Three months ago, and after much debate, my company, ADYOULIKE decided to make the move to the US. Expanding meant obvious advantages like more profits and wider profile reach, however there were several things we had to keep in mind when deciding how to make the move.
Below are five things to keep at the back of your mind if you’re thinking of taking your company global.
- Look before you leap
Businesses should never do anything without knowing their audiences. And while you may be established in a certain country or territory, you must approach new markets with the same methodology.
The first step in this process, before even visiting your chosen area of expansion, is to conduct a comprehensive piece of market and customer research focused on your targeted countries. The importance of this step cannot be underestimated, and you should spend a considerable amount of time (a few months at least) completing your research. Framing your research as a SWOT analysis is a great way to include industry standards, competitor analysis and prospect profiling into your plans. Look at general trends not specific to your industry as well as potentially relevant events. For example, if you’re a UK based company looking to expand to the EU, you’ll need to take Brexit timelines into account and examine how this could affect things like recruitment or trade barriers.
- Network to get work
Generating new business leads and prospects can be incredibly time consuming. If you’ve built your business from scratch at home, it means you probably have quite a strong network of support.
Because people more often tend to work internationally, think about which contacts can be of help with your expansion. Do some digging to identify existing and potential partners before approaching them for their help. Even if they can’t do anything themselves, if the relationship is good, chances are good they’ll act as a springboard to someone who might be able to assist in your outreach.
Utilizing contacts is a great way to jumpstart your experience in a country, and can help you enter a new market smoothly.
- Make Adjustments
Whatever strategy got you to success at home will not necessarily work in new markets. Using a blanket approach may seem easy and quick, chances are it won’t actually be so in the long run. As difficult as starting your business was, expanding will be just as difficult and is not the time to rest on your laurels or cut corners. If you want to build on existing strategies, go for it! Just be sure to test these in areas you’re expanding to and then personalize accordingly – this might be as simple as creating a new website or something more intensive like re-formatting pitching and marketing materials.
- Flexibility is key
After you’ve finished your research and compiled your insights, it’s time to launch! The best advice I can give here is this: prepare for a bumpy ride. Expansion, like most things in business, is never totally smooth, and managing your own expectations will help you act sensibly and flexibly in a new environment.
- Put boots on the ground
If possible, visit and live in whatever country you’re planning on expanding to, if only for a short time. Doing this is critical to establishing an approach for the country in question, and helps you understand your new audiences. You’ll also need to hire new, local professionals to support you in your expansion. Gaining knowledge from locals will provide insight to your approach that you, as an outsider, may not fully be aware of. If you’re within senior management, don’t rely on emails, calls or ad hoc meetings to establish meaningful business relationships – go and get involved in the territory to build up relationships from the ground up.
What all these tips add up to is this: just because you’ve been successful establishing your company in one place doesn’t mean this success will repeat itself. Expanding your business internationally will be hard work and will require preparation and flexibility. Stick with it and you will see returns on your dedication and investment.