It might be strange to think about expanding your business in this economy, but let me say two things to that: 1) Most small businesses look to grow no matter the circumstances, and 2) today, one way to do that is to look at growing internationally. After all, as Thomas Friedman famously declared, The World is Flat.
The fact is, there is a lot of global opportunity out there, and it is an affordable way to grow your business, so in this blog and the next, I would like to talk about how to tap into this trend and opportunity.
American products and know how are as in demand as ever, so looking to see what countries may want what you sell is the first step. What do you do that could go global?
There are two ways to tap the global market.
First, as discussed in my next blog, you can do it through e-commerce. Second, discussed here, you can do business with companies in other countries, (though even that necessitates a great website.) So first you have to decide whether yours will be a strictly e-business or whether your website is merely an entree into doing business in and with another country.
Either way, here are the steps to take for doing international business in a flat world:
1. Do Your Market Research. As always, I recommend that you think before you leap. A little research – figuring how your business translates internationally – will save you a lot of time and money down the road. Here are some good places to start:
2. Prepare. Will your marketing materials translate? How are sales done in the countries you have targeted and what special etiquette rules should you know? Check out www.polishedprofessionals.com. (I learned the hard way when I was in Mongolia that drinking Genghis Khan Vodka, lots of Genghis Khan Vodka, is expected of new business associates!)
3. Decide How to Distribute Your Product. You can sell online of course, but could also hire a fulfillment service, hire foreign agents or representatives, hire a foreign distributor, or even set up a joint venture.
If you decide to find a foreign business associate with whom to work, keep in mind that you will want a partner with a track record of selling to the companies or consumers you are targeting, and who can speak both languages.
4. Deal With Legalities. You may need an export license depending upon what you are selling. Check out all legalities online at the Trade Compliance Center.
5. Remember the Business You are In: What business are you in? Whether you said the carpet business, accounting, or exporting, I suggest your answer should be that you are in the service business. Your job is to serve your new customers. No doubt that the guy in India can charge less than you, but how often do you make a business purchasing decision based solely on price? Not often probably. People also love great service and will pay a bit more to get it, so give it to them.