The Secret to Success When Expanding Your Company Internationally
Recently, we decided to expand our company ADYOULIKE to the US market. We didn’t come to this decision lightly, since we knew it would be a challenge, but expanding meant benefits like increased profit and exposure, and seemed to be the right move for us.
When actually putting the expansion into play, we had to keep a few things in mind, and I want to share those here - learn from my lessons and you’ll be successful. If you’re thinking of expanding your company, keep the following five things in mind.
1. Know your (new) market
You would never have started your business without researching target audiences. The same rule applies to expanding - even though you may be established in one country, you still need to conduct market research elsewhere.
Start by taking several months to conduct your research - it might be helpful to structure this like a SWOT analysis that includes (among other things): an industry assessment, competitor benchmarking, profiling of potential audiences and potential challenges to expansion. This is also an opportunity to think about more general trends that could pose a challenge to your expansion. Case in point: if you’re a UK company looking to expand to the European Union, you’ll need to factor Brexit into your plans and come up with plans to handle barriers to recruitment or tariffs on goods or services.
2. It’s who you know
Pursuing new business and wooing clients can be time consuming, and if you’ve taken the time to build relationships, you probably have a reasonably strong network of partners you can call on for help. Given the global nature of business today, chances are good that someone in your network will have contacts in your chosen country of expansion. Do some digging to figure out which partners you can call on - even if they can’t do anything themselves, if you have a strong relationship, they’ll be more likely to pass you on to local contacts who can be of more assistance.
Don’t underestimate this step. Contacts can give valuable advice and help with hands-on experience when launching your company in a new territory. Partners may even agree to continue your relationship into newly established markets, taking some pressure off you to find new partners.
3. Don’t copy and paste your strategy
You may have your strategy perfected at home, but this doesn’t mean anything when it comes to new markets. Applying the same strategy without doing your market research will not work. Resist the temptation to apply a one size fits all strategy. It may seem easier in the short run, but taking the time to customise and know your audience will save you headaches in the long term. Expansion should be thought of almost as starting a new business, and shortcuts are no way to bring success. Do your homework and build on existing strategy. Some things may translate well, but others may not. Build and scrap accordingly, being sure to personalise your approach. This could be something as simple as creating a new website, or something more complex like totally revamping your pitch materials.
4. Stay calm and carry on
After all the research is done, it’s time to launch. The most important thing to remember when you reach this stage is this: like everything else in business, expanding will not be totally smooth - things will go wrong and it’s important to stay flexible. Managing your expectations about launching will help you adapt to anything that might pop up, and react to situations quickly.
5. Personally make the move
If you’re able, it’s worth spending some time in your country of choice, whether you live there for several months or visit for several weeks. Doing this helps to align expectations, visions and understandings as to what approach will be needed. You’ll also need to hire local professionals to support the business. Local knowledge is an invaluable asset and working directly with locals means that you can get up to speed more quickly with the intricacies required from your new market. Calls, emails and meetings will not be sufficient bonding for foster any new relationships in new markets. To do this, you need to fully integrate into the country and build connections from the ground up.
The key thing to remember when taking your company international is this: success in one place does not automatically mean success everywhere. Expanding is hard work and will require a lot of preparation and flexibility. That said - if you develop a country-specific plan, and stick to it, the opportunities for success are boundless.