In an increasingly global marketplace, it doesn’t make sense to let borders get in the way of business. Many different kinds of business can benefit from going international but owners often hold back because they see it as complicated and too much of a drain on resources. It doesn’t need to be. Yes, there’s effort involved, but most of that is up front – once things are off and running, it’s surprising how little it takes to maintain compared with how much there is to gain.
Using the internet
Going international has never been easier than it is today, thanks to the internet. With a well designed website and smart use of social media, it’s possible to reach people all over the world, but many people limit their options by sticking to a single language. Getting professional translation work done isn’t very expensive, especially if it’s just for static content, and it can make it possible to reach a whole new audience. It’s worth taking the time to figure out which language or languages will be most useful and what other changes may need to be made in order to make a good impression on people from different cultural backgrounds.
Developing networks of contacts internationally can be very helpful when moving into new areas. By connecting with people in related trades, it’s possible to find suppliers, service providers and others with whom one can form useful working relationships, and who can provide useful information about how the market works in their countries. Professional networking sites like LinkedIn can be useful for this, and in some cases introductions can be made through an embassy.
In order to be established internationally, it helps to have a reputation for expertise in a particular sector. Speaking at international conferences is a great way to do this. It helps to establish both brand recognition (at least in a business to business context) and personal reputation, which is important to successful negotiation.
International success stories
One man who has made a success of doing business internationally is real estate specialist Naftali Tilson. He spent many years working in China and is now based in Israel. With a website available in both Hebrew and English, he has considerable international reach, and he uses social media like YouTube to reach new audiences all the time.
Folake Folarin-Coker is a fashion designer born in South Africa who used a network of international contacts to get her designs trading in the US. She has since enjoyed success in Nigeria and her work is beginning to be picked up by retailers in other African countries, giving her far more potential for lasting success than her home country alone could provide.
Working across different national markets provides a business with greater security because economic problems rarely hit everywhere at once. It provides access to fresh sources of revenue, and exposure to different business cultures provides useful learning opportunities. It’s something every company should consider once it’s big enough to do so.