Once a business is running successfully in a domestic market, it’s common for entrepreneurs to expand abroad in order to attract new potential customers. There are many benefits of moving your business into global markets, including new opportunities for growth and sales, and the opportunity to make your business more competitive in your industry.
However, expanding into other countries doesn’t just happen; in fact, it often comes with significant challenges and risks. While there are numerous factors to consider before deciding if your operation is ready to go global, the following best practices will help you navigate this change.
Leverage Influencer Relationships in Foreign Markets
Look for influencers in the markets you’re interested in and develop a relationship with them well before you begin expansion. Don’t think small when looking for these influencers. “Look around you and look everywhere,” says Ted Rollins, an Inc. 500 entrepreneur. “Make sure to build your network and use it to develop your ideas or to source ideas from.”
As this relationship grows, consider whether they’ll make for a good partner in your expansion, or if they’ll serve more as mentor, helping you learn how to do business abroad. These relationships will be key when you make the final jump.
Assess Your Capital
In order to be financially successful overseas, it takes a long-term financial plan. If you don’t have enough capital for the initial investment, consider where you’ll get that money and remember that expanding internationally is not something that you can expect to turn a profit from right away. You have to be in it for the long haul.
Hire a Market-Research Firm
One of the first steps when considering which market to enter is to hire an experienced and reputable market-research firm. Just because an overseas market might be hot, it may not be home to the customers you want to reach.
With a market-research firm, you’ll be able to decide whether your business will be well received in that area and whether or not there’s a market for your services and products at all.
The firm will also help you determine how your brand will transfer into the foreign culture, in addition to enabling you to explore current market needs and existing competition. For most business owners, this type of research is very difficult to do and often overlooked, so it’s smart to hire professionals.
Understand Language Barriers and Cultural Challenges
Entering foreign markets presents many obstacles, with cultural differences being one of the most challenging. Not only might you have to adjust your marketing and branding to appeal to consumers in a very different region, but if you’re opening offices, you have to consider office culture. For example, work/life balance in other countries is vastly different from the U.S. In the U.S., professional and personal lives often cross paths, where in some other regions of the world they are kept entirely separate.
In addition to culture, language barriers can make it challenging to effectively communicate while positioning yourself as an industry leader. Learning the language is the best way to overcome this barrier. As a leader, this shows that you have respect for other cultures and a drive to keep growing; it also shows that you place value on meaningful relationships.
Use this interactive language map to determine which language is most commonly spoken in the region you’re targeting and how long it will take you to learn it. For example, German is the most commonly spoken language in Germany, Austria, Switzerland and Belgium, and takes approximately 8 months to learn when studying five days a week. Put a plan in place to learn the language early on so you’re ready when business starts moving forward.
Get Employees On Board
In order to successfully expand your business abroad, current employees need to be on board; you’ll need them to help train new employees and build out new processes. Get them on board by asking about their ideas for communication, customer acquisition, marketing and more. These people are the backbone of your company and a large part of the reason why it’s successful enough to expand, so keeping them in the loop will go a long way.
These are just some of the steps you’ll need to take when expanding your business internationally. If you go into expansion with the right boxes checked, you’ll be more successful in the long run.
Jessica Thiefels has been writing for more than ten years and is currently a lifestyle blogger. She is also the owner of her own small fitness business, Honest Body Fitness, and is using her experience from writing, editing and marketing to become a successful entrepreneur. Follow her on Twitter @Jlsander07.