Have you ever thought about taking your business abroad? It may seem more daunting than it actually is, consider these 5 steps before selling abroad and decide if there’s a space for your business outside the UK.
Deciding whether to sell abroad is a tough call for entrepreneurs and businesses: selling into new markets and putting your name out there on a global stage could transform your business.
The buzz and excitement of travelling to other countries and doing deals can be hugely rewarding, but venturing abroad doesn’t come without risks if you are not fully prepared. So, here’s the top 5 things to consider.
1. Find your niche and do your research
A huge amount of research is needed before you spend time and energy expanding abroad, but there’s a lot of help available. Your first point of call should be the UK Government department that’s focuses solely on helping businesses expand abroad, take a look at ExportingisGreat.gov.uk
Of course, you need to be sure there’s a market for what you do, and for a price that’s profitable. Some of the research will be obvious, but much will be less so: what regulations might affect how you operate, how will you find your first customers, the cost of converting foreign currency, licenses you might need in order to operate, how to solve conflicts. You can never do enough research and you can never plan far enough in advance.
2. Expand for the right reasons
The grass always seems greener on the other side of the fence, so make sure that you are expanding abroad for the right reasons. That’s not to say don’t do it, but don’t do it because it seems easier or more profitable.
Make sure your business is thriving in your home market first. “Many companies expand too quickly,” says Jon Fjeld, executive director of the Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation at Duke University. “If you are required to travel to drum-up business abroad, first make sure your business is running smoothly enough so that [you] don’t have to focus on it constantly” Fjeld says.
3. Build your product for an international market
You should expect to have to adapt your product or service to some degree when selling outside your domestic market. Remember, it’s not just about what you sell, it’s the complete end-to-end customer experience from the first time a potential customer clicks on a link or sees an ad to buying and using whatever it is you sell. And after-sale support can just be as important.
So for example, is or should your website be in the language of the market you want to expand into? Remember, the first person that visits your site might be an influencer for an eventual sale so is it fair to expect them to be fluent in English?
How you package your service to the potential buyer is essential. Look at the competitor’s sites in the local market. If you view their website in Chrome, it will Google translate the webpage for you, but when it comes to critical and accurate translations, you might prefer to trust human translators from a reputable agency.
4. Understand the cultural implications of doing business abroad
Closing a deal abroad can be a vastly different experience than you’re probably used to, comments James Hunt, assistant professor of entrepreneurship at Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business. “Some business cultures struggle to say, ‘No, we aren’t interested’ which means you can have an extremely long and costly sales process that never actually lead to a sale.”
Such behavior is especially prevalent in China and Scandinavia”, he mentions. “To avoid this problem, look for customers who have bought similar items or services in the past, sometimes it’s better to cut off talks if they lag for too long” Hunt says.
5. Find an international partner
For many, the best way to break into a new market is to sell through a partner. They’ll know the language, culture and contacts that could take you years to assimilate.
What kind of partner you need depends on your business model – it might be that you need someone to facilitate the first meetings and hopefully the first sales, or it might be that you need a partner that can act fully on your behalf to both sell and support your products abroad.
While this helps keep your costs down, beware, as forming and maintaining a partnership takes time and you will need to look closely at your financial business case for selling abroad if it means your margins shrink considerably..
Enjoy the journey
If you do look to expand abroad, above all, enjoy the journey. Going to new markets, experiencing new business cultures, making new friends and partners can be tremendously rewarding. By considering these 5 essential elements we hope your organisation can realise the full potential of the global marketplace.