Trading abroad is a natural progression for businesses looking to grow. However, there are a number of challenges associated with doing business overseas. Building strong relationships with suppliers, distributors and customers in other countries is essential, but can be problematic – not least because mobile communication abroad can be expensive, and service is often patchy or slow.
We’ve seen a few big mobile operators act ahead of upcoming EU roaming regulation, but what about communicating with the USA, China, Brazil, Russia….? You get the idea.
Exporters shouldn’t underestimate the significance of communication when competing across borders. In the case of UK footwear company FitFlop, building links with manufacturers in Hong Kong and retail outlets in the US boosted business significantly. FitFlops are now being sold in 52 countries, but when the CEO first started to travel between these markets, she required two mobile handsets and bills peaked above £1,000 every month. In this case, the business needed a corporate mobile bundle than spanned these key markets, and when FitFlop got it, the CEO’s bills dropped to just £50 each month – on one handset.
As the huge economic opportunity opens up, businesses need to consider four key things before re-vamping their communications:
1. How global is your workforce?
Businesses often underestimate how ‘global’ they really are – whether it’s through sales, employee or supplier links.
Many businesses will find that as demand from overseas increases, the supply chain also diversifies. Exporters must consider not only where they are selling product, but the markets they will enter as a result – through new distributors, suppliers and natural expansion should it go well. Trade opportunities don’t end where the EU does.
2. What is the easiest way to make contact?
When there are language and cultural barriers, it can make all the difference to have ‘someone on the ground’ in overseas markets. Examine exactly where you need these people, and work out the most efficient way to communicate with them; is voice calling the best way to make collaborative decisions – or data plan that allows for documents to transfer instantly and easily on mobile devices? Once these basics have been established you can start examining how to bolster your communications infrastructure and tap into international trade opportunities.
3. How much can you spend?
It can be hard to predict costs of international communication when mobiles are constantly switching networks, hardware needs updating and the amount of business data being transferred is constantly increasing. We’ve seen customers increase mobile data usage five-fold last year, so you need to ensure that your network service provider can guarantee quality, predictability and control over your mobile costs. We now make sure businesses can operate across 66 countries, just like at home.
4. Make yourself contactable 24/7
Today, businesses operate in an always-on environment, with expectations of being able to connect with colleagues and customers wherever and whenever they choose to. Having a local number can increase the number of calls you’ll receive, so you don’t miss out on business because people are scared of racking up a huge phone bill.
When trading internationally, people will want to get in touch even when you’re unavailable. You need to have an answering service that operates around the world, and therefore, clock.
Rob Jones is MD at Truphone.
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