Many small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) may feel daunted by the prospect of going global. It’s hard to know how to tap into the international market, let alone where to start. In difficult economic times, running a local business may seem hard enough, without the added cost of expansion. However, tapping into the global market can reap significant dividends for business owners. By writing off the international market and focusing on only one specific region or one particular demographic, SMEs are failing to maximise their potential for growth.
That’s not to say that tunnel vision is a bad thing in a business’ early stages. By all means, invest time and effort into building a strong foundation for your business. Once that’s done and you’ve established a brand following, you can broaden your horizons by reaching out to international markets.
How you go about expanding is crucial. Many businesses have found relocating a senior staff member to act as an ambassador of sorts has worked well for them. In time, that member of staff will help your business propagate, despite a difficult environment.
Regardless of what tactics you use, careful planning, an element of intuition and a thorough understanding over your overall market are essential to broaden your consumer base successfully. Furthermore, ensuring you have an efficient, easily expandable production and delivery system in place is necessary, otherwise your expansion efforts will fall flat.
Fortunately, the internet has made things easier for SMEs looking to tap into the international market. As websites are becoming an increasingly prevalent marketing tool, the need for physical presence, in-person interaction and brick and mortar stores is dwindling.
Convenience is still important, however. Fortunately, it’s easy for businesses to accommodate international consumers - all it takes is some tweaking of office hours in order to suit different time zones. Discuss this with employees to get a feel for how they would react to changes in their work schedule. You might be surprised to find that the odd office hours actually suit some workers’ needs better than a regular 9 to 5 job.
Of course there are cultural differences to bear in mind when targeting international consumers. Do your research before you reach out to international consumers, otherwise you risk offending would-be customers and hurting your reputation. Once the damage has been done, you’ll have trouble reversing it.
In accordance with this, manage your online presence to project the right image. By doing so, you will promote brand loyalty and enhance your overall credibility. Take some time to work out any kinks in the website, and ensure all your content is engaging and appropriate for the audience.
Search abroad for not only consumers, but employees and suppliers as well. Diversify your staff and supply chain to reflect your commitment to a global audience. Otherwise, you run the risk of alienating yourself or looking like a fraud.
Before you expand abroad though, consult a third party to ensure it is a financially sound decision. Financial advice for businesses is available to ensure you make the right decision for your company at the right time.