7 Steps to International Success

By Ray S
October 24, 2017
Expanding your business abroad can lead to a huge upsurge in profits. But as some of the largest brands in the world have found out – to the cost of millions – entering new international markets can be more difficult to do than it sounds. In this article, we’ll look at how to build your […]

Expanding your business abroad can lead to a huge upsurge in profits. But as some of the largest brands in the world have found out – to the cost of millions – entering new international markets can be more difficult to do than it sounds.
In this article, we’ll look at how to build your brand reputation globally. And some of the basic errors to avoid when growing outside of your home borders.

1. Analyse new markets
2. Build your team
3. Adapt your product
4. Mind the cultural differences
5. Develop your sales and marketing strategy
6. Know the law and pay your dues
7. Make friends

1) Analyse new markets

Choosing the locations and markets in which you want to build your brand internationally isn’t something you can do on a whim. You need hard and fast data supporting your decision to expand into your new market and a full analysis of elements such as:

1. The marketing opportunity and existing competition: does a local company already provide the same service, or is there a wide gap waiting to be filled?
2. Your market presence: if you’re already doing a certain amount of business or getting information requests about your services from clients in a certain market, this is a solid indicator that there could be a viable opportunity here.
3. Availability of skills and talent: because if you can’t put a great local team in place, your performance is going to suffer. In fact, this is something that really needs to be talked about in more detail…

2) Build your team

You need to gather together qualified local experts to form your new staff. The skills and abilities of your local team are going to be directly responsible for whether your expansion into this new market succeeds or fails.

The key goal here is to make sure you get trading quickly. The best way to do this is generally to put together a beachhead or interim team who can:

• Make sure everything is as you expected it to be in the new market
• Bring together the financial infrastructure
• Start recruiting the permanent leadership team

In order to be able to do this, your interim executives are going to have to be highly experienced members of your company’s leadership.

3) Adapt your product and your brand

Simply using Google Translate to output your product description in the relevant language isn’t going to cut it here. You need to adapt your product and your brand to your new market bearing in mind aspects such as:

Your brand name: will your name make sense to your target audience? If you have it directly translated is it going to be offensive or nonsensical? In most cases, you need to get it localised.
Review local government laws and regulations: relating to your products or services to make sure you are compliant.
Your company logo and imagery: different cultures have different associations. You only need look at Pampers’ marketing failure in Japan, which involved leaving storks delivering babies (not an association a Japanese person would naturally make) on their packaging to see how basic assumptions in this field can lead you astray.

One of the most important things you’ll need to do here is…

4) Mind the cultural differences

Cultural differences can be big and obvious, or they can be relatively subtle things that might slide under your radar if you haven’t lived in a country for many years. Either way, ignoring cultural differences is something that can shoot even the biggest brands in the foot when trying to sell abroad.

Check out this article on colour symbolism in China, for example. You only need to take a quick glance at it to see that colours are very, very important symbols in Chinese culture. And you only need a few seconds more to identify whether your brand colours are going to have an unintended meaning to a Chinese audience.

Marketing your new range of green hats in China? You probably aren’t going to get very far!

5) Develop your sales and marketing strategy

Writing a solid and well-planned marketing strategy is key to not wasting your money when seeking to build your global brand reputation. Based on the extensive market research you’ve done (see Tip 1), the skills and experience of your local team (see Tip 2) and your knowledge of cultural differences (see Tip 4) you should be able to develop a plan which will include:

• Long-term goals and targets
• A breakdown of these targets over the mid- and short-term so you can track how well you’re doing at meeting them
• The financial and other resources that you’ll need to employ to meet these targets
• Where those financial and other resources are coming from
• A data-based decision as to which marketing channels you’re going to employ

In consideration of all of these points, it’s critical that you adopt an evidence-based approach to developing your brand internationally. You need to be constantly testing to make sure that all elements of your expansion plan are getting you the returns that you expect.

6) Know the law and pay your dues

This sounds like a relatively simple and obvious aspect of doing business abroad. But depending on your target market, complying with the various laws and tax laws when doing business in a foreign territory can be like finding your way through a room blindfolded.

Local businesspeople will know that – of course – you need to speak to this particular sort of official or – of course – you need to have this particular seemingly unimportant license in order to trade these particular goods. You, however, might not.

If the local team you’re putting together (see Tip 2) isn’t going to include someone with this sort of knowledge and expertise, there’s another way to make sure you’re towing the legal line…

7) Make friends

Finding local partners to help you build and maintain the reputation of your brand is one of the best tips for international growth. Local partners can help you avoid pitfalls in terms of local laws, show you the best ways to distribute to the local market and how not to slip up over obvious cultural differences. In the past not understanding these differences have caused even brands as big as HSBC, Coca-Cola, Colgate, Coors, IKEA and KFC to fail when expanding their business abroad.

All in all, building your brand reputation on the global stage can lead to a dramatic upsurge in profits but it also means you have many new potential problems. Make sure you take sensible steps and plan effectively so that you make a confident step into a new market rather than falling at the first hurdle.

Do you have a question about building your brand reputation abroad? Or have you been doing this successfully for years and think we’ve missed something vital from our article?

Join the conversation below!