Expanding your start-up into new overseas markets can be a daunting prospect. Communication and cultural differences, brand translation, a small budget and an even smaller team are just a few of the things ambitious start-ups must consider if they want a place on the international stage. But for the entrepreneurs that are bold and savvy enough to make the move, cracking new and lucrative markets can make a world of difference to the future of your company.
Timing is key when it comes to overseas growth. Therefore, detailed research into your new market is an essential precursor to any big decision. Sending a team member on fact-finding missions to meet clients or suppliers is always money well spent: even if all they discover is that a particular place isn’t ready for you yet (or maybe you for them).
Furthermore, just because you have the money to launch in a new country doesn’t mean you should. Look at competitors’ movements there and nearby, look at the habits of the target consumer, and consider whether this is the optimum time to enter foreign waters. Would you be better off waiting a month or two until you’ve hired that extra team member? Do you have the infrastructure in place to weather the challenges and time pressures a successful launch abroad requires? These are the questions CEOs need to ask themselves before taking their start-up overseas.
Building partnerships abroad requires travel and a budget, but keeping the channels of communication open whilst at home are just as important as meeting clients face to face. The world is now smaller and more navigable than ever before, so make the most of it by making your business easy to reach. Overseas colleagues and clients need to have confidence that you can make yourself available when they need to talk to you, despite the distance or any time differences. Trust is key when it comes to any long-distance relationship, so making yourself a dependable partner is absolutely crucial if you’re looking for long-term international success.
A key element of building trust in new markets is creating a recognisable and legitimised brand. This means developing an image and an ethos that is consistent, reputable, and, most importantly, easily translated across all the markets (prospective and current) in which you operate. If you have your sights set on the U.S. but know, at the fledgling stages of your growth, that there are fundamental elements of your brand that won’t resonate over there, make changes now in preparation for a future launch. Planning in the long-term will make global growth a lot easier further down the line, so develop a voice and an image that will resound internationally from the very beginning.
Spreading the word about your brand overseas can be tricky; but social media is an international brand builder that all demographics can access. When curating the content for these accounts ensure that it gives off a sense of who you are and what you do at first glance, and engage with customers and clients in all your spheres of influence so that your brand feels all-encompassing.
Overseas development can create a huge amount of momentum, and your start-up needs to have a strategy in place that ensures this momentum will be kept up once you’ve made your first move. In-depth research will leave you well-informed (and therefore well-placed) to make the smartest decision for your business regarding where and when to launch. When the time is right, get ready to fly.
Anthony Collias is CCO of CityStasher