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How To Take Your Company International

Going global – is defined as a worldwide movement towards economic, financial, trade, and communications integration.

While your local market might be huge enough for almost everything, growth-minded business owners see the rest of the world as their playing field. Seeking international growth by going global offers opportunity, aplenty if done right!

Did you know that 95% of consumers live outside of the U.S.? So, if you haven’t considered it before, now would be the perfect time to take advantage of the international market.

Going globals isn’t something that you set up overnight, but that’s the case for all worthwhile business endeavors no matter if domestic or international.

Table of Contents

Why Global Business is Important

  1. You will be able to accelerate the growth of your company by expanding your business to markets: If your products or services are selling extremely well in your home country, why not expand your sales by entering a new marketplace? Offering your product to new customers can generate continued repeat business and build your brand reputation on a global scale. 
  2. Differentiate yourself by being a global player:  If you differentiate yourself by becoming an in-demand product on an international scale, you may notice a difference in the willingness of customers to pay for your products.  Creating something that sets you apart can increase desirability.
  3. Decrease costs by finding the most efficient ways to do business: You may find that one of your new international markets proves to be a source of cheaper labor or raw materials. The benefit of doing business globally is being able to find the pricing combination that works best for you, within a variety of locations.
  4. Improve bargaining power: As you grow in size, so does your bargaining power with your distribution channel and your suppliers. The sheer size of your international operation will mean you command more power and the ability to strike potentially more beneficial deals.
  5. Normalizing (or optimizing) shift in consumption patterns: In other words, don’t put all your eggs in one basket. While the economic crisis is affecting developed countries, many undeveloped countries remain unaffected. They are still growing and want a variety of goods and services. Doing business in more countries can help normalize shifts in consumption patterns, such as the decreased market in developed countries due to economic crisis.
  6. Generating knowledge, and other resources and capabilities: Knowledge sources exist in every country – by going global, you can tap all of them, and gain the power that comes from knowing.

 

 

The prevailing reason for going global is to improve your potential for expansion and growth. And there are a lot of opportunities for businesses just waiting to be seized all over the world.  

You could spin the globe, randomly point your finger, and you can find a chance to sell something, somewhere!

Obviously, coming up with the right ideas and eventually executing this idea will take effort and work, lots of it!
The following will get you started on that work.

What do I need to watch out for before going global?

Does my product have a chance to sell well in the targeted region?

Think market research here. The first and foremost thing you need to do before going international is to understand the demand for your product or services. You mustn’t rely on the fact that if your products are selling like hot potatoes in your current market, your products will be welcomed wholeheartedly around the world. 

Vice versa, you can conclude that if your business endeavors fail in one region, that doesn’t mean that your products or services are bad, it might just be that they were not needed.

 

To be able to grow your business in new regions, your products or services will need to satisfy its demands!

Is your target market already familiar with your service or product?

With this one, there is no good or bad answer, but it depends on your business’s circumstances.

If your target region is completely unfamiliar with your services, you should expect to invest a lot of time and resources in consumer education.

On the other hand, if you are the first to penetrate the market with a new and perhaps exciting product, you are on the way to establish a name for yourself. The product can become synonymous with your brand.

Do you feel comfortable in that country?

If you are not running a completely internet-based business, then you will probably have to live there, at least until everything is set up and good to go.

To successfully navigate through the vast amounts of paperwork you will most likely need at the very least, working knowledge of the local language. 

If that is not the case, you are best off finding excellent and reliable translation and interpretation services to assists you through the often tough early stages of setting up a business.

But besides the language you will need to be able to imagine a life in the country. Do you feel comfortable in the culture? Do you have a support network around you?

Studies have shown expatriates may be at greater risk of mental health problems, often manifesting in the form of expat depression.


Expat Depression risk factors

How do I prepare to take my business global? – The 10 key steps

Taking a small to medium-sized business global is a complex process.

Hence, it is imperative to gain a thorough understanding of the targeted markets, your direct competitors, current market trends, and the specific local requirements you need to start successfully launching your international growth.

Read on to learn about the foundation of any global expansion:

Understand the need for your product or services – Perform your Due Diligence

Before you go global, it is crucial to understand what impact it will have on your business.

  • Prepare a Market Segmentation Analysis: Determine if your services will sell and who you will need to target
  • Examine your competitor’s already established products. Prepare a Gap Analysis and figure out if there is a local demand that is not yet satisfied by anyone else.
  • Research your target market. How bis is the market for your product? How long will it take to get to your targeted sales goals?
  • Evaluate your company’s competitive positioning? Your product will likely be priced at a premium to local products. Can you still sell it? How can you sell?

Develop a business plan and try to stick to it

Every business needs a plan – even more so if you are entering new market conditions in regions, your business has not yet explored.

It is a fact that every country has its own set of rules and regulations for every sector, such as economic, legal, and political.

Develop an individual plan for every different market you are planning to approach and adjust it according to the specific requirements in the region.

GLobal Expansion Plan

Things to include in a successful strategy and business plan:

  • Clearly defined goals and objectives
  • What are your success metrics?
  • What are your financial projections?
  • Define your business model and structure ( Will you set up your business as a separate company, branch or a pure sales office)
  • Develop a comprehensive annual budget
  • Layout your project plans and commit dates

Besides having a well throughout business plan, you must be sticking to it. Tweak and expand your objectives and processes whenever necessary. There will always be a need to keep your business relevant within a sector.

Establish a dedicated (interim) team

Many companies make the mistake of trying to build a local team from the ground up. This can be very time consuming and sometimes risky, but most importantly, it delays the time at which you could be marketing your products or services. 

In most cases, you are better off using proven senior interim executives. This way, you can get the ball rolling straight from the bat while your company hired the right senior management team.

Get your product ready

Based on your previous analysis, take all steps necessary to prepare your product or service for its initial launch while achieving high-impact product differentiation.

 

  • Keep your website updated with fresh content and exciting advertisements or promotions
  • Determine if localization of your website or product is necessary and translate relevant information and marketing material. Professional global business services will come in handy at this point, freeing up your time for additional research and marketing.
  • If you deem necessary, initiate a patent and trademark review as some countries are known to be copying every good and working business idea.
  • Establish local logistics and distribution networks

 

Time your launch

Keep yourself accountable by adhering to a fixed schedule. This way you will be able to keep costs in check and it enables your marketing team to create campaigns tailored to your products development stages all the way until launch.

Also the timing of your launch can severely impact the success of your products release.

Planning well and perhaps timing your launch around a trade show or other relevant events can help to boost and jump-start your product marketing campaigns.

SEO Compatibility

SEO for global Expansion

Technological advancement has made it a lot easier to expand business worldwide.

A successful entrepreneur needs to think beyond a traditional brick and mortar business model but must invest in website development and search engine optimization (Seo).

Your SEO plan must be well thought out for it to rank as high as possible on search engines and generate new business leads.

Successful expansion is dependent on a great local-marketing strategy, and SEO is a vital part of this equation.

When your new market speaks a different language or has an entirely different culture, you will need to build a new site specifically for this market.

With 93% of all website traffic coming directly from search engines such as Google, it is crucial to do in-depth research on phrases and keywords patterns in your territory.

Great free tools for this research are Google Keyword Planner and Ubersuggest. These or similar tools will provide you with extensive and invaluable insights on how the people in your new market behave and think about your products and services.

Market Strategy

To effectively sell your products or services, you will need a cohesive strategy in place that addresses your sales strategy, delivery processes, branding and marketing approaches, and your pricing structure.

All these should aim to differentiate your products or services and lead to market acceptance and, ultimately, growing your business’s revenue.

 

  • Will a new brand be created, or will you use your existing brand?
  • How can you price your product? Does your product pricing integrate well into the local market environment?
  • What is your optimum sales model? Direct, indirect, or hybrid?

Prepare your Organization

Different cultures, different norms!

Whether it is language, customs, or regulations, a firm expanding to new territories will need to be flexible with its internal policies and procedures.  

This way, you can ensure that employees identify with your companies message and have the understanding to execute the companies plans properly.

 

  • Are your compensation packages competitive and can attract qualified employees?
  • What is the optimal organizational structure to execute your business?
  • Is your technology infrastructure compatible with your domestic infrastructure?
  • Do your policies and procedures comply with the local requirements?

Set up Stong Legal Processes

You must understand the legal environment before you enter a market.

Countries have different legal requirements, which are not always very clear.

Different countries have different laws, but you might face some bad surprises at the problems they can pose when it comes to international business transactions.

You must set up strong legal processes in order to minimize any financial and legal risks. This is especially true when it comes to certifying products as safe following local standards.

 

The government will have very stringent rules that will make it necessary to have legal documents in place before operating in the country.

It is crucial to properly understand any regulations concerning compliance with labor laws and distribution laws.

Be sure you are protected locally regarding the protection of your intellectual property. Otherwise, knock-off products and stolen intellectual property can become very cost-intensive problems. Before you have to bear the costs for expensive legal mistakes, you should hire an attorney experienced in international trade.

Study industry-specific regulations to ensure your business complies to all of them

  • Maintain corporate records
  • Create localized contracts and commercial agreements

Prepare tax and finance related matters

Before starting your business, you will need to have the proper tax and finance structure set up. This way, you are ensuring that your business is receiving timely reporting and that you can adhere to local policies.

 

  • Outsourcing accounting to a local company can drastically reduce the time needed for restructuring and adjustments
  • Prepare and report for VAT taxes
  • Establish local banking relationships

Build relationships with Local Businesses

There is no better and faster way to gain a competitive advantage in new markets than by creating an ecosystem of complementary products and services delivered from local relationships.

These third-party relationships will support your organization to scale while simultaneously reducing financial risks.

 

  • Join tradeshows
  • Utilize social media such as LinkedIn
  • Develop an ecosystem strategy
  • Build a team of great networkers to manage and foster relationships

Bonus tip: Test your strategy first

Taking baby steps towards international expansion is the way to go.

If you are a US-based company, then start to export your services or goods to a geographic that is similar to your existing.

Canada is a preferred choice for many as its proximity, cultural and language similarities make Canada a good proving ground for Us companies starting to venture across borderlines.

When to Expand a Business Globally?

Taking your business to the next stage in its development isn’t going to be a lot easier than starting one from scratch.

To be a successful entrepreneur in worldwide markets can have huge rewards but is attached to a lot of risks.

Use the following to determine if you are ready for international expansion.

You have the money

Setting up a business in new territories will require money, often a lot of it. You will need the resources to carry you through the ramp-up phase of your expansion.

The beginning phase of your international expansion will usually include investments and costs that will not see any returns for a long time.

Be sure that your business is proven to be profitable and has sufficient positive cash flow to whether the often difficult start.

You have customers who love you

Your existing customers are the best source for information on whether you are ready to expand your business.

If multiple customers are asking you to open a location or offer your services to a specific region, do not ignore it – its time for some homework and research.

Another way your customers can indicate that you are ready for expansion is by their actions. Do a lot of customers take on the additional hassle to get a hand on your product overseas? Have they turned up time and time again?

If you can answer these with yes, it is a strong indication that your business might be ready to expand.

You have a proven track record

If you are someone who has successfully set goals and systematically ticked them off one by one, you might be just the right person to tackle the complex task of expanding a business globally.

Reaching milestones on time or ahead of schedule is a great indication that your planning skills are compatible with even the most complex tasks.

Before planning your expansion process, always make sure that your industry and market is favorable for you to enter.

You have the right systems in place

If your current business completely relies on you being physically there or for you to manage the day to day tasks, then it might not yet be the right time for expansion.

Going global ultimately means giving away managerial roles to other individuals and handing over key responsibilities.

If you had to hire new employees tomorrow, would you have the necessary training material to guide them? If your business takes off and you suddenly double your customer base, are you able to handle the new demands?

The expansion will take effort and, most importantly, time. Be sure that you have sufficient of it. Ensure to realistically determine future workload and ways to successfully offload some of it to well-trained new employees.

An opportunity Arises that’s just too Good to Pass Up

There come times in which you will need to expand your business to seize opportunities before they pass.

An advantageous entrepreneur will seek up opportunities wherever they are. If you find a demand that is not being met, you may need to expand your business fast.

In life, as in business, rarely does everything go straight up to plan. Be flexible and adapt when amazing opportunities come knocking.  

If you find the perfect product-market fit, you will seldom have the luxury to wait and see how things play out.


Example In the aftermath of a disaster often lies opportunity.

Daniel Ek saw that opportunity with the fall of Napster and other file sharing Networks in the early 2000s that have previously profited from what is now considered copyright infringement.  Elk saw a potential way to profit from this change in market conditions.

If only a tiny percentage of all the people listening to music illegally be willing to pay a small fee for legal consumption, then he would be golden.  

Well, fast forward 14 years, and we can say that his intuition and prompt action has proven to be the right.

Strategies to help your business flourish in Foreign Markets

Taking a business to the international stage is a challenging task, especially for small business owners on a limited budget and little to no international exposure, but that in no way means that you cant go international.

Technological advancements and the rise of social media have created a great basis for ambitious and eager small business people to step on in their pursuit of international greatness. What you need to do is to properly strategize and prepare your business well for the global audience.

Diversify into different markets

There are two approaches to expansion: 

Invest big in one country or investing small in multiple countries.

Both approaches have their merit. Investing a significant amount of your money into a single international market will enable you to effectively compete with dominating local companies effectively.

If things go your way, you can grow quickly and continue expanding to other markets. The downside to this strategy is if things do not go your way, your entire investment will start to fall apart.

Investing in a well-diversified manner has the effect that your products will be available in multiple markets.  

You will be investing a small portion of your capital into different locations and probably won’t be able to compete at the highest level.

However, your small investments have the chance to steadily grow until they can compete with the big players in your niche. In this case, if one of your investments go south, only one of your investments will go down.

For small businesses diversifying your investment is the most realistic route to take.  

Apply for Financing

Found an opportunity that you can not miss out on?

Insufficient capital is a major hindrance to many small business owners when it comes to international business expansion. The surest way to get around this hurdle is to apply for low-interest financing from private and government lenders.

If you want to apply for funding, you will need to prepare a flawless and well-researched business plan to convince possible lenders to invest in your dream.

Excellent Customer Service

This goes without saying, but the last thing you want to do is to deter international customers when you desperately need them.

Word of mouth advertising is proven to be effective, and making use of this should be one of your main goals.

A negative chain of bad comments and reviews is something you will have to avoid for your business to flourish.

How can you ensure great customer service?

The answer is mostly simple. Deliver what you promise or, better yet, excel on your promises. Deliver your goods on time, ensure ideal packaging, make sure your products arrive in perfect condition, and if you can do not charge for delivery.

If there is an inquiry, make sure you are easy to contact, and in the case of damaged goods, make it easy for your customer to get a replacement.

Trade Shows

In addition to traditional market research, you can participate in industry-specific trade shows in the markets you are considering.  A great source for finding international trade shows is the Trade Show News Network.

Leverage Social Media

71% of consumers who have had a positive experience with a brand on social media are likely to recommend the brand to their family and friends.

Forbes, 2018

Social media is an often underused but powerful global business marketing tool.

Social media can help create awareness of your company’s offerings. Additionally, you can use networking sites to make your company as accessible as possible.

In this social media era, in which customers constantly talk to each other, it’s a fantastic way to go global.

Integrate your Business to the Locality

For most types of businesses, it is advisable to ensure that your company seems original to the locality.

This can include using the local currency, local phone numbers, and applying widely accepted working hours.

Additionally, employ qualified personnel from the people of that region whenever possible. Having too many expatriate staff can make your customers feel disconnected from your business’s message.

Keep this in mind while creating content and adverts, use as much local talent as you can. In this way, you can easily deliver the message with the people.

Try as much as possible to use the local culture as part of your advertising strategy. Make use of their local language and adapt your commercials to make it feel as though you’re offering a local product.

You are targeting a specific region and not a language.

Don’t assume that by translating everything into French, you have covered every French-speaking country on this planet.

To accelerate business growth, you need to ensure that you are assessing all the opportunities for your potential market in the target country.

Two countries that have the same language can be very different in dialect and culture. When expanding your business to a new location, be aware of this, and pay attention to cultural norms and pay attention to who you are addressing your marketing.

Language is our only form of communication, and we identify with it on many different levels.

We see our native language as part of our identity, it expresses society, and it reflects native culture. Many take pride in their language.

Hence, translation and localization is not only a necessity if you want to spread information and ideas throughout the globe, but it can ultimately transform how your business/brand is perceived overseas. 

A great translation will not only open up your market but will make it more likely that your target audience can resonate with your message.

Going the extra step with great translations raises brand awareness and identification.

Cultures will affect how markets treat the businesses that transact within its ecosystem. The only way to successfully conquer a new market is to learn about the local culture and use this knowledge to tailor your company to that specific culture.

Still, most importantly, you have to remain consistent. Cultural understanding can often be the difference between succeeding and failing in business.

Understand Another Culture

How culture influences market behaviour

One of the biggest differences in doing business in your country of origin or internationally is culture.

According to recent studies, 75% of U.S business ventures abroad fail. There are some big and well-known names that couldn’t find success in other countries.

A big portion of these failures are directly attributable to companies not doing their homework or because they expected the rest of the world should do business the American way.

 

According to Hilka Klinkenberg, founder of Etiquette International New York City, you should adhere to the following tips to avoid making expensive mistakes in international business meetings.

  • Build a relationship before you get down to business. “That entails making small talk and getting to know one another without [immediately] getting into business discussions,” she says.
  • Don’t impose time limits. Says Klinkenberg, “Keep [the meeting] as open as possible because it adds strength to your negotiating position.”
  • Do your research. Learn at least a few pointers and facts about the country; it shows you respect your potential partners’ cultural heritage. Also, get comfortable with the basic words in their language.
  • Bring your own interpreter. If they provide the interpreter, warns Klinkenberg, “the interpreter is going to have the other person’s [interests] at heart, not yours.”
  • Understand body language. “People think [body] language is universal-it’s not,” she says.
  • Dress with respect and authority. This should be self-explanatory. If it’s not, seek the help of an image expert.

"Culture is what people do when no one is looking"

Herb Kelleher, Chairman Southwest Airlines

The Four Types of International Business Strategies

To successfully expand your consumer base and increase profitability through internationalization, businesses need to spend the necessary time and resources to understand global market opportunities and choose the proper international business strategies.

Global

In order to gain customers and sell their products in more foreign countries, companies that follow a global strategy leverage economies of scale as much as possible.

Companies following this strategy attempt to standardize their product or services as much as possible to minimize cost and reach a broad international audience.

A global company will only make small-scale adjustments to its products and only if it is absolutely necessary. Global companies are very centralized, and subsidiaries are often very dependent on the H.Q.

The subsidiaries’ role is to implement the parent company’s decisions and to act as pipelines of products and strategies.

Multi-domestic

Companies with a multi-domestic strategy aim to meet the needs and demands of the local markets worldwide.

They customize and tailor their products and services to the local customer base. Instead of marketing foreign products to audiences who might not initially know what the product is, these companies reposition their marketing strategies to engage with foreign customs, cultural traits, and traditions.

Consequently, multi-domestic companies often have a very decentralized structure in which subsidiaries operate relatively autonomously and independently from the H.Q.

Multi-domestic strategies are mostly adopted by large food and beverage companies.

A great example is Mcdonalds.  They are a multi-domestic company because they adjust to the cultures of their host countries. This can be most clearly seen in their branch in India. Cows are sacred in the Indian religion of Hinduism, which is why McDonald’s India doesn’t serve beef.

International

With an international strategy, you will be focusing on exporting products or services to foreign markets or importing products for domestic use.  

Therefore an international company has less need for local adaption of its products or services. Businesses that follow an international strategy are most commonly headquartered exclusively in their home country, which makes it possible to avoid large investments in overseas facilities.

An international approach is probably the most common strategy because it requires the least amount of overhead.

French wine manufacturers are a perfect example of an international business expansion strategy. Their wine is being produced domestically and exported to distributors all over the world – in most cases, without adaption to the local markets.

Transnational

A transnational strategy is to maximize local responsiveness while also gaining benefits from global integration. Hence, a transnational company has both global and multi-domestic firm characteristics.

With this strategy, business headquarters and core technologies remain in its country of origin but allow international subsidiaries to establish full-scale operations.

Each individual subsidiary is responsible for its decision-making, production, and sales. This allows them to have separate marketing and development departments to respond to the needs of local customers.

A company applying a transnational strategy can face a multitude of challenges. Applying an effective management strategy to achieve positive economies of scale is one of them.

With a multitude of inter-organizational entities collaborating in different foreign markets requires a significant upfront investment.  Major costs for these companies are foreign legal and regulatory concerns, hiring new employees, and buying or renting offices and production spaces.

A transnational strategy is more complex than other strategies because the pressure to minimize costs is combined with establishing value-added activities to optimize adjustments that are necessary to gain leverage and be competitive in each local market.

With these major challenges, it is mostly large corporations that employ a transnational strategy.  Corporations such as Vodafone and Royal Dutch Shell have the resources needed for significant investments in research and development in foreign markets and establishing local production, manufacturing, sales, and marketing divisions.

Conclusion:

“Going global” isn’t an endeavor without its risks. But with proper research, strategizing, and market testing, you can significantly reduce that risk and – of course, that is if done right.

Entering foreign markets can be a lucrative and highly rewarding step in the growth of a business. For this endeavor, you have to be fully prepared because underestimating the challenges of global expansion and you could find yourself struggling in new territories.

Every business wanting to expand internationally must first assess if it is financially and logistically prepared and ready. Also, ask yourself why you want to expand abroad. What do you have to offer to a foreign market that local companies don’t? Does your company have the right mindset? Do you have sufficient resources?

Taking time to carry out an in-depth assessment of your business thoroughly is key.

If, after all the research and testing, you are certain that your business is ready to take the next step, you’ll need to figure out and select the right market for your business.

Once done, plan your market entry and penetration strategy. You will need to spend time contacting potential clients, distributors, and partners.

The final step is actually to go and visit your target country. There you’ll meet partners and negotiate the terms for your business.

Global expansion is a complex and significant venture but isn’t unconquerable. It is risky but also very rewarding.

If you have set your mind to do it and are someone who will follow through on plans and strategies, then you can achieve successful global expansion. Depending on your business strategy, it also doesn’t have to break the bank.

Also, consider the alternative. Which is doing nothing, or simply staying put in your home market — it might be in your comfort zone. Still, it can be equally as risky, as with today’s globalized world and the rise of the internet, new competitors from around the world will enter your markets and possibly threaten to take away your piece of the pie.

 

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