HIGH FIVE & Be International by Marina Rowe
We all can imagine how challenging it can be to enter a new international market especially for small and medium-size businesses where you mainly do everything yourself. These are 5 main sections to take under consideration to be well prepared for your international journey:
It’s important to have everything in place to avoid unnecessary risks and additional expenses. For this article, I also talked to 2 business entrepreneurs who shared their stories and experience of working globally. Please meet:
Katie Sykes is the Founder of KATHERENA www.katherena.com
The company’s set up process started in 2015, she had an idea inspired by her father’s company. Katie creates stylish, cruelty-free bags for all occasions, for women with busy lifestyles: “Our products are made with high-quality, ethically sourced materials that are 100% animal and cruelty-free. This is a vegan bag.”
Nancy Steidl is the Director of the business mission www.thebusinessmission.com
“We are a consultancy firm, which specializes in supporting, mentoring and guiding new start-ups and existing businesses into profitable and working businesses.”
“I have offered business support for over 20 years; however, the business mission was formally launched as an entity this year. Creating a written business plan is important when turning an idea into a profitable and successful business. Many individuals have an image in their heads of what they want to set up as a business, however, writing it down on paper is key, which in turn, offers a “visual” of what your business needs to achieve.
In addition, existing businesses, which were trading, yet on a financial roll coaster ride, making an unsubstantial amount of revenue because when they started they missed out completing and creating a business plan, we support and guide them with completing a business plan. It is an incredibly important aspect to start a business. This is the core reason why I set up this company – to help other place foundation and healthy structure within their business to succeed.
Once completed, we aim to help the business owner with executing the plan with items such as social media, marketing, and PR, which are already within the business plan when completed.
1.Do your research. What to take under consideration?
(prices, competitors, current market situation and trends)
|Distribution channels research
(B2C and/or B2B)
|Risks and strategy|
(Strengths, Opportunities, Weaknesses, Threats)
|Taxes and legal regulations||Competitive advantages|
(Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Time-based)
|Business plan and funds||Consultation with industry experts and focus group|
- Search for industry statistics and government information about your target country or region.
- Talk to your potential clients and partners, it can be arranged with a help of a focus group face-to-face or online.
- Evaluate your needs, set up SMART goals, assess risks and identify new opportunities.
- Speak to people who know your target market, find a freelance consultant who would share the insights of the current market condition.
- Make a list of your competitive advantages and complete SWOT analysis.
“I set up meetings to create my business plan and received the funding to set up the business. In January 2016 I went to China to find a supplier for the bags. It took nearly a year to get the products right. It was back and forth: changing samples and adding things. In May 2017 I launched the company online through the website originally and now I sell the bags via shops in Scotland and the UK as well as via online retailers and my dad’s company. Also, I sell the products through the website to other countries: the USA, Australia, and Europe. In terms of a strategy I want to have a physical store in the US and Australia and I’m working on it now. Regarding the strategy I know what I need to do with the shops, I just must research, research, research and contact them. When we speak about individual customers, for example in China, it’s where I’m stuck. I don’t know how to approach the individuals.”
“The business mission is based in the UK; however, we have clients all over the world. We guide individuals in completing business plans. By our research based on Google Analytics, I can see where international client interest is coming from for us. For example, individuals from India and China may have found the business mission via the Internet. Also, we have gained clients through Facebook page, Twitter and Instagram. Facebook offers analytics options to show what countries are looking at the business mission’s Facebook page.
When you do contract work, let’s say in India, the British laws as in India, are quite similar (under the London Declaration, India agreed, when it became a republic in January 1950, it would accept the British Sovereign as a “symbol” of the free association of its independent member nations and as such the Head of the Commonwealth). We have worked with clients from Saudi Arabia which was a great learning opportunity for us because UK laws were completely different from Saudi Arabian. When they signed a contract to work with the business mission based in the UK, it was my responsibility to make sure the contract was governed under UK laws, as the business mission as an entity is based in the UK, for us to work together, and they understood this. I would highly recommend taking the time to understand the laws of those countries you are about to do business with. Understanding and respecting their laws about business in their countries is key ”
2. Get familiar with cultural aspects. What to take under consideration?
|Cultural communities||Business etiquette||Cultural events|
|Language||Online resources||Cross-cultural experts|
|Cultural traditions and heritage||Books||Cultural dimensions|
- Collect as much information as possible about the target culture, join cultural communities, read books and speak to cross-cultural professionals. It’s important to remember that culture can be different from region to region within one country. The cultural aspects affect relationship building, time perception, the negotiation process, and so many other factors.
- Make sure you know at least some basic words in their language, have some knowledge about cultural traditions and cultural heritage.
- Research about business etiquette if you meet people in person, it’s vital to be aware of dress code, eye-contact, body language, gift-giving, and other local business rules. It’s recommended to find out what topics are the most popular to discuss and which subjects would be best to avoid, especially at the earlier stage of relationships building.
- Avoid stereotypes!
“The experience of choosing a supplier from Hong Kong was very different, it’s where a cultural difference was. I’m lucky to have good relationships with my current supplier but it was not easy to start with. The initial process of getting the product was very difficult especially getting them on time, I went through three different suppliers. The other two suppliers were not good in communication and not good in quality. They were slow in their replies and very blunt, I took a translator to speak to them. I went to China together with my dad as he knew some suppliers and he helped me. I wouldn’t have done it on my own! In terms of the Chinese market, I haven’t sold my products to anyone in China yet, but they are in my list of targets. I know that Chinese market loves the product, I had a very good response from them so I’m going to try this market. I have done trade shows and they definitely had the biggest response as lots people approached me.”
“I’m originally from Canada, however, based in the UK for twenty years now. My first experience with international markets was organic. Someone in India seen the website online and was keen to learn more about it. Depending on where you live and want to set up a global business, start where you are based first, then expand out. For example, if you are in China, India or Russia build your foundation there and then build globally outwards. As for the cultural differences, simply be respectful to all cultures and become understanding of their methods of business practice too. There is a time difference as well which might be challenging, however, you adapt and take this into account. Observe and do your research when you do decide to expand internationally.”
3. Connect to your target group. What to take under consideration?
|Social media||Exhibitions, trade show and events||Embassies and Consulates|
|Professional groups||International social groups||Online Marketplaces|
|Online forums||Articles and blogs||Analytics|
- Find out what social platforms that are the most popular in your target country, it will help to reach your new potential clients and partners quicker.
- Define your target audience and educate them about your product or service. It can be done via articles, posts, online discussions as well as exhibitions and trade shows.
- If you don’t have a website or would like to place your product or service for a sale, search for local online Marketplaces. For example, Amazon and eBay are popular in Europe, Canada and Australia; tmall.com in China, ozon.ru in Russia, rakuten.com in Japan, mercadolibre.com and traetelo.com in Latin America and so on.
- Think about different ways how your potential client or partner can find your business, you should be “easily searchable”!
“The target audience is women between 28 – 40 years old, roughly saying 35 years old. In terms of the countries, they are from the US, the USA, and Australia. They are quite similar in terms of the approach to new clients.
Regarding trade shows, the first one was not very successful as it was a big investment for me. It was time when I just started, and I was already in debts, so I borrowed money for that and it didn’t really pay off. However, it seems everyone liked the product and it was a good learning experience. The best thing is to connect to people on social media, to talk to people on Facebook posts and in Facebook groups as well as on Instagram. I share my story, my products, and my journey, this is how people find me and my website. I’m also on LinkedIn, I don’t use it very much but probably I should use it more often. “
“As mentioned, we use mainly Google Analytics for tracking information worldwide with the business mission. If I see there are many individuals from Canada looking at the business mission’s website, then I would market the business further to the Canadian market by attending network events targeting the Canadian market, finding out if they have the interest to learn more about our business and how we are able to work together.
I attend many networking events; worldwide events and the business mission organizes events for their clients. For example, we may have clients in a certain country with an interest in opening a new location in another country. In this circumstance, we may offer them information about a lawyer they might need, taxes and the current situation in the designated country, help find a venue for their business launch for the client to start their business effectively.
We have clients through Facebook page, Twitter and Instagram. For example, a school from Africa found us on Facebook and, of course, a world of mouth helps a lot.”
4. Localize your business, website, products and services. What to take under consideration?
|Translation support||Local marketing||Legal regulations|
|Payment options||Export and Import regulations||Website localization|
|Trademark||Shipping costs||Local branding|
- Make a research about what will be different when you start to run your business internationally: payment options, transactions fees, shipping and export/import procedures, local marketing, trademark, translation services and so on.
- When you collect the information about the country’s currency, it’s recommended to double check the currency value fluctuation as you might need to take it under consideration when you set up your price or negotiate.
- Check your brand name if it means anything in the local language, brand, and its colour scheme, there is a certain association with colours in some countries. Also, if you have a chance, use a local domain for your website.
“First, I had the payment option available only British Sterling as most of my clients were from the UK and then I thought I really need to have an option to encourage the more international sale. I paid to have a multicurrency option available on the website so now people from other countries can select their own currency. I also have different payment options. Now the website is only in English but in future, I would like to have the second option.
The short-term plan is to find a shop in the US and a shop in Australia as it will help to reduce the shipping costs. I would have someone over there to distribute the products, in this case, it would be cheaper for them and me to cover the shipping costs.”
“We have a translator for when it’s needed. The interesting view is many people are keen to speak English from other non-speaking English countries because they want to practice their English. Majority of our clients do speak English. The translator may help with different markets such as Chinese, maybe with the Indian market; however, from our experience, they are often keen to speak English. Also, the wonderful thing is Google Translate helps with conversations!
Regarding overseas payment, we use TransferWise, which is fantastic because they convert the currency for you. It is also quite efficient and reliable. For example, our clients in Serbia, when they transfer funds over, they pay by US Dollars and it is then converted to Great British Pounds. Trademarking is an important aspect of one’s business. I would recommend trademarking your business in the country you originate your business from initially. From there, depending on what country you may expand your business to, then use yours originate trademark as the basic to trademark the other countries you may need. Be ready to go through a lengthy process, however, quite rewarding in the end. It took us three years in India for one of my other businesses to get the trademark accepted and one year in the USA. Without an office in India, we had to recruit a lawyer in India directly to help us get the Indian trademark through. I would highly recommend trademarking to safeguard your business name on the new market and start one country at a time. As mentioned earlier, remember to double-check the laws before signing a contract. “
5. Search for support. What to take under consideration?
|Government grants and support||British Chambers of Commerce||Master classes|
|Online communities||Best practice sharing||Workshops|
|Trade clubs||Industry associations||Courses and training|
- Research for Government grants and support for small and medium-size businesses.
- Attend relevant master classes, join Trade clubs, Industry associations and online business communities where people share their international experience.
- Contact your local British Chambers of Commerce for more information and advice. It often offers free workshops as well as paid training and events. Search for start-up support, best practice sharing and keep learning from success stories.
“I run a Facebook group where I help people who would like to start a new business. A lot of people asked how I have done it so now I share different tips about launching a business.”
“The Government also offers a support; however, I sometimes feel it’s quite slow and much “red tape” involved. I found there is a vast amount of support if you join different groups on Facebook and go to international meetup events. For example, I went to the international event called East Meets West where I met some people from China to work with.”
There isn’t one recipe of entering a new market but there is a combination of work that should be done to implement a new business smoothly. Small and medium-size companies have many great advantages: they are flexible, open for new opportunities, reachable and have a personal drive for success. All the mentioned sections are very important to consider before your business become international. Communication and cooperation with people from different countries will be always an essential part of your journey, remember about cross-cultural aspects, keep learning and stay inspired!
A special thank you to Katie and Nancy for their valuable inputs!
About the author of this article:
Marina Rowe is an experienced international specialist, she has successfully completed a number of projects in areas of international sourcing, sales, account management, recruitment and business development. She enjoys studying cross-cultural business relations, she’s keen to share her knowledge and international business experience. Please feel free to get in touch via LinkedIn or Twitter!