For many entrepreneurs, the idea of taking their brand global is intoxicating.
How do you know whether your brand is ready to go international? Consider these points first.
1. What kind of marketing plan have you put into place in your target region?
It's critical to build up a solid brand presence in your new region, not while you expand, but before you expand.
With all the resources it takes to branch out into international markets, you've got to be able to hit the ground running. The only way to do that is to begin your marketing well in advance of when you plan on actually launching your brand in that market.
That doesn't have to mean making a huge financial investment in advertising. In fact, with social media marketing, you can actually experiment with small investments to highly targeted groups in the country you're branching out into. This could mean building your following more slowly, but also getting more for every dollar you put into advertising.
Here's an example.
Galia Lahav, a Tel Aviv-based bridal boutique and designer, broke into the U.S. market with virtually zero experience in global expansion. Their strategy was to advertise heavily on Pinterest and Instagram."We wanted to make the buyers come to us," founder and designer Lahav says. "Instead of reaching out to stores, I started by advertising all across the country, targeting future brides so that everywhere they go online, they see a post or ad from us. Then all of a sudden, brides are asking boutiques if they carry Galia Lahav. Soon after, the boutiques started reaching out to us."
By targeting the consumer directly through social media ads, Galia Lahav was able to start its U.S. expansion much fuarther along than if they'd begun by calling stores, asking them to carry their designs.
2. Can your team learn from failure and pivot quickly?
Just as with starting a local business, it's unrealistic to believe that you won't fail at some point during the expansion--perhaps several times.
But when you fail, you have to be ready to learn from the mistake, shift your approach, and try again. Maybe your team has been doing this for years, but realize that this can be harder to do when you're also learning the ins and outs of the market at the same time.
One way to help minimize those failures is to hire a consultant with expertise in the country you're expanding into.
"We also started working with brand consultants who worked at senior positions for major fashion houses like Michael Kors, Vera Wang, Givenchy, and more," Lahav says. "A good consultant can change your entire perception in one sentence, saving you a lot of time and money."
If working with a consultant isn't a possibility, ensure your team is ready to work in short, quick cycles, pivot as needed, and iterate quickly.
3. Are you prioritizing data?
While every success will start quite simply with an excellent product or service, to branch out into an international market, you'll have to prioritize your data gathering and analysis.
From social media mentions and ad clicks, to sales data, to email click-throughs and lead generation, data is what should guide your decision-making--especially when you're in a market that you're not yet familiar with. It's easy to misunderstand public sentiment, or to see your social media mentions skyrocket and become overconfident.
Always go back to the data to see if that public sentiment is actually converting to sales. If it isn't, it's time to try something new.
Expanding internationally can be a risky move, but it's the right move for many businesses. The key is to ensure you're well prepared for global growth before you start selling a single product in your new market.