Even though we know there's a huge pool of potential customers in other countries, the expense and difficulty of physically setting up shop abroad can be daunting. While the payoff might be considerable, there's no disputing the cost—in money, time and energy—of entering foreign markets.
One of the reasons we have such a global marketplace, though, is the degree to which we're connected via the internet. It only makes sense to leverage the enormous power of the internet to do business both at home and abroad.
It turns out there are a number of opportunities to expand your business globally. Consider these options for entering foreign markets that don't require you to have a passport.
1. Start selling your product on global sales platforms.
Let's say you want to expand into international markets, but aren't thrilled at the idea of having to travel, learn new languages and wade through the process of opening a business in a new country. You may want to consider selling your products through an international e-commerce platform like AliExpress or eBay.
These types of platforms can help you get your product out to foreign markets around the world. (Each has its benefits and drawbacks, so be careful to investigate thoroughly.)
Sure, you'll have to pay a portion of your proceeds to another company, but you can literally list a product for sale in minutes. It doesn't get much easier than that. And since these platforms handle order fulfillment, you can even mitigate one of the disadvantages of international trade: the hassle of personally managing international shipments.
2. Package your expertise.
Manufacturing or distributing physical products in another country certainly has its challenges. You may find yourself fretting over quality control, shipping options and shortages of raw materials.
But assuming you're a successful entrepreneur, you have something else people may be willing to pay for … your expertise.
One of the easiest ways to market your expertise is with a book, but don't worry if you're not an eloquent writer. You can hire a writer to help you express yourself. Figure out what's unusual or remarkable about your success, and get to work finding a way to help other struggling entrepreneurs find the same success.
Whether you market a book, an instructional video or a subscription to a series of tutorials, you can enter foreign markets while sitting in front of your computer.
3. Make your website make you money.
Consider embedding affiliate marketing links into your site's content. Affiliate marketing doesn't have to be tacky, and if you're actively promoting your website, it can make you a lot of money. The best part of affiliate marketing is you're not limited to a local market when you're looking for partners. You can team up with companies all over the world to cross promote your brands together!
By promoting your website and your brand via social media, you can reach an international audience, and that can mean more visitors, more clicks and more passive income for you.
4. Put your product in the mail.
While Amazon and AliExpress can be great ways to enter international markets, they're not ideal for every product. Unless you're selling something that's produced in bulk—like books, kitchen gadgets or T-shirts—big international websites may not be your best option.
But that doesn't mean foreign markets are closed to you. It may just mean you'll need to DIY by marketing directly to consumers.
Marketing directly to customers in foreign markets can be a fantastic opportunity, especially if you have a niche offering. If what you do is unique, there are probably buyers for it from all over the world. Artisan, handmade goods are particularly suitable for direct mail order business—you can charge a premium price to help offset the time and expense of dealing with international shipping. Whether you make artwork out of vintage silverware, carve chess pieces from recycled wood or make coasters from record labels, your marketplace can be much bigger than just the U.S.
Social media is often the key for independently marketing your work, as the proliferation of special interest groups shows no sign of stopping. If you can get in contact with your ideal international customers on Facebook or Instagram, it can be just like sending a catalogue—without the printing and shipping costs.
It's never been easier to reach foreign markets than it is today, and the global buy-in for social media also means that it's never been more affordable to reach out to people all over the world. Whether you sell your wares on a well-known website, turn yourself into a brand with a book about your niche or market your one-of-a-kind product directly to consumers, it's quite possible to reach customers in foreign marketplaces without ever leaving your hometown.
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