As business increasingly crosses international borders, global sales are a huge opportunity, even for businesses you wouldn’t expect, like a local pizza shop. How do you market and make the most of overseas business opportunities?
Tricks for Expanding Overseas
1. Convert your offering to information. Shipping a pizza to China doesn’t make sense, of course, but what is marketable overseas is your knowledge about how to establish a successful pizza shop. You can create a series of how-to videos and accompanying print materials to teach entrepreneurs in China or Mexico exactly what they’ll need to do to build and market a new restaurant. Another way to convert your offering to a more shippable format is to write a book—perhaps with your Sicilian grandmother’s recipes. Don’t fret if writing isn’t your strong suit—you have the content, and you can hire a freelance writer to present that content effectively.
2. Get on Skype immediately. Like yesterday. You may not be able to travel to China to support your pizza business tutorials, but the very next best thing to physically shaking hands is a face-to-face on Skype. You’ll create a much closer connection with your international contacts. You can also use Skype for supporting materials—webinars, videos or troubleshooting.
3. Leverage your culture. The U.S. is the home of cowboys—maverick business owners with drive, focus and the willingness to take risks. Use this stereotype. Trade on your differences with the native cultures where you’re doing business. You’re offering clients an opportunity to do something different—put a pizza shop in Shanghai, for example—and it’s to your advantage to recognize the appeal of American culture. Use your available resources to differentiate yourself.
4. Play up the pen pal effect. Most international business is done via the Internet, but there’s no substitute for the thrill of receiving international snail mail. Take the time (and spend the money) to ship a piece of the U.S. to your international clients. So if you’re selling the business plan for a New York style pizza parlor, send a little replica of the Statue of Liberty for your clients to display.
5. Find a way to deal with other currencies. It’s essential that you make it easy for international clients to do business with you. Whether you use PayPal or your local bank, you need to do the groundwork and set up a reliable, secure means of processing international transactions. I was surprised, for example, to discover that there was a market for my books in Japan—a big enough market that I have a Japanese version of my website and have set up a store that easily facilitates transactions in multiple currencies. A note here: Make sure you employ great translators who have cultural knowledge about the places you’re going to do business. Simple, word-for-word translations aren’t adequate; you’ll want culturally sensitive, elegant translations.
6. Establish a local presence. After you’ve found success, you’ll want to strengthen your connection to the local community. Personal visits, a local bank account, and even a local virtual office are all indicators that you’re enthusiastic about your international clients and willing to invest in their satisfaction and community.
Why Investing Overseas Pays Off
You may think that you’ll have trouble finding a way to market yourself overseas, and you may question whether it’s worth investing the time and energy. It is. Really. Consider a couple of additional benefits (as if the increased revenue weren’t enough). Just as citizens of other countries are interested in American culture, you can leverage the appeal of other cultures in your U.S.-based business. Share your international success with your domestic clients and you’ll find ways to set yourself apart from your competitors.
Take the Macaroni Grill, for example. The founder traveled to Italy, and incorporated some Italian influences that set his dining experiences apart from his American competitors. Fresh flowers on the tables and a jug of wine enjoyed glass-by-glass on the honor system gave American diners a taste of another culture, and they loved it.
Perhaps the most important additional benefit to taking your business to other countries is the way in which diversifying your client pool offers protection from recession. If the U.S. market hits another recession and your local clients aren’t dining out as frequently, you can put a little more energy into your Chinese operations and benefit from parts of the world whose economies may be stronger. Finding a way to connect with clients all over the globe offers you diversity, additional income and cultural connections that can be beneficial both here at home and abroad.
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