Growing Beyond Borders: 5 Tips for Expanding Your Business’ Global Footprint
Happy 2014! Is expanding your business to global markets one of your New Year resolutions?
Selling goods in multiple countries can be complicated â€” you'll have to navigate various cultures, regulations, and build relationships with local and regional suppliers â€” advances in technology have made it easier, even for small companies or start ups that can't afford to pay consultants to help them devise a global strategy.
Here are five tips for you.
1. Think small to go big. You'll stretch yourself too thin if you research and develop a product for every possible market â€” and you won't have a clear payoff. Instead, start small by building your product in a lean way. This means designing one version of your product or better yet, a customizable version that leverages the power of others often makes sense for an early global customer base. If you're not sure which international markets will demand your product the most this is a great way to experiment and savor the pleasure to find out where your product is relevant. From there, you can decide how to customize and localize and importantly which countries you should spend your time on with marketing efforts, etc.
2. Be in good company make it easier on yourself and surround yourself with other entrepreneurs. Many cities around the world are setting up business clusters to incentivize new companies to jumpstart their local economies, and they are especially interested in technology and manufacturers. East London, for example, has established TechCity where both innovation and venture capital abound. India has set up special economic zones to welcome tech companies with engineering talent and tax incentives. Some clusters are less formal and not necessarily tech-focused, but you'll find entrepreneurship in every corner (places like the neighbourhood of Tiong Bahru in Singapore not only offer innovative retailers, but the neighbourhood's design and restaurants also inspire!)
3. If you're going global, hopefully you're not staying in one place: Leverage the cloud. Business owners and their employees are no longer sitting in a single office these days. Especially not if they are exploring international marketplaces. Given then, business owners must have the right tools in place to manage and track key business information, from financials to customer information, while on the go. Cloud-based business management solutions, including mobile apps, can make your life a lot easier when trying to secure a deal while waiting in line at the airport, or sitting in a hotel room.
4. Get your customers to do some of your legwork. If you build a loyal following, your customers may help spread the word about your product on a global scale. For example, Fenugreen, a social enterprise that provides its product FreshPaper to combat food spoilage around the world, has done a great job leveraging its passionate customers to bring their product to farming communities around the world. With the help of word of mouth (in addition to a robust e-commerce site and shipping capabilities), the company now sells FreshPaper in 35 countries, with customers as varied as a farmer in Malawi and a women's catering cooperative in Haiti.
5. Pick your partner wisely. Even if you're only doing business within Australia, you always want to ensure the companies and individuals in your supply chain are operating in a way that reflects your own company's values. This is especially challenging when your potential partners may be halfway across the globe and you may never meet them in person. Doing your homework is always, always worth it. There are a number of resources available through the government websites that you can leverage, in addition to your own reference checks of potential suppliers, vendors and partners.
Photo courtesy Lindsey Grossman.