Global is the New Local
Selling globally used to be something only big businesses could do successfully. However, with the recent rise of global online marketplaces, coupled with advancements in technology, SMBs are going international at an accelerated rate. And truthfully—if your SMB doesn’t have global sales yet—you’re simply not competing.
SMBs have notoriously avoided global sales for a number of reasons. First of all, it’s expensive. There’s are costs just about everywhere you look. There are market research costs, advertising costs, establishing logistics and distribution network costs, travel costs—you name it. And on the home front, your business needs to ensure systems are set up and capable of handling global sales. While this has scared off many business owners, the ones who have embraced global sales are seeing great ROI.
Benefits of Selling Internationally
The most obvious advantage to entering the global marketplace is more sales. As a matter of fact, expanding to new regions and geographies opens up an up-tapped customer base. In 2017, the U.S. accounted for ~33% of the global market share—that leaves you with a huge opportunity overseas. Secondly, if your business suffers from market fluctuations or seasonality, you might be able to smooth out variations by finding new markets. This could be key to your success in winning against your local competitors, but also for fending off international business encroaching on your territory.
Things to Expect When Starting
Many businesses fail when expanding internationally. And often because of poor research. As a result, you could be failing because of expanding in the wrong areas, not understanding the culture, or simply going in too late—research is key.
Put yourselves in the shoes of your prospective customers and ask the tough questions. How will foreign prospects feel about your product? Does it fit well in their culture? What will the logistics be like? What’s the climate like and how will that affect your product? We are accustomed to western-style amenities that other countries might not have. Assume nothing—and make research-based decisions!
Steps to Take When Expanding Globally
Make a Plan
Global sales and international expansion require businesses to set clear goals and requirements for the venture. This plan is also known as an international business strategy. To emphasize, not only will this helpfully guide you through the process, it will help you make the final decision on if a specific territory is a fit or not.
First, identify optimum international markets worth pursuing. The Department of Commerce and the International Trade Administration are great places for discovering good market opportunities. In there you can find U.S. goods and services trade data in foreign markets.
Second, determine how you will be distributing your products or services. This may require setting up a foreign entity, finding trade partners, or even utilizing a global marketplace (like Amazon or eBay).
Third, understand the challenges associated with exporting to foreign markets. What are the differences that you will need to overcome? What documents are required? Moreover, these could be (but not limited to) cultural, social, legal, governmental, or economic. Finally, pay close attention to taxes and tariffs in the region you are looking to expand to. These can affect your pricing!
Marketing Your Product or Service
You will likely be selling your product over the internet, and there are many channels to choose from. If you are selecting a global marketplace, start by looking into the advertising capabilities of the platform. If you are selling on a website, see what the competition is for keywords in search engine advertising, and choose a platform to build campaigns on. Finally, make sure you understand the dynamics of the culture you are advertising to. Many SMBs are finding that western-style advertising is not fitting for other cultures.
Examine Your Business System
If your business is currently running on an entry-level or mid-level accounting system, it’s likely time for an upgrade before starting global sales. Accounting systems developed as recently as seven years ago likely won’t have the capabilities your business requires to successfully expand. As a result, failing to upgrade will put your business at risk. Additionally, expensive add-ons and/or traditional on-premise solutions will try and fool you. In order to be successful, businesses are needing to be connected and capable at all times—let alone accessible anywhere, anytime—and only modern all-in-one systems can do this.
Modern accounting systems—that enable SMBs in the connected economy—are now available. Additionally, cloud ERP systems, like Versa Cloud ERP, are offering an affordable solution for growing small businesses. Versa Cloud ERP includes enterprise-level capabilities, that are customizable, and priced with SMBs in mind. You need features like multi-entity, multi-currency, and multi-country modules to succeed—and you get them all with Versa.
Things to Avoid with Global Sales
Failing to Create an International Business Strategy
The easiest and quickest way to fail is by not making a plan. Correspondingly, research is key to success. It’s far easier to find obstacles and barriers to exporting with good planning. Without it you are setting your business up for failure.
Chasing Too Many Opportunities
Fluctuating markets and currencies can put your business at risk by taking on too much at once. And if you are considering international expansion to counteract your current fluctuations, this is especially important. Finally, foreign markets are just that: foreign to you—you should never make the assumption that business is the same outside of the U.S.
Language and Cultural Barriers
Never assume a country will do business in English. You should start familiarizing yourself with their language as one of the first steps to ensure you will be able to communicate properly. This may include learning the language or hiring a translator.
Assuming Your Systems Are Up to the Task
As mentioned above, another major pitfall to expanding globally is failing to have the proper technology in place. Don’t rely on outdated technology! Upgrading your accounting / ERP system has never been easier for SMBs. Modern ERP, like Versa Cloud ERP, is affordable and can be implemented in as few as four weeks!
We hope you enjoyed reading and learning about expanding your SMB with global sales. For more information on SMBs competing in the modern connected economy, download and share our ebook. In addition to learning six hard questions to business owners should be asking themselves, we’ll share key takeaways that will drive success.