Now that you have excelled in your domestic market, and because you want to stay ahead of regional competition, you feel that the timing is perfect for an international expansion. That is a good call! But do you understand what it means to grow a brand globally?
Global expansion means targeting clients from multiple countries and regional economic blocs. It means localizing your products and/or services for multiple new markets. And because the world is not a homogenous market, technically, going global means opening one shop in one foreign market, followed by another shop in a different foreign market, over and over again. That means you will have to constantly struggle with unfamiliar local customs and languages, reimage your mission and vision, rethink your branding and marketing strategies, navigate new labor markets, and comply with new laws and regulations.
Global expansion is risky and understandably scary, but it is a risk you have to take if you are to earn and maintain a competitive edge in today’s fast-paced business environment. That is why you should read the 5 tips below on how to grow your brand globally.
1. Determine if your product or service is a good candidate for overseas markets
Having a strong brand reputation in your domestic market doesn’t necessarily mean that you will succeed abroad. That is why you need to analyze your brand’s export potential before considering doing business overseas. Your analysis should determine these, among other factors:
· Which markets have a pressing need that your products or services can satisfy?
· How distinctive is your product with respect to already-existing brands? Competition is stiff everywhere, so you must be ready to fight for your place in every market you expand globally to.
· Identify consumer segments that share common characteristics within the larger target market. If you sell high-end ladies’ beauty products, for example, how many women in your target audience can afford to buy your products?
· How is the market affected by technological and scientific developments, and how will such developments impact the future marketability of your product?
2. Understand local laws and regulations
Opening a shop in multiple jurisdictions means that you have to comply with multiple sets of domestic legal requirements. It is advisable to consult reputable local legal counsels in every market you expand to. Here are a few legal questions to ask your legal counsel:
· How bureaucratic are the local company registration processes? How can you expedite the processes without breaking any registration laws?
· Which unique employment laws should you know about and, in case of violation, which ones attract the biggest penalties?
· Which payments or presents can you give to government officials as ordinary customary practice, and which ones can be translated as bribe/corruption?
· Which are your tax obligations as a foreign brand?
· Which intellectual property rights do you enjoy?
· Of the local Civil law and the Common law systems, which ones can impact your branding and marketing?
· How binding are exclusive distribution agreements between your company and local distributors?
3. Seek to understand local cultures
Each international market is governed by its unique set of cultural preferences. Seemingly inconsequential factors in your local market, e.g. brand colors or product shapes, can be offending in another market. So, if you don’t want to offend the very people you want to do business with, and jeopardize your growth prospects, understand the following beforehand:
· What is the local business etiquette? How should you dress when attending business meetings? How should you behave when dealing with workers, clients, or investors of the opposite gender? Is it okay to address elderly people by their first name?
· Is it okay to discuss sensitive matters such as politics, racism, human rights, or religion in public? Where do you draw the line?
· How deep do local community policing systems run, and what does your brand need to do to stay out of trouble with community leaders? In some communities in Africa and Southeast Asia, for example, you need the blessing of local elders before you are allowed to conduct any form of business.
4. Avoid exportation pitfalls
There are several pitfalls that plague exportation, among them foreign currency fluctuations, border requirements, logistical hurdles, and shipment delays. You will avoid them by formulating a stellar export strategy that includes all the logistics and legal requirements that are unique to each target market. Have a fall back plan in case your initial strategy doesn’t work out.
5. Have a solid localization strategy
Localization helps you connect with local customers and achieve brand success. Here are a few tips for developing a solid localization strategy:
· Hire a reputable translation company to translate important documents, web content, product user interface, and marketing campaigns into local dialects.
· Localize your pricing as per the local demand, supply, and competition. Your home market prices will most likely not cut it for foreign markets.
· Inspire trust and engagement with local communities by participating in local community development initiatives.
· Ensure that your logo, brand name, and overall identity are clearly understood and accepted overseas.
· Ensure that the images and videos you post on social media and on your official website are relatable to the local market.
· Create a global SEO strategy. You will need to work with a multilingual SEO expert on this.
· Hire local workers, particularly for the sales, marketing, and customer relations departments.
Up to this point, you are as good as set for global growth. Now go ahead and find financing partners if necessary, hire your team, find distributors and suppliers, set up the head office and local stores, and do everything else that you did when you were setting up your existing business. Expanding overseas will definitely be a tall order for you, but if done correctly, it can be very rewarding.