Expanding internationally is no longer for the privileged few big businesses. Today, small businesses everywhere are able to expand globally, and with nothing more than the help of the internet.
Planting the Seed
If you have ever been apprehensive about expanding your small business abroad, you are not alone. With the amount of startup businesses that have popped up within the last few years, globalization has become somewhat of a trend– a trend that you will certainly want to take advantage of.
Websites such as theSmall Business Learning Center or Export Development Canada, are great places to start to find information on exporting your products or services. If you’re not quite sure where to start, look for sample outlines that you can reference to help you write an export plan (or come and talk to Write Ahead). You may also want to take advantage of online training programs, money saving tips, and even applications available to determine whether or not your business is qualified for a loan.
Forget the Travel
As a micro-business, you’re already operating on a small enough scale, and are not likely looking to purchase more property any time soon for another location. Fortunately, reaching a global market doesn’t require you to do much of anything on a physical scale, especially with VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol). With this kind of voice technology, a small business from the U.S. can easily call India via the internet for mere pennies, allowing you to connect through IP addresses rather than costly phone lines.
Play By the Rules
It’s a no-brainer that if your take your business overseas in search for more clientele, your customer base will grow, which obviously directly translates to increased sales. However, depending on where you expand to, there may be some different rules to follow.
For example, in Japan, there is a packaging recycling law in which manufacturers are required to pay for all containers to be recycled. So, if your company is based in the U.S. and wants to export into Japan, be prepared for these types of expenses.
Germany also has a recycling program, known as “Duales System Deutschland,” which requires the use of the “Green Dot” symbol. Legally, packaging materials sold in Germany do not need to carry the Green Dot symbol; however it is almost impossible to market a product in Germany without it. Once again, an importer would pay a license fee to a packaging company to provide this specific requirement.
There are also ongoingLegal Considerations to be aware of. A good example of this is intellectual property. With the world becoming more connected and smaller through the internet, it is very important to protect your property, which you can do so through copyrights, patents, and trademarks. When your business properly protects itself, a legal dispute will be easier to be resolved.
With the internet playing such a key role in global expansion, an easy-to-use website is a necessity. Think of your website as some type of a window display in a storefront. The more clean and well-designed the display, the more likely people are to visit your store. The same thing can be said about your website: cluttered websites are passed over 99% of the time.
When you create a website, it gives you the opportunity to tell your company’s story, which is just the beginning of your worldwide brand. Not only does it reveal to your visitors as to what your company’s value are; most importantly, it shows the world what you have to offer.
If your site isn’t able to clearly state the who, what and why of your business, you can’t expect to gain much more than you have now. And if your plan is to go global, the next step to take with your site will be to make it available in multiple languages, as eliminating the language barrier between regions is a must.
Furthermore, while fine-tuning your website to accommodate your new audience(s), it’s often that businesses forget about images and color, and their symbolism. The color white, for example, is associated with death and funerals in India, which is quite different from the U.S., where white is often connected to happiness and weddings.
Making it Stick
While there are many concerns a micro-business will have in terms of expanding globally, just know that taking your products and services to another country doesn’t have to be all that difficult. With the elimination of travel, global expansion is now easier than ever before, and more companies are jumping on the worldwide bandwagon.
If you want to take the next step for your business and stay in the competition, thinking on an international level may be just the solution for more customers, revenue and efficiency.
Sloan McKinney is an online writer with a background in business communications, and her writing for 1800NumberNow.com’s blog covers everything from globalization to education. As someone who has worked for small businesses before, she believes that in order to grow with the competition, international growth is a must!