Top 5 biggest questions startups and SMEs must ask themselves before expanding their brand abroad

Your brand is doing well and you believe it is time to start an international expansion. You want to scale up on an international scale, this is a great aspiration. Unfortunately, the Napoleon approach doesn’t work anymore. You need a different plan. In this article, you will learn the biggest mistakes small and medium companies usually make when expanding abroad and how to avoid them.

  1. Did you consider the pros and cons of the location you target? 

The first step when expanding yourself abroad is to think about where you want to go. A common mistake would be to be vague. However, you should always know precisely the country you are targeting for expansion. This is very important as you will need to conduct market research before the big jump. Expanding in Europe means many things. Are you targeting the European Union, Western Europe, Euro Zone, or a particular country order within Europe?

Every location has pros and cons. It’s not just a matter of expanding in a “cool place” (like Dubai or LA) or where your tech competitors are (for example Japan), but a whole set of elements to take into consideration. Don’t expand for the wrong reason and have a plan.

  1. Did you conduct all the market research required? 

When you redefine your target audience, especially when you expand abroad, you should always conduct research prior to your move.

The first step would be to physically visit the cities you have in mind. Don’t make decisions based on the information you can find online. Talk to as many people in your field of interest as possible.

Then, you must absolutely understand your audience’s expectations and what/how your competitors currently deal with those. It is sometimes safer to align with the competition first before trying to disrupt the market.

Cultural adaptation is also very important when expanding abroad. For example, a Chinese business proposing ready-to-take bicycles all around the city of Lille, France, was surprised to see that the gap of culture led them to stop their activity in this country in early 2018. Indeed, many bicycles were destroyed by some uncivilised users.

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  1. Did you adapt your product or service offering? 

Your product may not fit the market you target. You should always beware of the legislation and norms. One product will not fit all markets. You must adapt and not hope that your prospects adapt to you.

Your prospects habits, which you found when doing market research, must determine the degree of change you have to add to your products or services. For example, Starbuck failed to spot important differences in coffee consumption between Americans and Australians. The result was a loss of $143 million.

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  1. Did you make sure your logistic is ready for the global market? 

When you expand into a new market, you need to decide if you are going to have an office. If yes, you will need local employees and to find someone to manage a new team and operations while you grow your business. One of the biggest mistakes would be to try to save money on this. Having an experienced and trustworthy manager will be essential if you don’t want to minimise the risk of failure.

Make sure that the employees that all your employees speak English in order to communicate across countries. On top of that, you will need to translate your marketing collaterals to ensure they remain adapted for each market.

  1. Dream big but don’t let unrealistic assumptions drive your expansion. 

Sometimes, entrepreneurs think that their previous referrals will be enough to sell abroad. However, domestic clients are most of the time different needs from your new target. Therefore, they may not be able to help you sell abroad.

Implementing a new idea or concept takes time.  It will also help you stand out against your competitors. You always need to add extra efforts to compete in new markets, even if your product or service is the best.

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To conclude, getting global must be taken seriously. Being accompanied by an expert or local partner is a good option if you want to lower your risks. Unfortunately, the risk cannot be removed but if you make sure to avoid those mistakes, you have good a chance of success.

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