Doing business internationally is a big and exciting step for any company. But going global doesn't have to take a Herculean effort, especially if you sell your products or services online.
Here are a few baby steps you can take to grow into the international market.
If there is an e-commerce element to your business, make sure you're set up to take credit cards and/or Paypal, if you aren't already. This often solves your currency exchange issue. Don't forget to factor in the fees they charge for foreign transactions.
Target English-speaking countries first. True, each English-speaking country has its own slang, and you need to be aware of them. But focusing on English-speaking countries saves you the huge labor and cost of translating your website, training a foreign-language staff, etc.
Advertise your company using Google Adwords. With Google's advertising platform, you can set it up to display your ads for searches originating from the UK, Canada, Australia, etc. That's mainly how small businesses and non-profits outside of the U.S. know about VerticalResponse, my online marketing software company.
If you're shipping products overseas, have a clear international shipping and costs policy on your website. Read up on customs laws, taxes and duties, and decide if you'll pay for all costs or if the customer will be charged. Will you allow returns on international orders? Who and how will they pay return shipping?
If you find that business is brisk in a specific country or two, you might want to focus on developing those channels into a well-oiled machine before expanding to more countries. Once you get comfortable with the processes of doing business abroad, you'll be in a great position to expand even more.
Have you dipped your toes into the international marketplace? What lessons have you learned?