6 Tips for Doing International Business
Technology has connected our world more than ever before. Now we can enjoy easier international travel and exchange of goods and services overseas.
If you run a company in the United States, it may be time to start thinking about expanding your global reach beyond the U.S. and into international territory. That step may seem intimidating, but there are several ways to get involved in the world market.
1. Get an early start
With the international business market growing rapidly, it may be tempting to dive in headfirst. However, slow and steady wins the race. Plan your approach strategically, and take your time.
Allen Adamson, managing director of the marketing firm Landor and author of BrandSimple, recommends all business owners thinking about spreading internationally “start thinking globally early.”
The sooner you do begin business abroad, the better and sooner you will be able to track metrics and the market. You’ll also have the advantage of knowing firsthand what works and what doesn’t, and how you can adapt your tactics to better fit the international market.
2. Research before you jump in
Before you make any big decisions, the most important part is the research. Business owners need to study the market they wish to enter before making the leap. Part of the research may be visiting the country to get an idea of their customs and how they conduct business. The more familiar a business owner is with his or her market, the more successful they will be.
A business owner needs to look at what brands are succeeding in the marketplace and how to emulate those brands. On the other side, it is equally important to look at businesses that have failed, and be sure to eliminate any of those strategies before moving into a specific marketplace.
Research includes studying the competition. With international business growing every day, moving abroad means a business will have both local and international competitors. Survey your competition, and make sure you can offer customers something different and better.
The U.S. Department of Commerce’s website offers information such as country fact sheets and press releases that may help with initial research.
3. Hire someone who knows their way around
While a businessperson can do all the research in the world, they will never know the market or the country better than a local. Businesses should seek both legal support and local resources to be their guide in the new marketplace.
Moving or opening overseas is similar to visiting that country for the first time. Tourists often book tours or hire guides to show them around the country. A business needs the same type of support, both for understanding the country and customs and feeling out the marketplace.
The U.S. embassy or consular office in that country can put business people in touch with a guide. However, be sure to ask for someone with connections to the industry to help you out. Also, do not be afraid of paying to hire a quality guide.
4. Respect the customs and culture
When traveling and opening a business abroad, it is important to be sure to respect the customs and culture you are in. By getting to know people, you can better earn their trust. From trying new foods to visiting new cities, it is important to understand how the country works and how its people think.
As far as food goes, it is important to also be aware of dietary restrictions and religious beliefs before visiting a country. For example, cows are sacred in India, so eating beef would be offensive and earn you some disbelieving stares.
You can -- and should -- learn about customs before you ever set foot in a new country. Reading guidebooks on local customs of dress, salutation and hospitality can help you avoid any awkwardness that might come from not knowing these simple rules and norms.
5. Get your travel plans in order
When opening a business overseas, you’ll be traveling frequently. You will likely have to travel long distances often, so look up tips and advice on how to travel well over long periods of time.
If you are not already accustomed to long flights, the trips may be challenging at first, so be sure you are always on time and follow directions from airlines and anyone in charge.
Also be sure to take advantage of frequent flyer miles and keep an eye out for inexpensive airlines and temporary deals.
6. Stay in touch
As mentioned above, you’ll become a seasoned traveler. Therefore, it is important to take advantage of modern technology and stay connected with your contacts, both at home and abroad.
Use online tools such as Google Hangouts and Skype for a face-to-face conversation that is much more personal than a mere phone call or email.
Improve and begin international business
While pursuing an international business can be new and challenging, by doing your research and using the six tips listed above, international business and travel should be easier than you think. With modern technology, opening an international business is a more popular venture than ever, and many businesses are taking advantage.
These simple steps can help you get everything in line for your next -- or first -- international business venture.