst overseas customers, it doesn’t stop there. You’ll also need to look into the fundamentals of getting started: things such as marketing costs, travelling costs and any other potential barriers (whether local/global/cultural) that may be different to what you’re used to at home.
Trade shows can be a great resource for both learning about global markets and meeting people who can help you expand.
3. Make a plan - 160
As the saying goes, failing to plan is planning to fail. Make sure you have a clear market entry strategy before taking your business overseas. Key things to consider include:
Define your key objectives – what do you expect to achieve by entering a new market and how will you measure success? It’s important to set realistic goals for the short-, medium- and long-term to keep you and your team focused.
Once you’ve set your goals, it’s time to think about what you will need to spend to meet them. You should create an annual budget that accounts for all tax-related expenses, staff-related expenses, costs associated with operating your business in a new country (such as setting yourself up as a legal entity), marketing, office expenses etc. If in doubt, overestimate to avoid nasty surprises. You may also want to seek help from a financial advisor to make sure you’re not missing any legal or tax obligations.
- Marketing plan
Your marketing plan should also be driven by the wider company goals you have set. It is important to identify your target customer base from the outset and consider how you want them to perceive your business. You should also localise your marketing materials to account for cultural differences – read up on what interests your target customers, what competitor brands they are using and what is important to them when choosing a product or service in your industry.
Consider if you need to make any changes to your existing products or services to make them relevant to customers in the new market. It’s also important to think about the steps that your audience will take to buy your product including localising your website, social media pages and how you will accept payments.
4. Prepare your team
When hiring a new team, it is crucial that you understand the local market to get the right people on board. Consider working with a local recruitment agency who can help you identify prospective talent and better understand both the typical hiring process and interview etiquette. For example, in the UK, a strong handshake is often the sign of a confident and capable employee but, in other countries, this is not the norm.
For your existing employees, as with any big company change, communication is key. If you are spending more time overseas, make sure you set up regular virtual meetings with them to keep them motivated and updated on business priorities. Skype, Pow Wow Now and Zoom all offer conference services with dial-in numbers to suit a wide range of markets.
5. Build an online presence
In this day and age, we all know the importance of social media and building an online presence. Without it, you run the risk of fading into the background, behind other brands shouting louder and further.
Translate your website to suit the needs of your new target customers. As well as simply translating the language, you will need to make sure that customers can pay for any goods and services in their native currency. And don’t forget to rethink your SEO strategy to improve your search engine ranking in the new country – research the search engines that people use and SEO best practices for that market.
Adapting your social media will enable you to share your latest news with new and existing customers. Find out which platforms your new target customers use the most and create content that is culturally relevant to them instead of just duplicating or translating content produced for other audiences.
Facebook allows businesses to create Global Pages so they can easily localise their content for customers all over the world. Many businesses choose to have one Instagram page and use the platform’s targeting options to ensure that paid posts are reaching a specific audience.
6. Due diligence
While it’s easy to get swept away with the excitement of setting up shop overseas, it is critical that you are aware of and have planned for any potential risks that come with it.
Get in-the-know of any local regulations that will affect how you do business in the new country. International trade departments offer useful resources to help you navigate regulations and mitigate risks.
Make sure you draw up a clear written contract before doing business with any overseas suppliers. Contracts should include roles and responsibilities for each party as well as key deadlines for services to be delivered. This will help protect you should any disagreements arise.
If in doubt, consider hiring an attorney, who can guide you through any legal obligations for doing business in the new country.
7. Make local partnerships
Building good relationships with partners such as distributors and suppliers in any country where you operate is essential.
Make the most of networking opportunities including international trade fairs and industry events in your new country.
Most governments also have a department dedicated to promoting exporters and investors. The UK Department for International Trade, for example, helps UK businesses to succeed in foreign markets and may be able to help you to identify potential business partners.