Some of you may think that international expansion is out of the question; you’ve got enough challenges stateside. Others are already crossing the border by hiring talent outside the US or trading goods with other countries. And the rest of you are daydreaming about setting up shop in Tahiti (talk about working remote). Wherever you are in your globalization journey, it’s critical to at least start thinking about international expansion right now. As technology advances more quickly than ever, the world becomes smaller. Inevitably, your small business will interact with another country sooner rather than later.
How do you even begin such a daunting task as going global? Start with these must-do steps to lay the necessary groundwork for successful world domination… I mean globalization.
1. Research country opportunities
If you’re tempted to stay in your comfort zone (or native language), do your research to find out where the best opportunities are for your business. Check out your own data in Google Analytics and Google Search Console. What countries are non-US visitors coming from? What keywords are non-US searchers using to find your site? Access the public data out there to compare metrics like GDP. You may even learn that emerging markets could have great potential for your business!
2. Familiarize yourself with new cultures
Once you’ve chosen the country or region, immerse yourself in the culture. That’s right, I’m suggesting you to take a trip abroad. Boohoo for you. Don’t underestimate the importance of celebrating your new market’s culture. The way you do business in the United States could be very different from how your counterpart in Japan does business. Absorb the culture, notice social cues, and incorporate your learnings into your international expansion playbook.
3. Find out how to become compliant
When you start a small business in the United States, you obtain the proper licenses or permits to run a legit company and maintain compliance. Now that you are going beyond domestic borders, you need to think about what kind of trade agreements or employment laws pertain to you. Are you hiring workers in India? What about receiving Mexican imports? Or maybe you’re exporting goods them to Germany. You need to know the rules before you play by them.
4. Localize (or should I say localise?) your marketing and communications
Refer to step two when localizing your content in marketing materials including the website. It’s not just about translating the language; it’s also important to understand the cultural nuances. For example, consider ordering coffee in France. Though “un petit cafe” literally translates to “a small coffee,” as an American you may be surprised when the barista hands you a shot of espresso. If you are looking for the type of coffee you’d order at your run-of-the-mill American diner, you’ll want to order “un café américain.” You don’t want to mess up your coffee order, so you certainly don’t want to miscommunicate with prospects and customers. Instead of relying on Google Translate to translate all of your marketing content, invest in a human native speaking translator.
5. Optimize your website for international traffic
You have your web content translated and ready for consumption, but you also need to consider the technical aspect of driving international traffic. Here are a few pointers:
- Display the correct currency and make sure the conversions are accurate for your non-US visitors. Nothing will make them bounce faster than needing to pull out the calculator!
- A missed call is a missed opportunity. Use local phone numbers if possible. American toll free numbers don’t always work properly abroad.
- Set your site up for SEO success by utilizing hreflang code and canonical tags on any page that is available in multiple versions for different countries or languages. Is SEO not your primary language? Here’s a how-to guide for going international in the SEO world.
- Unlike the United States, some countries require an unchecked “opt-in” box for marketing communications for when you are collecting email addresses. Find out if this rule pertains to your new market.
What are you waiting for? Start implementing these steps for international expansion today or your competition will. For more tips, check out our Small Business Guide on Going Global.