Taking on the world – our strategies for going global

A few tips on expanding your business globally

What small business owner hasn’t, if only for a few moments, dreamed of being in charge of an international empire?

The world we live in has never been more globalised – and with Brexit on the horizon, finding new markets for exports could be crucial to Britain’s economic stability in the next few years.

The potential financial advantages of expanding your business overseas are obvious but so are the obstacles. Here are some tips to help you with your first forays into uncharted territory.

Local products for local people

As any modern languages student will know, thriving in a foreign country doesn’t just involve understanding the vocabulary, but the culture too.

It’s reasonably obvious (we hope) that wine and bacon will not be big sellers in Muslim countries.

But there can be all sorts of more subtle cultural nuances that affect everything from which of your products will be most popular to how you should advertise them.

For example, sarcasm and self-deprecation work brilliantly in Britain but often don’t travel well to America, where patriotism and positivity are much more the order of the advertising day.

This is something that even the world’s biggest businesses have had to come to terms with.

McDonald’s might seem to represent the antithesis of everything the French believe about food but it has succeeded in France by understanding, for example, that the French value local, high-quality ingredients and don’t like to rush their food – even their fast food.

Get to know your target market as well as you can and never assume that what works in one country will work in another.

Bad language

Three billion people around the world use the internet but they don’t all speak fluent English.

Google Translate is your saviour, right?

Wrong.

Using a computer program to translate your website is asking for solecisms, misunderstandings and clunky sentences that tell your reader at once that, literally, you don’t really speak their language.

Just like a poorly-written English website, it demands extra effort from your customer as he or she struggles to work out what you’re trying to say. It also looks unprofessional and suggests that you don’t really care about your customers in the target country that much.

Having a stab with your GCSE French is not much better – the best thing for companies who are looking to expand globally to do is invest in a good translator.

Even better, you can tailor your content for different countries and show people different versions of your website depending on where they are, with local telephone numbers if possible.

Make sure you translate page descriptions and meta data as well as the website text – if your customer finds you through a search engine, they’ll see the description before they even see your website.

Sweat the small stuff

So, you’ve established that there’s a big demand for your product in your target country and you’ve translated the packaging and website into the local language – let’s get those lorries on the road right?

Not so fast – there’s so much more to think about:-

  • How easily can you distribute your products – what is the infrastructure like?

  • Do you want to sell directly to your customers or would you be better off working with third parties and benefiting from their knowledge and networks?

  • What about the legal side – how will you be affected by regulations, red tape and tariffs?

 

Price, obviously, is a crucial consideration – not just in terms of how your product compares with others on the market but how much money your new customers have and what they are used to spending it on.

Trade magazines, trade associations and statistics websites, such as the World Bank and UN Comtrade websites, can be invaluable sources of background data.

  • Who are your competitors?

    If they’ve already broken into the market, they’ve done some of the work for you but they also already have a foothold. Research how they price and pitch their products and think about how you might be able to persuade customers to switch to yours.
  • How do your customers like to pay?

UK shoppers will use debit or credit cards or PayPal but Chinese customers might be used to using Alipay, Tenpay or Unionpay.

If you rely on SEO marketing, you’ll also need to optimise your web pages for different search engines: the most popular search engine in China is called Baidu, while in Korea it’s Naver and in Russia Yandex. If you’re planning to sell through online marketplaces, it won’t just be Amazon you want, but Alibaba in China, or Rakuten in Japan.

Trade-off

Attending or exhibiting at a trade show is a great way to make new contacts, promote your business, keep up with developments in your sector and learn more about your competitors and target market.

It allows you to meet contacts, suppliers, clients and prospects in person, which can be invaluable for building relationships – and some of the larger shows attract exhibitors and buyers from across the world, so you may discover new opportunities above and beyond the ones you are actually there to explore.

Before you go to a show though, think about what you want to get out of it: what you want to find out and who you want to meet.

Arrange important meetings and book networking events early and if you’re exhibiting, use social media to encourage people to visit your stand.

Help and funding

You don’t have to do all this on your own!

The Department for International Trade’s great.gov.uk website is a valuable source of information on everything from online marketplaces to market research.

There’s also financial help available.

UK Export Finance helps companies obtain loans, insurance and bank guarantees to help them trade internationally, while the Department for International Trade’s Tradeshow Access Programme provides grants of between £500 and £2,500 to help with the cost of attending overseas trade shows. Scottish Enterprise offers Make It To Market grants to help businesses prepare their products for overseas markets.

And these are just three examples.

And of course, you can also source support from your friendly accountants to keep your finances in order as you grow.

With our team of experienced accountants in Surrey, WansteadSaffron Walden and London City,THP Chartered Accountants can help with a range of aspects related to your business finance, including bookkeeping, auditing, tax and management accounting.

Contact the team at THP for further details.

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