4 Things That Can Help SMEs Plan Their International Expansion

international-business

Running an SME certainly brings along both the rewards as well as the challenges. When you trade in a relatively small market or in some business sectors however, due to market saturation, it does become difficult for businesses to find new customers and consequently grow their revenue. Therefore, targeting foreign markets and expanding internationally can be a way of growing your business. Here are 4 things that can help SMEs plan their international expansion:


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The growth of digital media and internet, that allows companies to interact and trade with the consumers from different corners of the world, certainly makes international expansion more possible than even just a few years ago.

If planned and conducted successfully, an international business expansion can in fact be extremely rewarding. Nevertheless, it’s important to remember that this isn’t an easy task and it certainly takes a lot of time, research and preparation. Indeed, even the largest brands such as IKEA failed to conquer their target international market at some point, simply due to the lack of knowledge.

This article presents you with some of the factors which might play a key role in your business’s expansion and knowledge of which can make the difference between a great success and a spectacular failure.

1. Understand your consumers

One of the most crucial elements which business owners simply must understand before approaching new, foreign markets and introducing their products or services is the target consumer. From geographical, demographical to psychographic factors and even behavioural values, each of those aspects can have a direct impact on whether the services you offer will satisfy the consumer.

Questions such as ‘Will religion/social customs/political situation affect their decisions?’ are extremely important. Make sure to do your research in the new market before even attempting to enter it.


Recommended reading: Embarking On International Business


2. Get to know your market

Understanding the foreign market your business intends to enter can, quite frankly, take not only tons of research but also time and money. Yet, similar to understanding your potential customers in that market, gaining knowledge about your chosen market is a step without which international expansion can be a great disaster.

Use partners, suppliers, and enterprise agencies to help you with this step. 

3. Localise and translate your approach

According to research, due to the development in technology, 2 in 5 consumers now purchase goods from overseas shops regularly. Additionally, over 90% of those customers are more likely to commit to buying from a shop which offers the information about products/services in their native language. So language localisation targeted specifically at a particular market and audience can be extremely beneficial.

Unquestionably, translating your business material plays a major part in international branding. Marketing material such as websites or leaflets simply have to be professionally translated in order for the customers to fully understand your products and services.

Legal documents, contracts, terms and conditions etc. are yet other very important documents which need to be translated when entering and expanding business to a foreign country. 

Translation agencies offering business translation services that specialise in language translation and localisation, ensuring that your business comes across culturally and socially appropriate in your chosen market.


Recommended reading: How to Use Localisation to Help Your Business Go Global


4. Learn from competitors

Unless you’re an innovator holding a patent, chances are that there already was a company which tried reaching foreign markets with a product/service similar to yours. Something which can help you in an international expansion of your business is studying your competitor’s moves.

  • What mistakes did they make?
  • What were the steps they took to enter the market?
  • Do you think the company did something right that you can perhaps also do and that will be beneficial to your market entry?

International business expansion can be difficult as there are a number of factors which can directly or indirectly influence whether the company will succeed or fail in a foreign market.

From understanding your potential consumers and markets to translating your business documents and marketing material, all of these can be influential. It is also important to remember that there are no shortcuts and what may seem like a great idea for saving money in the short term, may be rather costly and devastating in the long run.

Over to you now. Any other advice for international expansion? Tell us in the comments below. 

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