Creating a strong international presence is rarely as simple as telling your customers you ship overseas and then waiting for the sales to roll in. There are numerous things to think about when selling and marketing in another country, and these factors must be considered carefully. Ask yourself the following questions to determine whether your business is really ready to expand.
Have I ensured that a customer base exists in the country or countries I want to enter? A product that sells well in your home country may not necessarily have the same appeal elsewhere, so it’s crucial to invest time and energy into researching potential foreign markets.
“First, make sure your customers exist,” said Joseph Paris, Jr., chairman of business consulting firm XONITEK and founder of the Operational Excellence Society. “Is there a need for your offering? Are they inclined to purchase? Don’t think that they might — know that they will.”
Mike Zani, CEO of business consulting firm PI Worldwide, advised traveling to the country or countries you want to expand into to really do your homework and get a first-hand idea of how your business will fare. This will give you the opportunity to not only conduct research and test your product in the foreign marketplace, but also to experience the culture and social norms of the people you’ll be marketing to, he said.
Is the foreign market I’m looking at compatible with my own market? Michael Lee, head of international marketing and business development for e-commerce platform Alibaba.com, advised looking for markets that are similar to yours. While the business environment won’t be identical to that in your home country, you should make yourself familiar enough with it that you can ensure smooth, seamless business discussions.
“Take into consideration trade barriers, proximity, currency and culture,” Lee said. “Seek out homogeneity — the fewer differences between your country and the one you export to, the easier it will be to do business with [that country].”
Do I have the available resources and staff to focus on both expansion and my established business? Trying to juggle an overseas operation while maintaining your current domestic customer base with a small staff is incredibly difficult, and you likely won’t be able to sustain your growth. Before you decide to expand, make sure you have the financial and structural stability to add staff members who can handle the new influx of work that comes with such growth.
“An organization should have a strong team solely focused on international growth that is ready to face challenges and fully support the expansion,” said Taki Skouras, co-founder and CEO of international wireless accessories retailer Cellairis.