With the growth of technology, the term "small business" doesn't really mean what it used to. Whether you're a florist, chocolatier, or own a small bookstore, tapping into your ecommerce customers can turn your small business into a big one. Read on for a business strategy to go global.
Going global can be a massive challenge, however, and you may hit some bumps in the road. How can you make the ride as smooth as possible when expanding to a worldwide market?
The first step is being honest with yourself and figuring out if going global is the best goal. You need a business plan for expansion, which includes market research. Foreign markets can certainly dish up new revenue, but there are a myriad of challenges you might have to handle.
From renaming your company to structural changes, here are six things to keep in mind when considering global domination.
1. Research, research, researchThere's no such thing as too much research, but how do you even get started? That's what market research companies are for, and the fees will quickly pay for themselves. For example, you may have no idea how foreign economies are performing, but this can affect how your business will perform. Market research can unearth local economical factors around the world.
2. Slow and steadyExploding onto foreign markets might sound like a great goal, especially when the revenue starts to pour in, but be careful. Slow and steady really does win the race, and it's best to expand in steady increments. Select two markets from the research and focus all your efforts on them. You'll be able to learn from any mistakes and later expand to other markets as you begin to understand foreign economies.
3. Think locallyThinking locally is even more important when you start to expand globally: you'll just be thinking locally in different parts of the world. Customs, formal language and slang, currencies, and the personalities of various neighborhoods within different cities can all shape your success.
Consider how you'll deal with customer support if you're keeping your "home base" in the US but your markets are bustling when your employees are used to sleeping.
4. Get legal helpPresumably you have an attorney and CPA you count on stateside, but what about abroad? Intellectual protection, legal do's and don'ts, and contracts on the other side of the world are going to be entirely new beast. Make sure you take care of the legal side of things, which may require having an attorney on retainer with international business expertise. It's an added expense that's well worth it.
5. Know the competitionYou already know who your competition is at home, but what about when you go overseas? This should be included in your market research, but you should also keep tabs on the competition around the clock. It might require you to reach out and become part of a new network; recognize that you might not feel very welcome at first.
6. Tapping into technologyIf you're not 100 percent comfortable with processes or technology such as global shipping, web-based applications, and managing social media that isn't Facebook or LinkedIn, it's time to get up close and personal with them. Technology from Skyping to merchant services will make your small business expansion much more effective.
Shipping is a big obstacle, and it's easy to overpay. Make sure you check out global shipping options and don't be shy about asking for discounts or help nailing the best rates. Professionals are available to help with all aspects of expansion, so don't go it alone when you don't have to.