With 63% of businesses in the UK becoming increasingly attracted to emerging markets, it’s no surprise that more and more business are expanding overseas.
International expansion can be an extremely rewarding opportunity for you and your business, but it’s not without difficulty. Considerable thought and planning
Don’t worry if you’re not sure what you need to do to expand your business overseas: we’ve outlined nine things you can do to make sure your business is ready for the move.
1. Do your market research
To fully understand the customers, the competitors and the marketplace, you’ll need to do market research – we can’t stress how important this is. Did you know that 80% of companies believe they deliver a superior customer experience, but only 8% of customers agree?
This really brings to light the importance of market research in order to understand the needs of the customer, especially in a new and unfamiliar market.
You should also be mindful that while your product or service might be a huge success in your current market, it might not be so appealing to a new audience. You may need to offer a slightly different product or service to the international marketplace, but the only way you’ll know whether to do that is by conducting market research.
Speak to your potential customers to determine whether you need to make any changes before the launch – your success could very well be dependent on the results.
2. Create a business plan
Having a business plan is important for any business, but when you’re expanding into an unfamiliar market it’s even more significant. The last thing you want is to launch into the unknown without a clear vision and a business plan will give you direction and purpose.
A survey presented by Palo Alto Software founder, Tim Berry, has shown that organizations who created business plans were more likely to successfully grow in comparison to those that didn’t.
Take some time to plan your development step-by-step: it might seem like a time consuming and tedious task, but it could be the difference between success and failure! If you’ve never written an international business plan before, have a look at this detailed guide from Sage Publications for some inspiration.
3. Create a marketing strategy
Once you have finalised your business plan, it’s time to think about creating a marketing strategy. This will enable you to really knuckle down on how you’re going to reach your target audience and what actions you will undertake.
Your marketing strategy should correspond with your business plan, and will be tailored by the research you’ve conducted about the market. Think about the ways you want to approach the new market, what your research has told you about the audience you will be approaching, and how you will measure your success.
It’s worth being mindful of the fact that you’ll need to approach the international market in their local language. This means that your website, marketing communications and various other documentation will need to be translated. We would suggest using a translation agency to help you: if you want an easy all-in-one translation service, have a look at the Brightlines website.
Much like the business plan, your approach to marketing could result in a successful expansion or it could be the end of your international move, so take your time making a comprehensive and succinct marketing plan. Have a look at HubSpot’s Global Marketing Playbook for information about how to develop your marketing strategy for an international audience.
4. Sort out a financial plan
To make sure that you’re able to invest in a new market, you’ll need to review your financial position and create a plan. Hiring an accountant to review your finances would be a good starting point, as there are lots of things to consider before you expand.
Here are a few things you will need to consider when making a financial plan:
● Increased international travel for you and your employees
● Sourcing international materials for production
● Hiring new employees both in your local market and overseas
● Your new business is likely to require a large amount of funding that will only offer a small return in the first six months
● Renting or buying business premises overseas which can be considerably more expensive than what you are used to. For example, research conducted by Forbes showed that although Singapore has been rated as one of the most business-friendly cities in the world, it is also one of the most expensive. Business properties are likely to cost at least 50% more than properties in the USA or Europe
5. Read guides on business etiquette for your country
A Harvard study reported by Forbes revealed that the success of an individual is 85% reliant on their social and communication skills, while only 15% is based on technical skills.
This survey highlights the importance of practicing proper business etiquette. Familiarizing yourself with the local business etiquette can make a world of difference when expanding internationally, especially when it comes to developing relationships with international colleagues and business partners.
Do as much research as you can before the expansion to make sure you are aware of the business customs in your new market. We’d recommend Commisceo Global’s Country Guides to Culture, Customs, and Etiquette for a detailed overview of business etiquette in a number of countries.
When you’ve got a good understanding of the business culture in your chosen market, talk to your employees about the cultural differences and prepare them for the challenges they may face in the new area. It’s important that you and your team fully understand the cultural differences to encourage a positive working relationship with the new market.
6. Partner with local businesses
Developing a partnership with a local business can be a great development for your expansion. Not only will it help you and your team familiarise yourself with the local business etiquette, but it could also help you overcome any language barriers. A local business will also have considerable experience in the market, and will, therefore, be able to advise and give guidance on best practices.
7. Consider any legal issues
Making yourself familiar with the legal system in your new marketplace is pretty important. It’s likely there will be laws and regulations that differ from what you’re used to, so you might want to hire a local law firm in the country you’re expanding into. That way, you can be assured that you are complying with any regulations in the new market.
To help you find an international law firm, the UK Government has created a list of all English-speaking law firms located overseas.
8. Make sure you have a good team around you
Establishing yourself in a new market is tricky, and having a strong team will help relieve some of the pressure. In the ideal scenario, your team will be a mixture current employees and new employees from the international market you’re expanding into.
Research conducted by the Harvard Business Review states that interactions between international and local employees is ‘vital for sharing knowledge across sites’, so it’s important to consider having employees who know the international market well. It’ll also give you a good team dynamic of employees who know the existing business, and employees who are familiar with the new market.
9. Set realistic goals that will keep you on track
It can be hard to know what goals are achievable when launching in a new market. So, to make sure that you are setting realistic goals, we recommend using the SMART system. This means setting goals that are:
By following the SMART goal-setting process, you’ll ensure that your objectives remain on track.
Expanding overseas can often seem like a daunting prospect, but it can be an extremely rewarding opportunity for you and your business. By considering these nine steps, you’ll make sure you’re on the right track to successfully expanding your business overseas.
About the Author: Neil Gauld is a Director at Brightlines Translation, a translation agency that provides translation services to international organizations. With over 20 year’s experience in the translation industry Brightlines Translation offers a full range of translation servicesfor all projects.’