Did you know that 95% of consumers live outside of the United States? Were you also aware that under the National Export Initiative (NEI), "the United States has had four straight record-breaking years of exports--hitting an all-time high of $2.3 trillion dollars in 2013?"
If you haven't considered it before, now is the perfect time to take advantage of the global market. The thing is, however, it's not going to take over night--but that's with any business, domestic or international.
Thankfully, there a number of ways to help make your company go international, and here are of tips to achieve just that.
1. Research Targeted Markets
Hilka Klinkenberg, founder of Etiquette International in New York City, claims that less than 25 percent of U.S. business ventures abroad are successful. She adds that "A lot of that is because Americans don't do their homework or because they think the rest of the world should do business the way they do business."
To make sure that your business is a success overseas, Wesley Johnston, professor of marketing and director of the Center for Business and Industrial Marketing at Georgia State University, informs Entrepreneur that there are four questions to ask yourself before you enter the global market.
- Will the product sell well in the targeted culture?
- Is your target market familiar with your product or service?
- Do you feel comfortable in that country?
- What is the infrastructure like?
During your research, you should be not only be examining the market, distribution channels, and international banks, but also the culture in your targeted markets. A great place to begin your research is by visiting the International Trade Administration.
2. Build Relationships
After doing your homework, you've narrowed down the locations where your business will thrive. You've even done a bit of research about the culture and customs found in your new market. Now it's time to starting building relationships.
Dan Brutto, president of UPS International, states that building and cultivating relationships internationally is extremely important on Businessweek--which he says is essential "in China, Vietnam, Brazil, Poland, and other emerging markets." Brutto goes to state that, "In China, for example, going to dinner with colleagues is really important; the underpinnings of confidence and trust are built around the table." He also adds that in "addition to building relationships with business partners, it's critical to get to know other exporters." When you network with your peers, you can "learn a lot from each others' experiences." This is why UPS hosts small networking events frequently that connects veterans with those just starting out.
To avoid any mistakes, Klinkenberg recommends you follow these tips:
- Build a relationship before you get down to business
- Don't impose time limits
- Learn at least a few pointers and facts about the country
- Bring your own interpreter
- Understand body language
- Dress with respect and authority
3. Have a Strong Business Plan
Rhett Power, co-founder of Wild Creations, suggests in Inc. that when you are aware of "your sales goals beforehand will keep you on track and help eliminate mistakes." Whether you're supplementing your domestic sales or wanting to become a global powerhouse, you need to have a solid business plan in place. Once this has been drafted, make sure that you put it into action.
"Don't over think it. There are a lot of moving parts that can paralyze you and cause you to over think things. Don't. Go with your gut and remember mistakes are a part of life. In the end you will be better off by doing something rather than nothing. Your best bet is to start small, learn the nuances and grow from there. Once you've gotten your feet wet and learn the game there will be nothing stopping you from substantial profits."
4. International Banking and Financing
Carine Gursky, Foreign Exchange Manager at Wells Fargo Bank, states you could lose out to competitors because they used the currency that customers overseas preferred. She also suggests you factor in fluctuating foreign exchange rates and use hedging to "lock in an exchange rate for a future transaction." If you're paying a vendor, consider paying in the foreign currency so "that no money is lost by overpaying for a purchase." And, you'll need to evaluate whether or not you need an international bank--which you may not have to do if "you are selling overseas in a local currency".
As for financing your international operation, you should consider the Export-Import Bank of the United States. Since 1934 this independent U.S. government agency has supported more than $567 billion of U.S. exports.
5. Spread Brand Awareness
Now that you've found an international market that will support your company, built relationships, developed a business plan, and figured out the international banking situation, it's time to spread brand awareness.
- Crafting your message--Williams says, "What may have seemed witty or charming in the U.S. may be misunderstood in your new market."
- Deliver this message through the right channels--Williams also adds, "What are the habits your customer base in that other country? Where are they found? What is their lifestyle? What are they doing?"
- Communicate in the right manner. "Manner and tone will come across through your packaging, advertising, online, through your salespeople, and even the way you answer the phone," Williams says.
Hayes Roth, chief marketing officer for Landor Associates, also reminds you to maintain "your brand reputation in every market in which you sell" while raising your brand awareness. "Remember, your brand is a promise. You're starting to make a promise that people are buying into and you need to deliver whatever that product or service is."
For many businesses, tapping into the international market is a no-brainer. If it makes sense for your brand, you could increase your market considerably. However, make sure you pay attention to these tips from the experts--otherwise, you risk alienating your new market.