1. Market research
Check to see if you have existing international traffic coming to your site via Google Analytics. Research the markets most likely to buy your product or service through accessing country and industry reports, which you can find in the online international resource centres of international banks or Alibaba.com. It’s a ready-made global platform for ambitious small businesses looking to exploit overseas markets and is an established e-commerce business-to-business marketplace that is an uncomplicated way to open up your product to the world.
Consider applying for the Export Market Research Scheme (EMRS) from UK Trade & Investment (UKTI) to source expert help in doing the research. It’s open for companies with between five and 250 employees. What you’re looking for is data on customers, the country’s local laws/regulations/economy and intelligence on local competitors. It can also help establish the size of the market for specific products and services. The UKTI can also help with travel costs connected with this market research as well as the cost of purchasing local reports, so it’s worth investigating.
2. Make sales
Start selling via powerful platform sites that attract international traffic and enable you to go global at speed. Etsy is a haven if you’re in the handmade business or consider eBay, Amazon, Elance, iStockphoto and iTunes as whether you’re selling fashion designs or technical apps, these sites will carry you into new territories. Sell via your own website by having e-commerce functionality, which comes built in with templates sites such as Powa, Moonfruit and new global start-up SupaDupa.me. They allow you to set up your own globally-active e-commerce platform quickly and cheaply, while working in conjunction with Etsy or Amazon.
Get yourself known and talked about in all the right places by reaching out to influential bloggers and news outlets that your customers visit. Follow journalists and build your own social media profile on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and YouTube to demonstrate your product and expertise to an international audience. Send releases, as you would in the UK, with strong imagery and a media hook that’s relevant to the journalist at the other end.
4. Sort the practicalities
Deliver in time and on budget by making the most of international courier companies. There are a number from which to choose, including DHL, UPS, FedEx etc – compare prices on sites such as parcel2go.com and parcelmonkey.com, and complete the export documentation so there’s no risk of your product being held up at the other end. Receive payment from customers in multiple territories through use of a payment gateway such as RBS Worldpay, PayPal or Google Checkout.
5. Go Local!
With sales increasing, consider localizing your website with help from a translation company who can put things in words and pictures that resonate more with the local market. Consider visiting the country with help from UK Trade and Investment such as the Tradeshow Access Programme and consider having a virtual office to give that local feel via companies such as Rergus who have offices across the globe in which you can touchdown.
There’s plenty of support available and taking these steps will effectively position you in new markets and prepare you for going global!
Emma Jones is founder of Enterprise Nation and author of ‘Go Global – how to take your business to the world’.
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