Expanding your business to a new market is a scary, yet exhilarating decision for any company. If not done correctly, however, expansion can tank a startup business immediately.
There are many factors to consider especially when considering international expansion — language barriers, timing issues, cultural sensitivity, and knowing your target market. However, if you have done your homework and are prepared to make the move, it will be a significant step up for your startup company. Expanding globally means increased visibility and sales. So, how do you increase your chances of successful cross-cultural expansion?
Marketing will significantly improve your chances of taking your startup business abroad. To ensure expansion will be worth your return on investment, it all begins with international marketing.
Understand the Language(s)
Do you think Uber only offers their services in English? The company may have started in San Francisco, but since going global, Uber has been successful in understanding the language of each of their target countries.
If you are going to branch out internationally, it is critical that your marketing and services are tailored to the language of your targeted region. Sure, some of your audience may understand English, but you want to make it as easy as possible for everyone in your newly targeted location to understand your business and what you do.
In many instances, this involves adapting your on-site and off-site content — which will usually include translation services.
It goes without saying that the on-site content for your website will need to be translated into your target country’s primary language. Even though English may be understood by some, how is the majority of your new target audience going to understand the goods and services your company offers if they can’t read about it?
Additionally, translating your on-site content can be seen as a courtesy, and that you know your new audience. However, this content is only half the battle — and perhaps the easiest.
When taking your brand international, you’ll need to do your research on on-site SEO. It is no surprise that SEO is imperative for marketing, and you may have great SEO practices in the U.S. However, SEO differs when taking it internationally. Because your on-site content will be in a different language, your keywords won’t necessarily match up or translate the same.
A different language means conducting language-specific keyword research. HTML tags, HTTP headers, and site maps will all need to be tweaked according to the local SEO practices of your new region. Your business website will need to be indexed appropriately for your new territory if you are to have any success in your marketing efforts.
Your off-site content, such as social media posts, guest blogging, and any other material published on a website other than your own may also need to be translated.
SEO practices vary from search engines, and there are even reportedly differences between Google and Bing.
International search engines may require vastly different SEO practices to rank. China’s major search engine Baidu, for instance, will have different SEO practices. On top of that, while Baidu offers Chinese translation of web content, it may not be the best quality. In many cases, and if you can, you should take it upon yourself in translation for the clearest content possible.
As with any SEO practice, you will need outside activity to boost your social media ranking and have links pointing back to your business website. You will be hard-pressed to have accomplishments in your off-site content without translating it beforehand.
Translation is vital when moving your business and website internationally. Of course, translating all of your existing and future content to come is a massive undertaking. Many companies have enlisted in translation services for their global marketing campaigns. Translation services can shoulder this burden while you focus on carefully targeted marketing content.
Additionally, translation services can minimize misunderstandings, and perhaps unintentional culturally insensitive material while getting the exact message of your marketing through to your new target audience. Accurately translated marketing material can boost purchasing decisions and better establish your brand — keeping your business competitive in your new target market.
Your Social Media Presence
A strong social media presence is a necessity for marketing, and international marketing is no different. While there are many factors involved in social media marketing, you will have to consider even more when marketing on social media platforms internationally.
An international social media presence will include a robust assessment of your target demographics, cultural sensitivity, as well as determining which social media platforms are best for your marketing content.
A new target audience means new buying trends, thoughts, and attitudes of new people toward your products. Understanding how your product and marketing material can best reach and serve your new customers will be essential in your social media marketing campaign.
The main demographics you will have to consider when marketing your product or services will be the location and ethnic background of your new target audience — since it will most likely differ from your current audience. You can’t expect to deploy the same marketing campaign across the board internationally, and a firm determination of your new audience will help your marketing material connect with them.
Social media faux pas are very possible when marketing in your new region, and you will need to pay special attention when marketing cross-culturally.
You will have to be very aware of the social and cultural norms of your new region. Just because some things are accepted in one culture does not mean it is accepted in another. Understanding the religious, political, and social differences of your new target audience can help you avoid accidentally offending them. In many cases, being culturally sensitive and aware can help you better connect with your audience.
While Facebook and Twitter are major social media marketing platforms in America, you may be neglecting major social media platforms used in other countries. Take a look at how Our Social Times maps out the primary social media platforms throughout the world:
For instance, did you know that Facebook and Twitter are banned in China and that Sina Weibo is a primary social media platform instead?
Alongside translating your content, you may need to expand your social media marketing campaign across platforms that better suit your new target audience to increase your company’s visibility.
Is Your Company Ready?
The decision to go global in your marketing goes beyond the information above. Especially with a startup company, you will have to determine if an international demand exists for your product.
Do your products or services rely on local business? Or, did your business plan to go global from day one? Can you cover the cost of expansion? You will need to answer these questions before you start thinking about expansion.
Inventory control can make or break a startup company while expanding, even just locally. Because of this, especially when going international, you must be prepared to fulfill more shipments than usual.
Furthermore, the shipments will be going overseas — which may cost you more than you are prepared for. In many of these instances, outsourcing your logistics for transportation, warehousing, cross-docking, inventory management, packaging, and freight forwarding may end up costing you less in the long run. Logistics and inventory can be complicated for a local business, and even more so when going international.
Any business is subject to cyber crimes. In a report compiled by DeVry University, Sophos states that the top spam producing countries are the United States, India, Republic of Korea, Russian Federation, and Brazil. Cybercrime knows no boundaries, and with reliance on the internet your company has, it can affect your business. The GDPR has taken steps to protect global data. However, it is critical that you are aware of and protect yourself from cyber crimes.
International expansion is a massive decision for any business. If your startup bites off more than it can chew right out of the gate, you may be setting it up for failure. However, there are measures you can take in your international marketing to make it a success. An expansion is exciting for any business, make sure you are making the right decisions to connect with your new target audience.
About the author: Avery T. Phillips is a freelance human being with too much to say. She loves marketing, business, and examining human interactions with the world. Make a comment below or reach out to her on Twitter @a_taylorian with any questions or suggestions.