3 tips for taking your small business global
Expanding into the global market has never been more tempting for small businesses. With the internet instantly connecting companies to new customers, even the smallest of businesses are no longer held back by national borders.
58% of small businesses in the United States already have international customers. But a report from the British Chambers of Commerce found that many UK businesses are discouraged from trading internationally due to the perceived difficulties of going global. If you, too, are apprehensive about expanding your small business, these three tips will help you overcome any obstacles.
1. Cross the language barrier
When many Brits go away on holiday, they often take with them the attitude that “everyone speaks English”. This may suffice when navigating two weeks in Spain, but it doesn’t make sound business sense. One study has found that “the majority of people in some countries will pay more for a product with information in their own language”. Couple this with the fact that Mandarin, Spanish, and Arabic are fast catching up with English as some of the most-used languages on the internet, and you have a strong case for translating your website, marketing, and even packaging materials as you approach each new market.
Free online translation tools have come a long way in recent years, but relying upon them for business matters is only likely to create more trouble for your company. As Global Voices notes, localised web pages “will provide [users] with an impression and a message, which is far more likely to draw in new customers”. In contrast, machine-translated pages will simply offer surface-level information to non-English speakers, without really engaging them on a cultural level.
With your business literally speaking your customers’ language, you have a much better chance of connecting.
2. Research your target markets
It might be tempting to simply open a French version of your website and wait for the purchases to roll in, but this approach is unlikely to yield results. Successful global businesses only expand into a new market when they have studied it thoroughly in order to determine if they will have any success.
International market research can include many things, from checking out the local competition to carrying out customer surveys. It’s up to you how in-depth you want your research to be, but it’s important to get enough to be confident about your business plan.
Addressing businesses across the pond, the American Marketing Association says: “Many companies don’t realize just how intricate breaking into an international market can be.” Luckily, you should be able to gauge a fair amount of market information from reading economic analysis in current affairs publications and attending trade shows, according to the Guardian. If you have more cash to spare, hiring a professional consultant could yield more specialised results.
The UK Government website offers a very helpful tool to help businesses decide which markets to export to. The “create your export journey” tool allows you to enter your area of business and see a detailed table of which companies are most likely to be receptive. As a first step in the research process, this is invaluable.
3. Look up the local rules
Before you expand into a new market, it’s important to make sure you are following the letter of the law. There are UK rules for exporting, which again are easily explored via the government’s website. If you’re exporting outside of the EU (or presumably anywhere at all after March 2019), you should read through this page to see whether you need to apply for a license.
Then, there is the legal landscape of the country you are importing into. The rules and guidelines for importing to the USA can be found here. As you can see, the process may or may not involve licensing, and it might be wise to set up a local branch or subsidiary there before you start trading. Whichever new market you are planning to explore, it is important to look carefully into all of the surrounding legal rules.