5 reasons to go global and what to know before doing so

Being a small business doesn’t mean you have to think small. Technology makes it possible for many small businesses to expand globally.

Would it work for your business? Here are some reasons to consider going global and some steps to take if you decide you want to test the international waters.

Reasons to go global

hands holding up stylized globe on blue skyThe most obvious reason to seek international markets is to expand sales. Breaking it down, here are five benefits:

  1. Diversify your markets and customer base.
  2. Extend the sales life of current products. What’s already established here could be a hot new item elsewhere.
  3. Reduce dependence on current markets by spreading your risk.
  4. Counter seasonal fluctuations. If you sell a seasonal product, when it’s summer here, half the world is experiencing winter and vice versa.
  5. Learn how to compete and grow, and you may want to expand from market to market.

Do your homework

Canada, Mexico, Europe and Japan are the most obvious choices for establishing a global business, but depending on your products and services, smaller, less competitive markets could be better choices. BDP client blood donor chair manufacturer Dacor, for instance, expanded into Romania, Rwanda and Bangladesh following serious research with the BDP’s international trade marketing team and American Food Exporters into Malaysia.

Before you consider expanding your company, you should be well established and profitable in the U.S. Then you’re ready to begin the planning and research phase and develop your business strategy as if starting from scratch.

Next you need to make a realistic appraisal of your products and ask yourself:

  • Will people want to buy what you’re selling?
  • Will selling your products require an education process before consumers accept them?
  • Are there cultural differences you need to be aware of that could impact your success? The president of Dacor, for instance, found that Bangladesh, like most Muslim nations, has an Israeli embargo clause. Any goods shipped to Bangladesh can’t use Israeli equipment, materials, suppliers or bidders, and the deal can’t be consummated without that stipulation.

If you plan to physically set up shop in a foreign country, look into attending trade shows and trade conferences in that country, too. The Missouri Department of Economic Development’s International Trade and Investment Office sponsors trade missions to other countries. You may be reimbursed for a portion of the costs associated with these events. You should also line up local legal and financial advisors in the country you plan to enter.

Other resources to help in your decision-making process include:

Lost in translation

Yes, English is spoken around the world. But don’t assume your audience is bilingual. Your online information should be always available in the native language of the country where you’re doing business. That may not mean you have to translate your entire site. However, you should have your home page translated as well as pages pertinent to understanding and purchasing your product (legal boilerplate, for example, is not so important).

The key is to find a reliable translator, preferably in the country where the site will be viewed. Don’t rely on computer-generated translation apps or you’ll end up with grammatical or worse errors that will undermine your credibility. If it’s too expensive to have your entire site translated at once, prioritize the pages.

If you’ve already mastered the basics of running a small business in the U.S., going global may be the next step to growing your business. Contact the BDP’s International Trade Center to get started today.

Contributed by Kelly Burkart through a partnership with US Bank.