If you run a small business, you could see its growth stalling disappointingly quickly. Perhaps you have made the mistake of focusing too strongly on your native market. After all, your rivals could have much in their favour – and be competing for market slices that were never all that large in the first place.
The good news is that, thanks to our increasingly interconnected world, taking your business into the international ring doesn’t have to be as time-consuming as you might have anticipated.
Don’t wait for business growth to happen first
You might be old enough to remember the days when, in running a young company, you would focus on the local market first before expanding regionally, taking your reach national and then entrenching yourself on the international scene only years later.
However, these days, it’s possible to leapfrog many of these steps, due largely to inexpensive technology and services with which small businesses, when operating across borders, can match their larger rivals in efficiency, as Small Business Trends emphasises.
Research the legal frameworks of your target market
If you intend to establish a physical base – including, perhaps, employees and warehouses – in your intended foreign market, you should investigate all legal, HR and tax implications. Not doing so could significantly weight down your cost of doing business in that territory.
For example, if you are US-based and want to employ someone in the European Union, then send a full employment contract adhering to local regulations, as sending a simple offer letter won’t suffice.
Find ways to source goods inexpensively
Do the products or services that you offer depend on you sourcing particular goods? In some markets, you could find that fetching those items is an expensive endeavour that eats heavily into your profit margins, but some foreign distributors might offer those goods at favourable prices.
Even just “small, incremental price cuts, over time, can make a large difference in your business”, says Business Matters in reference to this particular advice.
Market inexpensively but strategically
In a former era, marketing overseas might have seemed like a costly nightmare, but you can now rein in the costs significantly by using the internet and social media.
Nonetheless, make sure that your choices of marketing channels account for audiences’ preferences in that particular territory. For example, consider that the UK staff at Planet Numbers are able to provide 0800 and 0808 numbers that would let you promote free-to-call helplines on your firm’s website.
Establish that a foreign audience exists for your offering
For each foreign market that you consider, research what people there lack but, crucially, you could provide. You might find that a product already in your range could fit nicely into that gap, even if you need to slightly tinker with the product to satisfy the specific niche. In personally meeting clients, suppliers and distributors in the overseas market, you could strengthen your insight into the local culture, as “face-to-face meetings can impart insights otherwise lost via email or telephone conversations”, says Business Advice.