It’s a wide, wild world out there, especially for business owners. Gone are the days of limiting yourself to a small corner of the world. The advent of the internet has made it possible for even the smallest of small businesses to reach every part of the globe with their products or services. Of course, it’s not always as simple as logging in and clicking send.
Here are some tips and tricks to smooth the transition if you decide to take your business international.
Take Stock of Your Business
Don’t start by jumping into the deep end with both feet. Start by taking stock of your business and figuring out if you’re really ready to go international. You’d be joining an enormous party — upwards of 98% of U.S. exporters are small and medium-sized businesses — but are you ready?
Take stock of your current capabilities, desired markets and potential client base. Figure out if you’re prepared to make that leap into international markets.
Research Your Markets
Next, research your prospective markets. You’ve got 195 countries and any number of markets to choose from. Don’t try to tackle them all at once. Each market will have its own challenges, rules and regulations for you to sort through.
Take a close look at the kind of product or service you provide and use that as a foundation for your research. This strategy is no different than researching any other new domestic market. Is there a desire for your product or service? Do you have any competition, and what do they do to succeed? What can you do differently to make your mark in this new international market?
Learn the Language
English might be the primary spoken language in your country, but if you’re planning to take your company international, not everyone you work with will speak the same language. Expecting everyone to speak your language will come back to bite you and likely limit your ability to expand into global markets.
Make it a point to learn the language of the countries you want to expand to. You don’t need to be fluent, but knowing enough to be conversational can make a huge difference for opening doors and making friends in the global market.
Speaking of making friends, networking will be your most valuable tool for expanding into international markets. Start making friends in the international sectors you have your eyes on. Having an insider perspective can make it easier to transition into global sales and service.
If you have a passport, make some trips to international trade shows when they’re available. Online networking through web-based seminars and Zoom chats can be useful, but it’s no replacement for in-person conversations and events.
Be Ready for Paperwork
One of the biggest and often most unexpected challenges of expanding into international markets is the sheer amount of paperwork you’ll have to navigate. You will have a new set of paperwork to fill out and a new series of regulations to learn for each country you expand into.
Having someone on hand who is fluent in international law regarding sales and exports may come in handy. You won’t have to commit a ton of legalese to memory, although it is helpful to be familiar with some of the terms. You can also learn it yourself if you don’t mind navigating an endless sea of paperwork, customs forms and ever-changing business regulations.
Be Patient and Persevere
Jumping into the global market is very much like jumping into the deep end of a swimming pool. You can very easily get swallowed up if you haven’t learned how to swim. Navigating international markets can be tiring, intimidating and downright dangerous if you don’t make the right decisions.
The most important thing to do when you’re trying to transition into international sales is to be patient. It’s not easy, and you may find that you end up in over your head unless you prepare. Thankfully, with modern technology at your fingertips, it’s easier than ever to expand into any international market you deem interesting. Just don’t try to take on the entire world on your first trip out the door. Dip your toes in the water before you dive in.