Every business hopes to one-day grow and expand.
The extent of your ambitions will depend on a number of factors and may well change over time. Many businesses cannot envisage a situation where they would ever need to even consider expanding their operations when they first launch. However, as your success becomes clearer and your understanding of your business and the wider market becomes more sophisticated, you may well find yourself thinking the previously unthinkable.
Growing your business on the international stage will, quite literally, open up whole new worlds of opportunity. If you are able to plan and execute your expansion the right way, there is no limit to what you can achieve. Of course, this is easier said than done - even the most astute entrepreneur will find a major international expansion to be a difficult undertaking.
If international expansion is going to work for your business, the seeds of success will be planted long before you consider the move. Identifying whether and when these elements are in place will be key to making your expansion work. The following tips can be used by any business that thinks an outward expansion might be on the cards in the future. These tips will help you to both identify whether it’s the right move for your business, and help you make it the right way.
Understand Your Place in the International Market
If you are going to make a success of your business on the international market, you will need to have a firm understanding of exactly what your place in it is. A product or service that sells well in one country isn’t necessarily going to perform just as well elsewhere. You need to be able to identify the key markets for your business, as well as what exactly makes them a key market.
Sometimes you will want to break into a market for reasons other than massive sales. For example, if you work in an industry that is subject to heavy regulation in some territories, the often transient nature of these regulations means that businesses need to be constantly vigilant and ensure that they react to change promptly.
When a business is just starting out, it might only offer a small portion of the products and services that it plans on offering customers when it has matured. By the time you are considering making an overseas expansion and launching your business into new territories, you need to be much more certain about your offerings. There’s still room to expand the services that you provide, but by the time you are considering an international expansion, you need to already have a solid identity for your business.
Cautious is Good, But Not Too Cautious
You should never make any major business decisions without carefully thinking them over first. Unless something needs to be done in a time-sensitive manner, you should always afford yourself whatever time you need to make sure that what you are doing is the right thing and that you have a solid plan for going about it.
When it comes to expanding your business, regardless of whether it is overseas or not, rushing the process can have serious consequences. Many a successful business has collapsed under its own weight following an unsuccessful attempt at expanding. Even attempting an expansion will require you to commit some serious money and resources. If these ultimately end up going to waste because you failed to plan properly then that can easily represent a large enough hit that it destroys the rest of your business.
You need to proceed with caution, but you also have to make a judgement call at some point - you shouldn’t rush into an expansion, but you also shouldn’t put it off for too long out of an abundance of caution. The longer your plans for expansion hang in limbo, the more chance there is of them becoming outdated and effectively useless to you. If this occurs, you will have to restart the costly and time-consuming process of reformulating your plan.
Sometimes, depending on the nature of your business and where it currently operates, there will be an obvious choice of location for your expansion. However, there are also many businesses for whom the choice will not be nearly so clear cut. This is both a blessing and a curse - it is a blessing in that you have the freedom to choose from a variety of locations and decide which is best for your business; it is a curse because sometimes the scale of the choice is immense.
You might be at the helm of a business that is successful enough to consider expanding abroad, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that you know exactly where you should be aiming to head to. You will have no doubt researched your local market before you opened your business initially, so hopefully, you at least have some idea of what you need to look for.
Naturally, you want somewhere that can offer you legal security - meaning that you are confident that you will be able to run your business without any outside interference from local governments. You will also want to choose somewhere, if possible, that is culturally relatively similar to your current location. If you already have experience in taking an existing business into a completely different culture and market, you might feel confident enough to attempt a dramatic change.
There’s nothing wrong with expanding into markets that are radically different to your existing ones, but you need to be aware of the additional challenges and difficulties involved.
Refining Your Location
When you are making a decision as to where you will expand your business to, it is often helpful to begin as broadly as you can and then consider things more granularly. For example, you might be considering making an investment in the UK. But where in the UK should you invest? There are four constituent countries in the UK - England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland. Of these, Scotland, with access to the ripcord that is independence, looks like the most promising investment target for the foreseeable future.
Once you have narrowed your search down from the UK to Scotland, you can then consider exactly where in Scotland to invest. For most businesses, the Scottish capital city - Edinburgh - is the best investment choice. Now you can focus on the important stuff like securing appropriate premises for your business. You may well want to visit your chosen destination to find premises, but you can just as easily look online.
For example, Amos Beech offers office space in Edinburgh and their website is detailed enough that you can confidently make your decision from afar. Browsing their website, you will be able to see examples of the businesses that are currently using them, as well as some of the truly stunning architecture in the office space they offer.
Stick to the Plan
Once you have formulated a solid plan, reviewed and revised it and settled on a final version, you should have total confidence in it. If there is any part of your plan that you are uncertain about, you should do everything you can to reduce or eliminate that uncertainty. There will always be some level of risk involved and you cannot control all of the circumstances you enter into.
You need to be very careful about trying to improvise or come up with new solutions on-the-fly. This might be necessary sometimes, and sometimes you won’t have any choice in the matter, but as a guiding principle, you should do everything that you can to remain within the confines of your initial plan.
Conduct an SEO Blitz
Expanding your business into new territories will often mean learning to operate in another language. Even among English-speaking nations, of which there are many, there are some important differences in the way that the language is used. If you want your local SEO efforts in your new market to be effective, then you will need to learn how to speak the local language.
Needless to say, you should be looking to hire local people to help you with local marketing; never make the mistake of assuming that you have some kind of innate connection with a place or people - nothing trumps actual experience living among them.
You shouldn’t wait long after you land in your new market to begin your initial SEO blitz. Your initial aim is saturation, especially if the majority of people in this new market are unaware of your business.
If you have a successful business on your hands, it is only natural to want to grow it and build it into something bigger. Expanding overseas is a rite of passage for many successful businesses. Lots of small business owners never contemplate expanding internationally but find themselves eventually doing just that. Make sure that you properly plan for your international growth and don’t try to bite off more than you can chew. While expanding internationally represents a golden opportunity, it will still be an enormous challenge.
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