4 Things to Consider Before Taking Your Company Worldwide
Smitty and I have known each other since high school. From the moment we met in Mrs. Gittins’ homeroom, it was clear that we were going to be firm friends. Smitty was neither the brightest kid in the class nor at the bottom rung. He always got through with decent grades without setting the world on fire. One thing that set Smitty apart from others was his work ethic and organizational skills. When he had a goal, he would always knuckle down, create a plan and follow it meticulously until he achieved it. It therefore came as no surprise when Smitty’s startup business selling feminine hygiene products online gradually grew into a successful venture. He had worked his behind off, been disciplined and methodical. When it came time to extend his presence internationally, Smitty employed the same skills and once again made it happen. Over a quiet beer, I asked him how he had managed to do so well in a number of countries, despite not having previously been overseas himself. He shared with me a few tips that I think are helpful for any business considering taking the plunge and expanding internationally:
Problem 1: My customers need to feel like I’m operating in their location so that they develop a sense of trust
Solution: Setting up physical offices in multiple countries would be a logistical nightmare and impossibly expensive. Smitty utilized Servcorp, who have an extensive network of virtual offices in key locations across the globe that secured for him a physical address, reception services and other crucial services that created a perception of a local. In Sydney, Australia, for example, he was able to get a great deal that helped to contribute to strong growth quarter after quarter with stunning facilities such as these: http://www.servcorp.com.au/en/virtual-offices/
Problem 2: Many of my customers in foreign countries don’t speak English.
Solutions: As an online business, your website is your stock in trade. It’s an international sales person that works all day without breaks, holidays, retirement pay or whining. Smitty understood this and realized early on that trying to skimp on his website was not a wise move. He extended himself in order to get a site that looks stunning and functions faultlessly. Most importantly, he had the site professionally translated into 8 languages and located each version on local servers in each country with the appropriate URL extension.
Problem 3: How am I going to get people on the other side of the planet to know about me?
Solution: Having local hosting, domains and physical addresses allowed Smitty to easily and economically run local SEO in each country. The set up allowed him to quickly rank well for relevant search terms in major search engines and drive a significant volume of organic traffic to his websites. Pretty soon the word was out and his business became well known and the booming sales covered the marketing expense many times over.
Problem 4: At some point, I do have to travel to my target markets, but I can’t afford the airfares.
Solution: Smitty spent hours researching which business credit cards gave the best deals on airline points. He then paid for absolutely everything with this card and accumulated a gazillion frequent flyer point, which he used to jet set all over the world to grow his overseas markets. Being the disciplined creature that he is, Smitty always made sure to pay off the card in full every month so as not to accrue crippling interest charges.
These are just some of the lessons that we can learn from Smitty. You don’t have to be the brightest bulb in the box to build a successful international business. With careful planning and prudent decision making, you too can be like Smitty.
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