Deciding when to go international is a tough call for a small business. It can have massive rewards, but you must have as much knowledge and preparation as possible.
Here are eight questions to ask before attempting to step outside the home market:
Have I built a solid foundation in my core market?
Make sure your business is stable on a day-to-day basis before pursuing overseas markets. You will spend a lot of time away from your business – can it cope without you and the other key members of your team for extended periods?
Do I have the team in place for international expansion?
You will need to assign one or two senior employees to your international project. So you must determine if you can afford to move people from their current roles and whether they bring the skills needed for working overseas.
How will I need to adapt to the local culture?
You may need to customise your product or service to meet local customers’ tastes. At the very least, you will need to convert your marketing collateral into the local language (and make sure the meaning translates correctly).
Do I understand the cultural implications of the sales process?
Closing a deal abroad can be a vastly different experience than you’re used to. Some cultures, particularly in the Far East struggle to say “No, we aren’t interested” which means you can have a long and costly sales process that never leads to a sale.
Do I understand the local competition?
Understanding your competitors abroad can provide valuable insight before committing yourself. Many companies don’t take time to see if similar products and services are already available and what they would need to offer to compete. Spending time abroad and speaking with customers can help avoid mistakes.
Do I need an international partner?
For many companies it is better to find a local distributor when expanding overseas. A partner will help facilitate sales and potentially provide service and support services if you require them.
Am I financially able to sustain an overseas expansion?
Expanding internationally requires a startup period that’s longer than you may think. You have to expect to lose money for a while, so invest for the long haul.
Should I simply expand my online presence?
For companies with a strong website, it may not be necessary to establish a physical presence abroad. Selling online through a partner with international capabilities is often easier and cheaper than building a local presence. But online shoppers are more likely to buy when the experience is in their local language and currency.