The humble side in all of us will have the mentality of only eating what’s on our plate before we reach for more. That’s a great mindset to have in business as you don’t want to literally bite off more than you can chew. With those food puns out the way, now we can focus on how you can get a bigger piece of the pie. Okay, that was the last one; but seriously that kind of thinking can only get you so far in business. With the modern technologies and amazing B2B services at your disposal, there’s absolutely no reason why you can have a wider reach that goes beyond the borders of your nation. Yes, once upon a time you had to earn your stripes first. Conquer your home country before you move onto conquering foreign markets. That kind of thinking is long gone, thinking small is now a lost cause. Don’t fully relinquish that side but you must focus on your appeal and penetration of markets far and wide even while being a small business. Still not convinced? Well here are some very real reasons why going international is not a fleeting dream anymore for those with small funds and large ambitions.
Small steps are big advances
Just because you want to become an international household name doesn’t mean you have to go balls to the wall. In fact there’s a recent trend that has been going on whereby the term ‘micro-multinational’ describes a small business planting it’s flag in multiple nations. Startups, micro businesses and small businesses now have the ability to grow abroad without having to catch a flight. The world of the internet is larger than the real world, many times over in fact. Keep it simple, just as you would search for clients and customers in your own nation, do the same for other countries. For example, you’re a marketing small business.
Your day to day challenge is to continuously find new clients who you can convince need your services in your own nation. Instead, you purposefully do this with the aim of searching for customers and clients from another country. Target China one week or month, and then target Slovenia in another. This is how you can begin a working relationship with companies abroad, that need services in your industry or field. The industry that has been most successful in this regard, is the website design field. You can now live and work in France and have your business website designed in Brazil. Make a concerted effort to look for foreign clients and customers rather than limit the search nationally.
Becoming the giant
Obviously, the most common and attractive markets are developed nations like Canada, Italy, Japan etc. Their family market is a big space, such as North America, Europe and Asia. Firstly, decide on the kind of market you want to enter. It could be that you’re a business from South America and you want to enter Asian markets like Singapore and Hong Kong. This is all well and good but consider this for a moment. Maybe these markets are not for you. Why would you want to enter into a highly competitive market when you have the option of entering emerging markets instead? There’s less competition for a start, but also customers of those nations don’t really have an established consumer mindset of brand loyalty. They just want something that works and is affordable, so take this opportunity to become a giant.
Rather than targeting Singapore, go for Taiwan. Rather than targeting Germany, go for Portugal. Instead of entering Australia, go for New Zealand. However, of course when it comes to penetrating any other nation, you need to learn the laws of the land. For example, shipping and importing laws apply if you’re going to be transporting goods to your distributor or for when you’re setting up your own retail business overseas. Employment regulations and practices also need to be learned. Compliance laws are vital to being able to operate abroad, so you need to know what can and cannot enter with. A company you are intent on signing a deal with, will need to make sure what they’re importing from your business, is conforming to the product laws set by their government.
Research business and national culture
When you enter into a new market you need to make sure you’re not stepping on any toes. What does this mean? Nations have their own unique cultures. Something that isn’t offensive in one nation, might be in another. You’ve also got to study the consumer trends in the country you’re trying to enter. What kind of products do they tend to lean toward naturally? We know that for a long while European consumers were and still are more in favor of Android system smartphones and North American consumers were more attracted to IOS systems. If you were a small business from Europe trying to sell a smartphone to an American audience and you designed your Android phone to be similar to an IOS smartphone, you would have more success than if you were to take over a European product.
That’s the national culture, including the consumer trends but what about the business culture? Japan is notorious for having a unique business culture. For example, business owners feel obligated to take their clients out on the town. When you meet in person for a meeting, it’s customary for the Japanese business owners to take you out to a restaurant. Not going is sometimes seen as an insult. Small niche things like this have to be learned if you want to land on the ground running when you make it past border security and enter into a brand new world.
The ability to be contacted
Email is no longer the benchmark of acceptable communication if you’re operating in multiple nations. For one thing the time difference has to be taken into account. If you have a distributor that is in Colombia and you’re a business in North Africa, you’ll be around 7 hours apart. Email is great for passing over documents and general updates and any kind of information or having a conversation that isn’t urgent. However for immediate contact you need 800 Phone Numbers. Internationally recognized and easily understood, the 800 numbers are used by businesses all around the world. They’re not exclusive to small businesses either, large businesses use them too. They give clients and customers an easy way to contact you whenever they feel is necessary. Yet they also provide an international image.
It’s quite a brave thing to do to say to the world that you’re open for contact from anywhere at anytime. There are also call-forwarding services that 800 number companies offer. So if you’re in a meeting or have voicemails, they can be directly forward to whatever number you want. Most business owners just have this set to their smartphone, so any kind of business call or message is able to be had on their smartphone which is great for when you’re out of the office or at home. And of course, the best thing about them is that they’re free to call. Everyone from customers to clients will be more likely to contact you directly when they need something, which inherently strengthens and normalizes your relationship with them.
Show up live
One of the best things you can do to show the new country you’re in that you are here, is to turn up a live events. If you’ve set up a business or are working with clients in Croatia, then turn up to certain business exhibitions where you can fly the flag high. How else will important people in your industry from Croatia know that you exist? Sure, they can learn from a friend by word of mouth, or maybe they will find you by looking online if you’ve commenced a targeted marketing campaign in that country as well, but usually turning up in person is the winning way.
Small business events are a fantastic way of getting your name out there. The only concern you might have is not knowing the language, however you can hire an interpreter from that particular nation that also knows your language. It’s important to not get lost in translation so meet or speak directly with the interpreter and inform them of who you are and what you do well before the event. Many nations speak English very well, so if you have the confidence and the drive, you may also want to make a live presentation at an event just to really turn some heads.
Going international is the way to thrive and spread as a small business. There’s so much competition in developed nations that it’s a very viable option to expand to developing nations instead. It will be easier to become a giant that way because you have an increased chance of ruling over an emerging market in your particular industry and or field. However first things first, you need to be able to be contacted by customers and clients abroad. Don’t rely on email only, an 800 number is free to call and is internationally recognized.