The US is the largest economy in the world, and a large portion of its wealth comes from small businesses. In Europe, there are many small business owners with good ideas that have been unable to grow their business beyond their domestic market and insider trades. In this article, we will provide tips on how to go global from a US point of view.
Tip 1: Establish Your Brand – Localisation vs Internationalization
Before getting into an international expansion project, you need to think about how important it is for you to localize your existing brand and what your end goal is. A lot of companies launch websites and apps that feature buttons and visuals in different languages and seem like they’re targeting European or Asian customers when they actually only want to target US customers. If you’re looking to just expand your customer base in the US, there is no need for localization and the costs associated with it. Instead, you can focus on building awareness about your brand through digital word of mouth.
A lot of companies launch websites and apps that feature buttons and visuals in different languages and seem like they’re targeting European or Asian customers when they actually only want to target US customers. If you’re looking to just expand your customer base in the US, there is no need for localization and the costs associated with it. You can focus on building awareness about your brand through digital word of mouth.
If, however, you feel like localizing, your offering might be worth it (e.g. if your product is not that innovative and you’re having a hard time creating awareness about it), then localization might be for you (for example, giving users the option to use the US dollar as well as other currencies).
Tip 2: Start Thinking About International Operations Early On
Start thinking about international operations early on, not later than when your business plan is done, and ideally at the same time as you start building your product.
Ideally, by now (if not already) you’ve hired or recruited people who are willing to relocate outside of the US so they can work with customers abroad. Note that this process will take some time, especially if your company does not have an office in the country where you want to do business. It’s also important to realize that not everyone will be willing to relocate, so you might have to hire people in different countries who communicate with each other on a regular basis.
Tip 3: Know What Success Looks Like Before Going Global
Think about what results in you want from your international business, and how you will know if your expectations are met.
Tip 4: Make Sure You Have a Clear Process on Who Makes Decisions
People from different parts of the world might have different cultures which sometimes can lead to miscommunication. If there is no transparent process for how team members make decisions, they cannot come to an agreement when facing difficult problems. A good practice would be dividing decision-making processes into two areas:
- corporate-level decisions
- country-level decisions (for example, countries with higher GDP might get more decision power than lower-income countries).
Tip 5: Cross-Functional Teams
Create cross-functional teams that include localization experts, legal advisors, and senior management who all look at issues from different perspectives.
Tip 6: Community Forum
Try to discuss any issues that might come up with your community before they become problems. It is very important to be transparent and share information early on so you can take care of potential issues as soon as possible.
Tip 7: Know What Culture Means for Your Business
Find out the meaning behind different aspects of local cultures (e.g. people’s behaviors towards authority figures). Having a general idea about these things will help you understand other perspectives and avoid conflicts later on.
Tip 8: Taking Learning Curves Seriously
Remember that there are many differences between doing business in the US and Europe which also affect employees who relocate from one place to another. It takes time for them to adjust to their new environment.
Make sure to give your employees time to adjust, this means removing barriers that might make them frustrated (both in the US and abroad). For example, slow internet connection, people not speaking English as a first language, etc.
When faced with the decision of growing your business outside of the US, there are some important decisions you’ll have to make.
If you’re still unsure if an expansion abroad will bring positive results, consider testing the market with a small location in another country. This way, you can test out different strategies without risking too much.
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