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Going Global – Jumping into the International Marketplace

Simple tips for small business: minimize risk and maximize growth

Establishing a global presence is often viewed as an enormous challenge for small businesses. So daunting of an undertaking, many small businesses shy away from the process entirely and miss the potential for growth. Lack of confidence with international business tactics, budget limitations and satisfaction (complacency) with current customer base are some of the reasons given for not taking the international plunge. However, most small businesses willing to take the chance will find that global expansion, if executed properly, can yield high growth potential and be far less complicated than originally anticipated.

Getting Started

First, you must decide HOW you will take your company global. Will you expand your business digitally, via the Internet and social media, or will you establish a physical presence in a foreign country? This is a decision that will greatly affect your expansion budget and will likely be influenced by your line of business. If you own a boutique hotel in the Dublin, OH and decide to build another in Dublin, Ireland, you would obviously need to establish a physical presence in Ireland. This type of expansion would not only require due diligence with market research and the local business landscape, but also a much larger budget that will cover needed investments in property acquisition, renovation/remodeling and relocation efforts. And don’t forget you will also need local legal counsel and accountants. Conversely, a small jewelry designer may only need a well-designed web page, the time and ability to frequently monitor/update social media and some pointed market research, to crack into the international market. Regardless of your expansion method, once a commitment is made to a new marketplace, efforts should begin to connect with local consumers/potential customers. One of the most effective ways this can be accomplished is to reach out to relevant media outlets to discuss the products and services that will now be available in the area. Creating awareness—a local buzz for your products and services will peak curiosity, fuel anticipation and drive traffic and sales.

Targeted Markets

Regardless of your global expansion method, it is essential to identify a marketplace that is best suited for the products and services that you offer. If you sell winter ski equipment, Sweden is a much better target area than Bermuda. However, the demand for golf accessories is most likely higher in Bermuda. Understand your audience! When the decision was made for The Oxford Princeton Programme to expand our energy training offering in Asia-Pacific, we immediately identified the “energy hubs” of the region. After much due diligence, we focused our efforts and eventually opened an office in Singapore – the undisputed oil hub of Asia-Pacific.

Local culture, business practices and laws are also important to consider when identifying a location for global expansion. Food and grocery vendors may want to eliminate some countries and locations with stringent culture-driven dietary restriction. Local laws regarding common business practices, corporate responsibilities, employment regulations and business taxes/fees should also be studied. These can greatly impact the bottom line.

Onsite businesses should also become familiar with the political and sociological climate of the countries where you are considering expansion. Unfortunately, political unrest and economic instability plague many nations around the world.

Costs

To keep expansion cost low, many brick and mortar companies tap into local resources. Before doing so, it is important to research local services and suppliers.

• Are supplies and services needed to run the business available locally?
• Can local supplies/services be guaranteed to arrive on time in good condition?
• Is there the possibility of engaging a local workforce?
• Will the local workforce possess the skill set needed to conduct business?

These are among the important questions to consider prior to breaking ground internationally. This information will not only impact expansion costs but also the ease of transition into a new marketplace.

Business expansion digitally can usually be launched at a far lower price point and often with less effort and worry. It also provides a straightforward exit strategy if market demands implicate the time is not right for your product or service.

However, digital expansion does require significant revisions and ongoing updates to web sites and social media pages. In addition to adding international shipping rates and possibly updating prices to reflect the local dollar equivalents, the language and images may be tweaked to convey more global experience and international flare. Hours must be devoted to regular research and up-to-the-moment updates. Positive feedback from international customers should be immediately shared (with permission) on both web sites and social media. Articles or company profiles featured in local media outlets should also be featured the company’s web site and via social media. This will all help to further substantiate the company as an international operation, which will build customer confidence and drive sales globally.

With proper research, budgeting and planning, tapping into international markets can positively impact your company’s bottom line, whether you choose to establish a physical presence or expand digitally.

With global expansion, companies have a great opportunity for growth and added success. However, regardless of your expansion path, it is essential to properly research, budget and plan before offering your product or service.

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About Clara Lippert Glenn

Clara Lippert Glenn, President and CEO of The Oxford Princeton Programme, created Princeton Energy Programme in 1992 and PrincetonLive.com in 1999. In 2000 she engineered the merger with The College of Petroleum and Energy Studies, forming The Oxford Princeton Programme, of which she is President. She has provided the vision and leadership behind The Oxford…