Branching out abroad can be an attractive proposition for a small company looking to reach new customers, or offering a niche service that might be more attractive to markets in foreign climes. The advent of the world wide web has made foreign markets more accessible to the little guy than ever before, but there are a few things to consider before taking the plunge.
- Do the research
This is the single most important step. Check various markets to find the most receptive to your services or products and ensure that you understand the legal issues and common trading practices that will be involved. Attend trade shows and contact trade associations within the market. Your own country’s embassy or consulate will have trade commissioners who may be able to help and it’s always worth making polite inquiries.
- Pay a visit
It’s entirely possible to do it all at a distance these days, but face to face meetings are still the best when it comes to making deals and cementing working relationships. Spending time in the market will also give you a better understanding of the nuts and bolts of business practice within that territory, and may give you a feel for patterns and market trends in your particular field.
- Use the local talent
Small businesses are unlikely to have enough trusted employees to be able to simply send them off to manage operations abroad (not to mention the fact that they might not want to go). Even if trusted managers are both available and willing, using existing staff might not always be the best option. Local talent will already know their own market and will have business and language skills to match, making them an invaluable asset in any foreign venture.
- Make use of online marketing
The world wide web is aptly named. It opens up virtually unlimited marketing opportunities and you should make full use of it to advertise and provide access to your services. It’s worth noting as well that, in most emerging markets, the web is predominantly accessed via mobile devices, so your search marketing strategy for these countries should revolve around mobile search.
- Localize your website
It is, however, little use spending time and effort on online marketing if potential foreign customers never see or cannot read your site. Setting up a fully localized website for each target market on an ‘in-country’ Top Level Domain will make it more visible on local search engines, while thorough localization – addressing cultural as well as linguistic issues – will help ensure the site gets your message across.