There’s a misconception that you have to have a large business to be able to cater to a global audience. That’s far from being true.
While big companies do have the advantage of having more resources for launching a global campaign, a smaller business still has opportunities to get a slice of the global pie.
It’s already happening.
According to a 2016 USForex Survey, about 96% of the small- and medium-scale companies who responded are confident about taking their business abroad. In fact, more than half (58%) already have international patrons, and about half have suppliers and vendors outside the US.
This shows that small businesses no longer have to limit themselves to their local market.
Yes, exploring the global market will be a challenge and it will not be easy. But with the right tools and strategy, it definitely can be done.
You just need to play your cards right.
Where to begin though?
How do you go from a small business catering to a defined US market to an organization with reach across the globe?
These tips on preparing your small business for the bigger, global stage can give you a clearer path for exploring international markets.
Going global doesn’t mean you should go out there and conquer the whole world immediately. Like a good general, you need to identify the country or city where you’ll have immediate success and start there.
You can start small by researching which countries have a strong interest in your product or offering. After that, study the feasibility of establishing your business there by looking at the market, including possible competitors (like you did with your local market). Consider the possibility that the market may already be saturated with similar offerings and be ready to back down.
But if there is a strong chance that you can do well in the market, then go for it.
Know the countries and cities you plan to expand to.
Once you identify the country and specific city or cities you want to enter, you need to expand your research beyond your target market.
- Consider the national and local laws you’d have to adhere to before you can establish your business. You’d also need to know if your product or offering falls under the jurisdiction of a regulatory office.
- You also need to understand the culture and social nuances when dealing with the locals. You don’t want to come in guns-a-blazing and end up offending the very market you are targeting. Take Coca-Cola for example. In 2015, the company was forced to issue an apology due to strong negative reactions after they released an ad in Mexico depicting young, fair-skinned people bringing the gift of Coke to a small, overawed Mexican town. Many people thought that the ad reinforced the notion that indigenous people are culturally and racially inferior instead of the original message of equality it was supposed to project.
Make sure that your marketing and sales strategy does not only conform to the law but is also sensitive to the culture and beliefs of the market you are trying to win over
Work with local third parties.
Establishing your presence independently in another country can be very daunting. Fortunately, you don’t have to go at it alone.
You have different options for working with established local entities within the international market you’re targeting including:
- Partnerships. Partner with a local company that sells complementary products or services. They can offer your product or service in combination with or as an add-on to their own.
- Sell through local distributors. Marketing in a different country can be difficult, so why not partner with a company who knows the landscape? Consider dealing with distributors who will buy your product in bulk and sell it to their own customers.
- License local manufacturers and sellers. Shipping can be costly and can easily eat into your profit margin. What you can do instead is enter a licensing agreement with a local company. While you allow them to manufacture and sell your product, they will pay you royalty for the right to do so.
- Hire locals. If you feel more comfortable expanding your operations in a new country through your own company, you should consider hiring locals who know the industry.
By tapping the locals, you ease some of the pressure that comes with the effort of capturing a foreign market.
Maximize the internet.
Create a website that people around the world can access. It will be the face of your business, so make sure you choose the right domain name and create content that not only describes what you’re offering but also who you are as a company. Here other things you need to do:
- Learn search engine optimization (SEO). SEO is all about best practices that you can apply to your website so it will rank high in search engines for searches related to your brand, product or service, and company. Make sure you optimize your websites locally based on the most common related searches in the country or city you are targeting.
- Use social media to reach a global audience. Engage with your market directly through different social media platforms. Use it as a marketing tool, a customer support channel, or a simple way to directly connect with both your local and international audience.
You can also research other digital and online marketing tactics. They usually don’t cost as much as traditional marketing and give you a very wide reach at the same time.
The internet is the great equalizer in the global arena. In the world wide web, it doesn’t matter if you’re a large or small business. It’s accessible to everyone. Whoever maximizes the use of the internet wins.
Equip your company with cloud technology.
Cloud technology is the best tool for companies looking to expand to a global market.
- It’s scalable, so it adjusts to the needs of any business without forcing owners to install more hardware or infrastructure.
- It’s mobile and can be used from anywhere there is an internet connection.
- You only keep it as long as you need it, because you don’t own the service—you’re just subscribed to it.
Start with RingCentral. Aside from a robust communications solution, it also lets you establish presence in another country through international phone numbers. This allows your company to use a local number from that country even if you are in the US.
From there, you can add a variety of cloud-based services for other business needs. RingCentral has integrations to some of the most popular business cloud applications, including Box or Dropbox™ for file storage, Microsoft Office 365™ and Google for Work for office productivity, and more.
The best part is that a single account for each cloud service is enough to unite multiple locations and a distributed workforce from around the word.
With internet and cloud services readily available for all, going global is no longer just a dream. When you use them with the right preparation and strategy, you’ll find your product and/or service being sold in the international market in no time.
Do you have other tips you can share about how a small business can go global? Sound off in the comments section.