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Global Secrets: 4 Strategies for Expanding Into Foreign Markets

The idea of expanding your business into foreign markets can be an intimidating one. But there are a few off-the-beaten-path strategies that can help you reduce the risk of global expansion.
March 19, 2018

The global marketplace isn't a myth. We have greater reach and ability to find new consumers in foreign markets than we ever have before. All it takes is an entrepreneur who's willing to take a few chances…or that's what we'd like to think that's all it takes. 

But there's more to success in foreign markets than simply buying a plane ticket and learning how to say “please” and “thank you” in another language.

If you're doing your homework—that is, reading up on effective strategies before you actually dip your toe in foreign markets—you're very, very wise. But if you haven't, don't be intimidated! There could be business out there for you, if you know a secret or two. 

These four often-overlooked strategies could help you in your global expansion.

1. Think small.

It may sound counterintuitive to think small when you're contemplating opening up business in foreign markets, but hear me out. 

What if you were thinking about manufacturing and launching a new product right here in the good old U.S. of A? Would you skip the prototype and go right for the most elaborate version of your product, complete with all the bells and whistles? 

No! You'd start with an MVP, or a minimum viable product. You'd streamline your process and test market a simple version of your brainchild. Only then would you be able to determine if folks are willing to plunk down cold hard cash for your product. 

Finding a partner in your new foreign market of choice can be a fantastic way to explore global expansion.

Likewise, whether you're marketing a product or a service, you don't have to begin your global expansion with an elaborate offering.  

Starting out with an MVP can help you gauge reception in foreign markets. You'll be able to determine whether your offering will succeed. You can set appropriate pricing and get valuable feedback all by thinking small.

2. Go global right here at home.

One of the big challenges entrepreneurs face when they launch a company in foreign markets is learning to work within a different culture. Values, customs and language differences can make it hard to market yourself effectively. 

But if you think about it, you may have real opportunities to reach across cultural borders right here in the melting pot of the United States. Taking the time to reach out to immigrant communities can give you great insight into effective strategies for launching your offering in foreign markets. 

I'm sure your business welcomes diverse customers, but you might want to consider reaching out directly to people from other cultures. Not only can you begin your cultural education before you invest a ton of money in a different country, but you're also opening your home-grown business up to a host of new clients.

3. Cater to expats in foreign markets.

This secret flips the script of the last one. Instead of looking for diverse cultures in the U.S., why not build a business that caters—at least in part—to American citizens living abroad? 

Whether you offer expats a taste of home in a literal or a figurative sense, there are tons of U.S. citizens living abroad who would relish the opportunity to do business with someone who speaks their language. 

Tapping into expat communities can also give you great resources for bridging cultural divides since you'll have easy access to people who've lived abroad for a number of years.

4. Find a local partner.

If there's one thing I've learned as an entrepreneur, it's that I don't have to figure out everything all by myself. There's a globe full of wise, experienced people out there, and I'm always happy to partner with folks who know their stuff. 

Starting a company in foreign markets is such a daunting task in terms of legalities, language and culture. Finding a partner in your new foreign market of choice can be a fantastic way to explore global expansion.

Partnerships can take a number of forms. You could invest in another company and spend some time seeing how things get done in another country. You could work with a vendor from a complementary industry, giving you the ability to offer your products to their clients. You could even hire a local as a consultant, so they can be the expert who'll show you the ropes. The possibilities are endless and the upside may be huge.

There's no single right way to expand globally and start doing business in foreign markets. But being flexible and willing to explore multiple routes and possibilities can help improve your chances of a successful international venture.

Read more articles on market research.

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