Multi-national companies like the printing and consumables giant HP for example, started life in a garage, and many household names had very humble beginnings before going global.
Establishing a company takes planning and requires a long-term strategy, so while doing business abroad doesn’t necessarily happen overnight, having an ambitious plan in place will help your business to take the next step towards becoming an established global trading entity.
Think global from the beginning
It is never a bad thing to have global ambitions for your business and a good way to start off on the right foot is start thinking globally as early as possible.
The basic idea is that the sooner you get going and start doing business abroad, the sooner you will get a good handle on what works and what doesn’t. This will enable you to fine tune your approach and sales strategies on a small scale, so that you are in a much better position to make the most of the opportunity when the business gets bigger.
Market research really matters
You should always aim to study the marketplace that you want to take your business into and there are no shortcuts when it comes to doing your market research, if you really want to make a success of your global plans.
Have a look at what rival companies are doing and make a note of which companies already have a presence and just as importantly, who is seemingly not doing as well as you might have anticipated.
Getting a valuable insight into how others have fared in your chosen market, will help you to hone your strategy to concentrate on a formula and approach which seems to be succeeding, and then adapting it to play to your businesses particular strengths.
You will invariably find that the more familiar you are able to become with a country’s local demographics, the more likely it is that you will find a successful way to promote your brand.
Think about your logo
Whilst most of us instantly recognize those iconic golden arches if we encounter a fast-food outlet on foreign soil, not all logos are that successful in selling a business and defining a brand.
Think carefully about creating a logo which will have relevance in almost any language and country around the globe. For example, a logo that uses an animal or maybe something regal like a crown, might be interpreted in an entirely different way in another part of the world, to how it is viewed in your own territory.
Think global with your logo from the beginning, so that you can stride forward and build the business and the brand without any issues.
Use your embassy
Using your government embassy in a different country where you are trying to make an impact will often make a difference.
The role of an embassy is not just to help you out when you are in trouble but there is also a trading aspect to their assistance and they may well be able to provide you with some useful pointers on local customs, or even help with some useful contacts or introductions.
As an alternative or in addition to using your embassy, consider the idea of appointing a local guide or translator, so that they can help you until you become familiar enough with the process of doing business there, to be able to manage by yourself.
Keep your eye on the ball
If you have global expansion plans, you will need to maintain constant communication with all the people in the chain who are helping to make things happen for you on foreign soil.
Regular contact with sales agents and reps, distributors and colleagues, via phone and email, will be vital in keeping things moving in the right direction and help to identify any things that need to be changed before they turn into something more of a problem.
Don’t forget that the world is a smaller place thanks to technology like Skype and other similar online video-conferencing tools, so make sure you put them to good use and add that personal touch.
Be aware of local customs
Part of the excitement and challenge of doing business abroad is encountering a different set of customs and values and understanding them enough to become an accepted trading partner.
Knowing what standards of dress, conduct and hospitality are expected of you, will ensure that you avoid any embarrassing situations and win the trust of your intended local business partners and customers.
As the old business cliché goes, if you fail to plan, you plan to fail. So make sure you have a profitable plan for going global.
Alicia Riley is a business consultant who specializes in helping start-up companies. She enjoys sharing her knowledge with a wide online audience by writing for various business blogs.