Expanding your business internationally presents a huge opportunity.
Making your products and services available in new markets will open up significant potential for revenue and growth. Different resources, lower costs, or different infrastructure that accompanies international production add on to that potential even more.
Products that no longer make sense for your original customers may enjoy a renewed interest in new markets. To top it all off, a more diverse customer base stabilizes your finances and can drive revenue at previously slow times of the year.
But rush into international expansion too quickly and the effort can hurt your cash flow and disrupt operations in existing markets. You need time to do plenty of research before you make any major decisions to avoid the headaches that often go hand in hand with international expansion.
Here are just a few of the things you should look into first.
Is the New Market Ready for You?
Not all markets will offer the same opportunities, and you need to know everything you can about a potential market if you want to have any chance of successful expansion there. Here’s what you need to understand before you make a move.
- The competitive landscape – Studying the existing market will give you a good idea of how companies similar to yours have achieved success, including business structure and bringing in local expertise.
- The demand – Are people in this new market in need of the innovation that your company supplies? What has factored into demand for your product or service in your initial market — are those factors relevant in the new market? Will your potential new customers be willing or able to afford your product at the rates you have to charge to stay profitable? Compare the market conditions and the characteristics of your domestic customers to those you hope to acquire in the new market to get a sense of any potential stumbling blocks. Timing can make all the difference in demand for your product in an international market.
- The infrastructure – Logistical and operational requirements vary a lot from one country to the next. Costs, speeds, and availabilities can vary widely from what you’re currently used to, and new infrastructure affects everything from production to shipping. For example, some emerging markets still have limited access to high speed internet, which might be crucial for your product.
- Local talent resources – You can’t assume that it will be easy to find employees with the skills you need in a completely new market. Do the research first, and understand how local employment laws and regulations might differ what you’re used to. (We’ll get more into local compliance a little later in this article.)
Are You Prepared to Adjust for Cultural Differences?
Customers in new international markets will naturally have different values, levels of product awareness, preferences for how they make purchases (for example, some might be less comfortable buying online with a credit card), and alternate peak and slow seasons—just for starters.
All of these things can and should affect the way you run your team and sell your product when expanding internationally. That could mean a steep learning curve for your original team, especially if you hadn’t planned on making big investments in local staff to help guide you through expansion.
A successful U.S. marketing campaign might not resonate in Europe or Asia for a variety of cultural reasons. Maybe the messaging doesn’t make sense in the new language, or timing won’t be right based on what people are looking for in a given time of year.
Your team should expect to invest plenty of time and energy into getting a deep understanding of local culture, language, and customs in the new market before you start considering international expansion.
Employees who work directly with customers, like your customer support team, will also need to have local cultural expertise. Without it, they’ll come across as inauthentic and miss opportunities for better connections (or, at worst, end up offending customers).
Are You Well-Versed in Local Compliance?
Unless you love the idea of dealing with fines and lawsuits, you’ll need a strong sense of regulations and laws of your new market. When you’re operating in another country, the regulatory landscape could look a lot different than what you’re used to.
You can expect differences in:
- employment laws that dictate what you can expect from employees (and how much you must pay)
- rules about how your company can handle customers’ personal information (such as under the General Data Privacy Regulation in Europe)
- restrictions on imports and exports, customs laws, and trade agreements
- different tax laws (and these can get pretty complex)
It pays to dive into local laws before you decide to move into the market for many reasons. As this Entrepreneur article notes, “The regulatory mechanisms are a reflection of the receptivity of a country to foreign investment is a particular segment” and “underline the technological maturity and openness of the market.”
Research local laws and regulations to get a better idea of whether or not a particular expansion is worth it, whether that jurisdiction will make operation overly difficult, and whether or not the market there is mature enough for your business.
Are Your Software Tools Ready for International Expansion With You?
Growing your business internationally goes much more smoothly when you already have technical tools that can handle business in foreign countries and new markets.
For example, many payment platforms work hard to ensure they can transact in multiple currencies and meet a variety of international banking compliance requirements.
Your web store and point-of-sale system will also need to be able to be translated into your new market’s local language. You should also be able to compare data from your multiple locations on a single dashboard and get a sense of how the entire operation is doing as a whole.International business expansion is much easier when you already have technical tools in place to handle it properly. #receptionistapp Click To Tweet
Ensure all the tools you use, including your visitor management software — the app you use to check visitors in and track their personal info for safety and compliance purposes — can be compatible with international operations.
For example, The Receptionist visitor management software allows visitors to choose their native language on the login page. It also has a locations dashboard that shows visitor data for each location. Users can apply unique branding and preferences to specific locations, or apply changes to all locations at once. They can even assign different rights to specific locations for their employees.
To learn more about The Receptionist or try it for yourself, click here.
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