Your business should not be of immense size to be well-known internationally or in a particular region or country. It is also not true that only big companies go global. And you should know that even the biggest players make mistakes of various caliber or experience total failure when entering foreign markets.
It makes no difference whether you are going to conquer a single or a few markets, whether your budget is 1,000 or 100,000 Euros, going global requires solid work and preparation. Based on our experience here are 10½ mistakes that might cost you a lot of money or even end in failure.
1. You offer a great service or a product in your home country. Shortly before offering it for export, check whether it needs to be adjusted. Just a few examples: a clinic offers infertility treatment with high success rates. It is not complicated for national patients to visit a clinic and see a doctor any time. However, is it comfortable for international patients who fly or travel from other countries? Leading fertility centres have designed customised schemes of procedures for international patients to be able to offer comfortable and top-notch treatment. If you plan international expansion or want to service international clients, do research on the matter to be on the safe side with your service or products
2. A trademark is well-recognised nationally. Do not assume that clients from country A or B will be happy to buy your product immediately and change their consumer habits at once. When entering a single market, you will be competing with international and local competitors. You should effectively communicate with international customers via social media (of course, in national languages), using content marketing and PR. Entering a new market is like a new relationship that should be built from absolute zero. Be patient, work hard. Nobody has built a recognisable brand within an evening or a few weeks. Communicate with your potential customers using the proper channels, build awareness of a business and be aware that you will need time. The fact your business is perfectly known in your country will say nothing to international customers. Unless it is Ikea, Coca-Cola or Harvard.
3. A business has grown nationally thanks to certain techniques or channels that have been successfully applied. You should remember that if pattern A or a channel works in country A, it does not mean it will work in country B at all. More than that, in some countries even a city is of great importance. Just an example: if a company gets high revenue in Saint Petersburg, it might experience problems with sale in Moscow at the same time. One of our clients experiences high profits in major Russian cities (Moscow and Saint Petersburg), however the same product sells well in medium sized towns in Ukraine, but not in Kiev and other developed cities. We recommend that you do in-depth research, starting from analysing competitors’ activities: what channels they use and what results they get. Then choose a few channels, implement them and control results. Don’t be surprised, that Google Adwords will be working for one country, and social media will be generating traffic in another. Do not expect that well-tried methods will be working perfectly when going global.
4. Customer service is one of the key points. If you want to win the main prize, take care of the comfort of your clients. Offer technical support in national languages adjusting to local time zones, translate technical or other documents, give customers the opportunity of having a live chat with consultants. Nowadays almost every company runs their own blog. Your customers will appreciate that they can read relevant content in national languages without using Google translate. If you are hoping to be active internationally for years, you should invest time, efforts and money to make your clients happy. Otherwise it is more reasonable ( less expensive and time consuming!) to start a partnership with a business in a country, you would like to sell products or services.
Don’t expect that a customer will know the language of your company and will be waiting to get a response from your technical support for a few days. They might wait the first time, but be sure that they will never become loyal customers and ambassadors of your bran.
5. Be aware of cultural differences and the current political situation. Imagine that you have created a damn perfect piece of content, and will be publishing it on the 8th of March on your blog. Brilliant idea, providing it is not a day-off in some countries. Entering or running a business internationally, remember to localise created content, check out what holidays are more or less important , meaning of colours, relationships with neighbouring countries, topics that should be avoided, etc. Cultural awareness can help you either boost your activity or ruin it totally.
6. You plan to go global, but there is not an expert in your company. Engaging a local expert might be a solution. However, remember that cooperation is of great importance. You are second to none, who knows a product in depth, and in cooperation with a local expert you should create a unique selling offer that satisfies the needs of your international clients. So if an expert suggests any amendments or recommendations, it is worth considering them. Do not expect that you will get maximum results, without engaging in the process.
7. Expecting immediate results. Tell the truth – who does not want to make a lot of profit really quickly? However, there is at least one (in many cases there are at least a few) strong local player with whom you would compete. Do not expect that you will enter a foreign market, and your competitor will take a seat. Be patient and hard-working. It takes time -in some cases a business needs a few weeks, in others – even a few months to get first orders or develop activities. In some scenarios a company might never reach its goals.
8. It is absolutely natural that every business tests various solutions, and it helps to determine what brings the highest profits or traffic. However, remember to test only one criteria each time over a proper period. If you want to see whether a region is the issue, run a test only for the region, but avoid introducing new texts, e.g. in Google Adwords. You should also expect that the results of new solutions might be less positive. The main idea of A/B testing is to compare what option works better, and it does not mean that a new idea will perform better.
9. Be aware of difficulties of various nature you will have to cope with. It might be a newly approved law, restrictions, strong local or national competitors or even the uselessness of your products or services. One of our clients, who is a well-known cosmetics company in one Eastern European country, wanted to enter the Russian market. The export department did some export activities, and they wanted to increase the volume. Unfortunately they ignored national players, and campaigns brought only partial results. The pharmacy niche seemed to be the only possibility. If a company did not ignore national producers over a few years, and accepted the fact that their brand was recognised only in their own country, they would be selling their products very well these days. Do not ignore any national or local businesses, and take into consideration that you might face challenges of various nature at a future date.
10. Know your competitors, but create your own path. Of course, you should know with whom you would be competing. These days you can check unlimited data about competitors, their activities and their strategy. However, you create your products or services not for your competitors, not for search engines, but for your customers. Listen to your customers, interact with them and satisfy their needs. Spend a lot of time identifying what your clients want, but not what your competitors are doing. We have lots of examples where our clients, with our help, offered something new, and became very successful with that. Concentrate on your customers, not competitors – create the voice of your brand and follow it.
10½. Entering every single market or even a region is like learning to walk. Serious mistakes are inevitable. Accept them, learn from them and improve your further actions for serious international growth.