SME Guide to International Expansion

Guide for Small Businesses Expanding Internationally

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Expanding internationally is often seen as the Holy Grail for successful businesses. After all, from Amazon to Ikea, virtually all of the biggest companies in the world operate on a global level. Potential benefits include increased revenue, sustainable long-term growth and a wider range of customers.

But before you take this leap of faith, are you and your small business ready? Expanding into international markets is easier said than done and in-depth research and considered execution is essential. Get it wrong and your business will suffer. But get it right and you can reap a multitude of rewards.

Is international expansion the right move for your business?

From marketing to salaries, expanding internationally is expensive and requires a lot of funding. Underestimating the costs of entering into a new global market is a serious concern for entrepreneurs. Quite simply, it has to pay to be worth it.

Dave McClure, entrepreneur and founder of 500 Start-Ups suggests several factors that should make you think twice about whether to expand internationally:

  • Your product doesn’t travel well
  • There are not many start-ups competing for your local market
  • Your local market has 50-100 million users
  • Your local market customers are really rich

Essentially, McClure is saying that if your local market is big enough, the effort to expand internationally doesn’t make sense. The return has got to be worth the investment.

Take professional advice

Expanding internationally can have huge rewards, but it also introduces a number of inherent risks – arguably the biggest of which, is financial. You need to ask yourself two fundamental questions: how am I going to fund it and how and when will I get paid?

Other risks include falling foul of the complex regulations governing international trade, as well as the local regulations governing business. There are also risks relating to the area you choose to expand into, such as the economic climate and the level of protection offered to foreign companies.

Whilst K International can advise you on international regulations relating to translation, you should also take professional advice from your own accountants and attorneys. You can also get support from government agencies, such as UK Trade and Investment and the Department for Business Innovation & Skills.

Invest in the right global markets

For expansion to be successful, you need to invest in the right global markets for your business. The country you choose will depend partly on your business goals and expertise, but also on how your business needs to be structured – for example many countries in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations have regulations to help companies operate independently.

Dr. Donald R. Lessard, professor of global economics and management professor of engineering systems, Emeritus at the MIT Sloan School of Management suggests three questions to considerbefore deciding on the suitability of a global market:

  • Is the product relevant? Will it have value to consumers and be able to trump local competitor products in some way?
  • Is the product appropriable? Is there a risk that a local competitor could rapidly duplicate it and sell it for less?
  • Is the product transferable? Can it be profitably sold in the international market?

Answering these questions will help you to identify where international demand for your products lies. It’s also wise to start small – while it’s tempting to pursue multiple markets, you should start with just one or two.

Design a scalable e-commerce structure

Once you’ve established which international market to expand into, you need to think about the fundamentals of how the process is going to work. An international expansion strategy usually involves a step-by-step e-commerce roll out and this will be much easier to implement if you’ve thought about expansion when outlining back-end processes.

Cloud-based infrastructure and secure off-site technology are designed to make expansion easier, and you should also ensure that the infrastructure offers features like flexible automation. This means that you’ll be able to easily expand into new markets, without having to start over every time.

Establish an operations plan

You also need to spend time building a network to handle logistics on a local level. This should include things like detailed supply chain and transportation plans and how you are going to provide local customer service support.

Adapt your marketing strategies for each location

A marketing strategy that works well in Britain may have a completely different effect abroad. And, in some cases, a standardised marketing strategy can lead to misinterpretation, resulting in offence. For example, a golf ball manufacturing company packaged balls in groups of four in Japan – a strategy that they thought was convenient for the consumer. However, they overlooked the fact that pronunciation of the word “four” in Japanese sounds like the word “death” and that items packaged in fours were unpopular.

Taking time to understand cultural and language differences is essential if a campaign is to be successful. K International’s Marketing and Transcreation services can help you to ensure that your international marketing campaign retains the full spirit and meaning of the original, but in a manner that will impact positively on consumers in the target country.

Professionally translate your site

As the business world continues to go global, outstanding translation is becoming more important than ever before. as more and more of this business takes place online, companies simply cannot afford to overlook the importance of a site translated for each of their international audiences.

However, as with marketing campaigns, successfully translating an e-commerce site is about more than just sticking the copy into Google Translate. The page’s content needs to be reworked to ensure that it contains the original message and brand identity, but in a way that is in line with the target customer’s cultural context – this is known as website localisation.

A good example of where skilled website localisation would need to be carried out is in the case of a US company translating their e-commerce site for a Polish audience. The US style of business is much more laid back and outgoing than in Poland, where business is still done in a more formal manner. Therefore a word-for-word translation of the original US site could be perceived as too loose or even too unprofessional by a Polish audience.

It’s therefore essential to hire a reputable translation company, such as K International, that offers professional website translation services.

Other important translation services

Aside from marketing and website translation, K International offer a number of other important translation services to businesses expanding internationally. These include:

  • Food packaging translationfood packaging is tightly constrained by international regulations. Our guaranteed legally compliant, localised translations mean that you can confidently put your packaging on a shelf anywhere in the world.
  • Legal translation serviceslegal documents, such as contracts, are an area where translation errors can lead to serious repercussions. Our legal translators have specialist knowledge of the legal industry, the nuances contained within each country’s legal system and local culture.
  • Financial translation servicesglobalisation means that businesses may now have to display their facts and figures to an international audience, a complex translation process requiring specialist expertise. Our financial translators only work in their mother tongue, and have all of the necessary experience and qualifications.
  • Medical translation servicesthe healthcare and pharmaceutical sector is also tightly constrained by legal restrictions. Text contains complex terminology, the successful translation of which can even have a bearing on human life. Our medical translations are carried out by individuals with a background in the relevant industries, as well as a wealth of experience and qualifications.
  • Technical translation servicestechnical translation is extremely specialised and deals with very complex information, data and terminology. Our technical translators have technical industry experience, as well as being experts in the target language.
  • Document translation serviceswe can offer expertise in all varieties of legal, medical, commercial and marketing documents.

If you’re expanding your business internationally, there’s a lot to consider. But get it right and there are numerous rewards, including increased revenue and sustainable long-term growth.

If your business is expanding, K International’s Interpreting and translation services can help you to speak to your international audience.

Ebook for developing international website content

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