Why serve a small domestic market when technology has made it almost effortless to reach prospective customers from anywhere on the planet? Going global with your business is the surest route to market expansion, asset diversification, and a stronger competitive edge over local competitors. It cushions your business from the effects of economic recession in one country by giving it a fighting chance in countries with higher purchasing and spending power. What’s more, going global helps you tap into a wider talent pool, improve your research and design power, and develop a strong innovation engine, all of which betters your product offerings and, consequently, diversifies your revenue channels.
There is no doubt that going global is good for your business. But don’t just expand blindly. There are a few considerations that you need to make, including:
- The suitability and viability of individual international markets
The global market isn’t a one-size-fits-all marketplace. It is a conglomeration of tens of regional markets, hundreds of national markets, and countless tiny local markets. You need to research/understand as many local, national, and regional marketplaces as possible, and then target each market with its own customized approach. Your business will only thrive globally if you target the demographic of your core customer in whichever international market you enter. That is in regards to age, income or purchasing power, education levels, religion, and gender. As big a market as the Middle East is, for example, your business will fail if your products are considered haram in Islam. The same thing goes for selling expensive jewelry or electronics in third-world markets. Only go to a market that’s hungry for your products.
The suitability of international markets can also be pegged on the incumbent competition. If yours is a small startup, it wouldn’t be a good idea to target a market that already has a big multinational brand deeply entrenched in your niche. Choose markets that have a clear gap that your products can fill. Also, note that each market has its unique standards of quality and customer expectations. You need to gauge the quality of your products against the standards set in your target market and ascertain that your current quality can compete effectively in the market.
- Cultural and language differences
We have already established that the global marketplace is made up of many tiny local markets. Any local market you target has its unique culture depending on the dominant religion, social values, and the unwritten local rules of business engagement. You need to have an intimate understanding of all the local cultures you interact with and appreciate how different they are from your own values. If you find the differences too sharp for your liking, it is best that you put your expansion plans on hold until you and your associates feel ready to compromise on your cultural values; until you are ready to meet the target community at their comfort zone.
Where there is a cultural difference, in most cases, the barrier of language is also predominant. Consider hiring professional translation services when translating your adverts and products’ user instructions into local lingos. It is always best to work with translators native to the market you intend to launch in. While at it, aim to localize your content for the local customer as opposed to casually translating it into their language. Localization means capturing their cultures, local politics, religion, social class, age, and gender in the lingo you use. Customers in Australia, for example, might not understand UK-targeted campaigns despite the fact that they are English speakers too. That’s unless you localize your English content for Australians.
To help you deal with cultural and language barriers effectively, it is advisable that you hire local on-the-ground fixers, local customer attendants and salespeople, and at least one local executive to help you with logistics.
- Business, taxation, and employment laws
Every unit of administration (county, state, country, kingdom, etc.) in the world is a territory by itself. A territory has its unique legislations, business laws, bureaucracies, red tapes- the list is endless! It is hard to understand how things work in a foreign market, so it is vital that you work with local business consultants and lawyers when setting up your business. Take a particular interest in matters licensing, employment laws, taxation laws, trading standards, and regulations, and available business infrastructure before settling for a foreign market. Something else you need to get your head around is corruption, registration and other fees, and tariffs payable to local authorities in your new market. These are mostly shady- never straightforward.
- Government stability and geopolitics
If your target market’s national/state/local government is unstable for whatever reason, no matter how big its economy is, it is best to postpone your planned expansion. Government instability can disrupt your supply chains, both in terms of transport and communication hitches, leaving you short of the resources and materials your business needs to stay operational. It can also lead to fluctuating currency exchange rates, which can hurt your profitability. Politically unstable countries/regions are also highly vulnerable to terrorism and other security concerns, crippling corruption, and sudden economic collapse.
A stable government, on the other hand, provides businesses with assistance programs, strong business protection policies, easy access to government funding and affordable capital, security, protection for both intellectual and physical property, and an overall conducive business environment. Target such regions for your upcoming expansion.
The barriers to global expansion can be huge and overwhelming, but they are not insurmountable. You just need the right motivation and information to overcome them. And when you do, the benefits of going global will by far outweigh the effort and sacrifices you made to get there. Start working on your global expansion strategy ASAP!