Understanding new customs, business etiquette and protocol of the international market can be a daunting task – making your global expansion difficult. Follow your basic ABC’s and get some pointers on how to enter the new market successfully.
A. Alliance. Join forces with foreign partners that are doing similar business to you. Native companies will already have market intelligence and brand awareness and a strong influence over the local market.
B. Buying behavior. Are your customers impulse buyers or do they need time to research for their purchases? Do they make purchases from their mobile device or their desktop? Once you understand what motivates your customers and how you can influence them, you can create segmented content that address their opportunities and challenges.
C. Customers. They are most important to your business! What products or services do they like? What are their pain-points? Understanding your customers will help you to sell to them easier.
D. Demographics. Your customers demographic data will give you a lot of information on what services and products they prefer. Knowing their age, income, job role, industry, region, etc. will help you segment your market.
E. Etiquette. Business etiquette differs in each country. Educate yourself on the customs and etiquette of your destination country. How are dinner meetings conducted? Is gift giving considered polite or bribery? What are the verbal salutations and physical greetings?
F. Finances. Sit down with a local finance resource and budget for all the costs you forecast: computer supplies, utilities, rent, employee salary, telecom, express mail, etc. Make sure they also specialize in international transactions.
G. Geotargeting. Do not assume that your international web visitors will click on the localization flag on your website to change the language. Geotarget your website to the host country’s domain so readers have the localized web content.
H. Holidays. When working between country boarders, make sure you mark down the public and religious holidays in those countries. Schedule work deadlines and deliverables around public holidays so not to infer with the holiday time.
I. Idea. Your opinion matters. Never underestimate the power of a good idea – whether it is outlandish, wacky or downright crazy. Encourage your team to think outside the box and search for unique solutions.
J. Jobs. Which roles are needed for a successful expansion? Define proper job specs for your existing employees in headquarters and create a blueprint for the most crucial roles to fill in your new geography.
K. Knowledge. Do a proper assessment of what you do and do not know. Understanding where you have gaps in the new territory is a good step to expansion.
L. Localization. The majority of European business executives speak English as a second language, but you still need to localize your content in their native tongue. Remember to factor in metaphors, pictures, colors, etc.
M. Mistakes. Prepare to make a lot of them in the beginning. Try to plan as much as possible to avoid potential issues. If needed, create a crisis management plan for serious issues.
N. Network. Build a stable network of vendors, distributors, business partners, industry leaders and friends – and leverage them! During your expansion, their valuable input will guide you in the right direction.
O. Objective. This should be a huge part of your plan and defined well in advance. Before entering the international market, you need to set your main objective and attainable goals to determine your success. Are you aiming to increase profits? Expand your team? Are you planning to diminish a competing product?
P. Persona. Not all contacts should be treated equally. Define your contacts buying persona. Once this is defined, you can create segmented content around specific pain points for different personas.
Q. Quality. Whatever you’re selling, you’ll need to make sure your services or products are of high value and quality. Understand the market demand regarding quality and set the price accordingly.
R. Referral. These are the best prospects for your new business. When a happy customer passes along your contacts details, you can expect a motivated prospect that’s ready to make a sale to show up.
S. Shipping. Familiarize yourself with direct and indirect methods of your import and export strategy, as well as the trade barriers for each country.
T. Taxes. No matter where you set up shop, you’ll be required to pay taxes. Familiarize yourself with the tax structure.
U. Unhappy customer. Deal with unhappy customer immediately. Listen and sympathize with them. Once you understand their issue, work together to find a common solution. And don’t forget to apologize – it goes a long way.
V. Vision. Set your vision and start your global expansion plan at least two years before your market penetration. It takes patience and trust to enter the market successfully. Win the trust and credibility of your international customer, vendors and partners.
W. Website. Make sure your website is localized and clearly explains what your company does. Your website will be the first impression your customers and partners will gain about your business and the main tool in generating business.
X. X-sell. Look at your current customer base and explore the opportunities to cross-sell into global operations on their side. Try to leverage the existing relationships you already have stateside.
Y. YES we can! Have a YES attitude and go above and beyond to satisfy your clients. Customer service is not always held at such a high standard in European countries as in the US and Asia. Going the extra-mile will set you apart from your competition.
Z. Zen. With all the stress that can come along with an international expansion – meeting payroll, hiring and firing employees, developing relationships – make sure to find time to yourself. Meditating through these difficulties will help you find balance.