It’s every entrepreneur’s dream, to expand their business past the local or regional level. Even the national seems minuscule when the objective is to hang your feet over the edge of home soil and dip your toes into the ocean. The term ‘going global’ is meant to describe a when a business makes that giant leap of economic, financial, trading and communications evolution to a larger scale than ever before. Having a worldwide reach as an online business is something many people fantasise about, but as the world of e-commerce has shown the markets, anything is possible in today’s day and age. For a small business, trying to break through the ice cap, it’s both a disrupting and exciting time. By entering onto the world scene, you’ll finally be able to compete with the giants, give them a run for their money, and perhaps one day surpass all your rivals. However, it’s vital that the transition is smooth and based in logic. Timing is just as key as the actions you take when expanding. The key is to base your reasons around a gap in the market, exploiting an untapped market, or taking a new product or service to a part of the globe that has little competition.
1. Spotting Your Chance
Taking a small business out into the rough water is a complex and dynamic task. Gaining the upper hand quickly must take priority, as targeting the market is more important than anything. Without a new and energetic consumer base, interested in your services and business, the expansion will be a flop. It’s crucial then that you study current trends both globally and locally. Understanding markets in different countries, and how your business would be relevant in them is a large research project. Undertaking proper research with due diligence is how you can prepare the market with a segmentation analysis. This way you can determine how your product would sell in different parts of the world. For an online business, it’s important to harmonise your services with the ethics and needs of the consumer market you wish to penetrate. The needs of the USA will not be the same as the market in China, so analyse how your service could benefit either. A product gap analysis is one way to see what the local business resource is missing and how you can exploit that area.
2. Readiness to Adapt
The beauty of online businesses is that trading can be done within a matter of minutes once a deal has been signed. However, just like in the real world, cultural differences must be adapted to. Whether it’s a service or product, it should be able to be comprehended in the local language, fit national regulations and meet the rules of the opposite business. Expanding internationally means that a one-size-fits-all approach is doomed to failure. Keep the foundations of a service, because they make your business unique, but you should expect to drop and add according to the needs of various customers.
Consider making a beachhead team, which only deals with foreign affairs in your business. Allocate the most adept employees you have, to positions where they will be directly dealing with foreign customers. You therefore need, to develop policies, procedures, rules and a handbook of new information for your staff to refer to. Hiring bilingual staff is an incredible boost to the sales department, and breaking down the language barrier might speed up your business with foreign companies ten-fold. English is the language of business, but having staff that can speak in the mother tongue of foreign clients, can strengthen relations. You might also avoid a ‘lost in translation’ mishap, whereby an order is not correct and thus void, potentially losing you a lot of money.
3. Increased Communication Needs
Online businesses are very unique in the fact that, due to technological advancements in software and hardware, one employee can easily do the work of two or more. Not only will you need to the right amount of staff to cope with the increase in demand and support, but you’ll also need to deal with clients via direct communication. This can get hectic if you don’t have organisation, so getting a virtual receptionist service would help you to keep track of incoming phone calls. With no need to add room to your office space which would be an expensive venture, and no need to hire extra staff, this is a very cost effective method. By using cloud and internet technology, it’s much easier to use such a service, remotely. You can also tell the virtual receptionist, how you would like the phone to be answered, so if you have a particular company standard, that can be deployed to keep your image intact.
4. Tailor a Service
You must also be ready to tailor a service to the specific demand of the host nation. Every country around the world, has their own consumer standard, logical reasoning, real-world needs, and expectations. It’s no good just entering a market and not expecting fight back from the local opposition. By relishing the competition, you should be willing to adapt a current service you offer, to the market you have entered. It could be anything, like size, speed, connectivity, usability, and price. Offering an online service to Great Britain, won’t be the same as Canada, even though they are both English speaking nations. As aforementioned, it’s important to research the local needs and create a service which doesn’t look out of place. When making updates, they should be clearly explained in the proper language, and feedback you get is timely responded to. This is why it may be a good idea, to set up multiple social media accounts that people from around the world, can interact with in their language and world time.
Exploiting a gap in the market isn’t supposed to be a quick rush of excitement and sudden changes in your business. A successful expansion leads to consistent growth in the market you have just penetrated. However, this means, taking a chance to begin with, and then capitalising on the opportunity, by having the ability and willingness to adapt to the needs of the local market.