If I had to give one piece of advice to those who wish to go global, it would be:
Commit wholly to your global brand…being a bit global, doesn’t really work
Networking with similar businesses that have gone global is a great idea, and when you do this, you will probably hear that looking for the most important global problems that need to be solved, will always spell massive potential…but even then, it can be more challenging than expected. There are some problems where being big is an advantage and some where it is not.
Whether you are big and muscled or small and nimble, you need to know where your offerings fit in.
Correcting problems internationally is far more challenging than dealing nationally. Although expanding to a global market is risky, strive to reduce risk wherever possible. That means:
- Knowing your channels of handling and distribution intimately
- Having dynamic business systems in place that can deal in diverse situations
- Designing even your niche offerings to satisfy a broad scale of appeal.
Production & Delivery
If you are dealing in physical goods, the (financial and physical) barriers to entry can be far greater than if you are net-based. Evaluating your budget and cash flow situations so that you know you are capable of supporting the new demands that will be placed on your money, is key. All things considered, the biggest financial consideration for businesses dealing in physical goods will be shipping. It is very expensive, particularly if your overseas buyers are asking for price breaks that will further impact your costs. In terms of controlling and managing the safety of your goods, it’s important to note that even with the big air shippers, in the more remote locations your fragile or small(er) package may be handed over to a local carrier for the last leg of the journey and actually end up stacked alongside large shipping crates and suitcases. Because of this you may require overseas shipping insurance, or even hiring a freight forwarder. Customs and border operations is an integral part of the shipping process, and knowing both your fixed and variable costs from production through to delivery is critical.
Flexible Payment Options
Consider setting up your eCommerce platform to accept multiple payment options, particularly if you are selling large ticket items. Not all people in all countries have access to credit cards, so wire transfers and miscellaneous methods of money transfer must be integrated into your system. Special payment terms, discounts, and longer credit extensions may also be requested by your global clients. If you do opt to offer payment plans, you may also need a system that will monitor “holds” and “activate” deliveries once payment in full has been received.
Quality and Price
Quality means something different in every country… ONE SIZE DOES NOT FIT ALL. But make sure your offerings are so solid they can withstand even the toughest, most scrutinizing cross-continent consumer. The value of the North American Dollar(s) vs. the Chinese Yuan Renminbi, Pakistan Rupee, Chilean Peso, Serbian Dinar or South African Rand, is not always relative. Particularly if you are selling to the end user; sometimes this individual has been saving for months or even years to purchase your product. Wages are so low in some countries, that this purchase is quite literally a lifetime investment for them. So your offerings simply must not disappoint.
Understanding Cultural Demands
This requires research, yes, but also dynamic, flexible business processes that can accommodate the unknown, because you will definitely be learning as you go. For example, as touched on previously, a shopping cart that is locked into strict business processes will become problematic in the global market. As well, proper business etiquette in the many countries that you want to do business in is key, but how will you learn them all? The best way to handle these wide and varied circumstances, is a good dose of humility. Use it liberally. Respect that you are the outsider and that you must not only prove that your offerings are their right choice, but that you personally are worthy and deserving of their business; nurturing relationships with your international client is very important. Installing some kind of auto response system to follow up on your leads will also be important now, because the sales cycle can be considerably longer with an international client. Often email is the first line of communication, so be sure your electronic signature has all the information on your company they’ll need, such as a tag line, link to your website, and all your social network channels.
Next week- Part 2!
Global Search and Connect
Become a Walking, Talking Human
Word of Mouth
10 Bonus Points – The (not so) small stuff really matters