There are key benefits to getting outside of your comfort zone and breaking down the barriers to international commerce.
For U.S.-based organizations, you might be surprised to find that there are fewer competitors in the international space.
Domestic competition and international competition each have their own requirements, but embracing more opportunity may very well be worth the price of admission.
So, if you’re ready to break out of the bubble and begin marketing to a global audience, where should you start?
1. Research, Research and Then More Research
A product or service in one country can be an entirely different animal in another country. Everything from your brand’s voice to the way that your organization interacts with customers will need to be fine-tuned to the needs of the consumer. Gaining a full understanding of what your international audience is looking for will require time and the investment of resources.
For example, the most obvious change will need to be to your website. If your international customers can’t read the information you’re sharing, how will they be able to make a purchasing decision? For WordPress users, Polylang is an excellent plugin that opens up your site to allow for multi-language support. In addition to the text, you’ll need to verify that the graphics and images on your site are culturally sensitive.
For example, I once worked with a client that was preparing to expand into India. Their logo included the image of a cow. While creating a strong, consistent brand is important, including the image of one of the most sacred animals in the Hindu culture isn’t advisable when expanding into India.
Take the time to understand cultural and business norms. An ounce of prevention is truly worth a few pounds of frustration and a damaged reputation in a new venture.
2. Establish Work Relationships With Local Freelancers and Vendors
While researching and developing your own understanding of another culture is valuable, it is a poor substitute for an actual native guide assisting your organization. Expand your team to include individuals from the country you’re attempting to market to.
According to Sticker Mule, “Recruiting internationally is a tremendous benefit to us. The best talent and potential team members live all over the world. To date, only 10 percent of our development team works domestically.”
Your team becomes both more diverse and more talented by opening up recruitment to a global pool of talent. Don’t discount the skill and dedication that a foreign workforce brings to the table. Adding perspective and a global context to your organization will greatly assist the company in successfully marketing itself overseas.
A word to the wise: seek to work with high-quality individuals overseas instead of sub-contracting work to overseas vendors. The markups are extremely expensive and the team members can be sub-par.
Related Article: Going Global: Building an International Footprint as a SMB
3. Establish a Legal Presence
Operating in a foreign country without the proper legal framework is a recipe for an expensive disaster. Even different countries within the European Union have vastly different legal systems. Don’t take anything for granted. Hire an attorney/solicitor that has previous experience assisting U.S.-based companies in their efforts to provide services within their country’s boundaries.
Along the same lines, you’ll need an accountant based overseas to provide guidance on how to best structure the overseas wing of your organization. Taxes and fee structures can vary wildly between countries. For some industries, countries slap imported goods with tariffs. Accounting for these costs before launching an international operation will greatly lower the cost of unexpected operating expenses.
Marketing a company internationally is a logistical nightmare. But, if you’re willing to invest the time and resources to do it right, the financial upside can be significant. Plus, having a presence overseas allows for the company to more comfortably survive turbulent times domestically. Diversification is key to a long-term growth strategy.
Related Article: The Write Stuff: The What, Why and How of Content Marketing
Yes, learning about new cultures and customs can be a headache. But, your organization will be better from the experience, and you’ll have the opportunity to tap into a new talent pool. With every new country your company invests in, your team becomes more diverse and skilled with providing exceptional service on a global scale. Are you and your team up for the challenge?