The World IS Your Oyster
The challenge for all businesses is to open the doors to new markets. Most local businesses fall into the trap of believing their limitations are based on geography and for some, that is true. The local dry cleaner or liquor stores are good examples of this. But perhaps you are missing opportunities to expand your thinking and use the power of the Internet and Social Media to reach the far corners of the globe.
Ask yourself: What would the benefits be to the international market if they knew about me and could do business with me or refer me to people they know in my area? How would it change my business? What do I need to do to make that happen?
Let’s start with the benefits for you to expand your reach to include overseas markets:
- Grow your consumer base
- Increase your brand awareness
- Enhance your company’s reputation
- Give yourself a competitive advantage
- Cut your marketing costs
- Learn new technologies
- Maximize your productivity potential
- Grow at an accelerated rate
- Boost your profits
So how do you gain a foothold? Start by being sensitive to the need for language translation. Perhaps even going so far as to localize the words, phrases or slang that appeal to local sensibilities, norms, and tastes. Plan on how you will provide customer service for your distant customers. Once that plan takes shape you will need to address some specifics like shipping (if you are offering products). You should research your competition to know what they are doing and how you can do it better. Make sure you are prepared to take payment. The best sources for international ecommerce are PayPal, Braintree and Stripe – all support multiple languages, currencies, taxes, and VAT rates. And perhaps most important, are you mobile ready? In countries like Brazil, Russia, India, China and Indonesia, the majority of people access the Internet using mobile devices.
As you develop your international strategy, it will be prudent to get to know local customs and business expectations in other countries. At some point, you may have the opportunity to meet face to face with your international clientele. You can success or fail in that first meeting by your conduct. For example, in China, the protocol is to always bring a gift; in Japan the exchange of business cards is sacred and must be given respect; In Brazil expect that your personal space will be invaded and physical contact is common – don’t back away! In India, don’t order beef while dining out with a client and never wear any type of leather; and in the UK, when your business contact taps their nose it is not a nervous gesture – it is a signal that the conversation is private and confidential. Some of the best sources to get you started are: Kiss Bow or Shake Hands: The Best Selling Guide to Doing Business in More than 60 Countries; International Business and Travel Etiquette: Seal the Deal by Understanding Proper Protocol; Global Business Etiquette: A Guide to International Commerce and Customs; or Business Etiquette in 60 Countries.
The best recommendations to get you started include:
- Start small and say laser focused
- Choose one country, region, or language to start
- Be contextually sensitive – this includes culture, language, and legal barriers
- Do your research by reading, discussing with others and survey your target market
- Be multi-lingual (factoid for our US readers: only 18% of American’ speak a 2nd language and English is NOT the primary language in most countries!)
- Start with only 1 or 2 products (preferably electronic not physical) / services (virtual)
It is time to take the blinders off and put your visionary glasses on…there are thousands of people in the world waiting to do business with you!