For many SMEs, the idea of expanding their business to an international market can often lead to more questions rather than answers. When looking to expand your business overseas, it's vital to be flexible and invest personal time, as well as business efforts, into exploring a new market. Here are some top tips on market research and business travel that can help take the stress out of expanding your business.
The great news about business is that it never stands still. Regardless of the industry, businesses are encouraged to change, to move with the times, and to expand beyond their owner’s wildest dreams. With international investment on the up there has never been a better time for SMEs to seek connections abroad – but just how difficult is it to branch out in such a way?
Getting started: Exploring the international market
There are a number of difficulties that small to medium-sized enterprises, or SMEs, face when attempting to tackle international markets, many involving the variety of ways that business is conducted elsewhere in the world.
Administration difficulties, for example, could stop many smaller companies in their tracks; there are so many regulations to take note of, a great deal of red tape to clear, and paperwork to get to grips with, that breaking a foreign market can be incredibly time-consuming. Communication can also be a huge problem, even if both parties speak the same language. Certain nuances and dialectical subtleties will change swathes of dialogue while attempting to negotiate via email, which can create confusion under the simplest of circumstances, and suddenly becomes a game-changer. Cultural misunderstandings are an unfortunate, yet frequent occurrence, particularly for less-experienced SMEs. When attempting to link to international markets, SMEs must be mindful of business culture elsewhere in the world.
Other issues that smaller businesses could face include difficulty in understanding consumer preference, bureaucracy, and the mammoth task of competing against bigger, and better-known, brands that have long conquered the industry across the world. Facing such challenges can be daunting, but also incredibly gratifying; there is a way to make it in international markets, as long as businesses have the time, and resources, to tackle each complication.
So, how can SMEs even begin to tackle the daunting task of heading overseas? Research is an absolute must; SMEs must be prepared to analyse local and international business trends, take the time to study their sector, and look at economic and business forecasts for the foreseeable future. Many businesses choose to outsource their market research, which can provide a host of benefits such as local knowledge, trade speciality, and experience. Others, meanwhile, may attend trade shows and conferences in an attempt to strike influential conversations. Such gatherings can yield a wealth of direct, and indirect, business opportunities.
Moreover, networking is vital. Companies should consider building a social media presence, connecting with their contemporaries from around the world, and using these contacts to build a reputation outside of their own country. Entering international markets may not necessarily involve rebranding, but it’s essential that SMEs understand how they can appeal to clients, and to customers. For this reason, selling under a white label is a low-cost, popular choice; this allows foreign buyers to market the product in their own way, which, in turn, introduces the brand to entirely different audiences slowly, but surely. Selling in such a way is about increasing sales and driving opportunities, which are both vital if a business is hoping to make it in a foreign market.
Travelling for business: Heading into the international markets
As well as being able to talk the talk, SMEs must demonstrate an ability to walk the walk when it comes to the international business circuit; it isn’t enough to simply know about how business is done these days. International business travel is one of the only ways for SMEs to really get themselves out there, enabling them to attend face to face meetings, conduct their own research, and make good, reliable contacts while they’re away.
Conferences and trade shows are held in every industry, all around the world, and those that are destined for great things will find the time to visit a good selection throughout the year. More than that, though, business travel enables companies to immerse their leaders in the culture they’re selling into. Rather than merely knowing the laws of the land, SMEs should be able to communicate clearly and hold a good understanding of culture and customs. The ability to captivate, and integrate with, international leaders is all about creating and sustaining relationships. All of that said, heading out on an international trip can be somewhat daunting, particularly for someone who’s never travelled, or done business, abroad before. Research, once again, is vital, as is an understanding of the place a person is heading to; they should attempt to learn basic phrases in the language, and thoroughly plan an itinerary and transport.
One positive aspect is that travelling for business is much simpler these days, particularly when it comes to accommodation. Indeed, with international vacation apartments available in almost every city around the world it has never been easier to unpack, do business, and head back home. Rather than living out of hotels, many business owners now enjoy the luxury of their own accommodation, allowing them to conduct their work in a manner that truly suits them. International business travel is a necessity for those hoping to make it big outside of their own territory, but it didn’t be a miserable task.
At a first look, the act of linking into international markets is a daunting, almost unobtainable one. It is essential for SMEs to recognize the potential of moving abroad, though, and to be prepared to take chances, push further, and leave their comfort zones. The world is so much smaller these days, or so it seems; why shouldn’t a business, no matter how small or large, take full advantage of that fact?