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Thinking about expanding your business into one or more new international markets? Expanding into a new market certainly offers many opportunities (see below) – provided you do it successfully. And that means localising your content properly rather than relying on English as the global lingua franca. Because though consumers may be open to buying across borders, some 40% aren’t willing to buy if information isn’t available in their own language. Indeed, as streaming giants Netflix have demonstrated, the days of English-only content are long gone.
Companies such as Spotify or Wise (formerly TransferWise) who have invested in quality content and adapted to each market, localising language assets and tweaking product positioning, have really reaped the rewards.
Why expand your business into a new market?
Cross-border expansion can help:
- boost sales
- grow your brand reputation
- save money, through the economies of scale
- stand out from the competition
- protect you from fluctuations in the domestic market
- diversify your revenue streams
These last two points are even more relevant in the Covid era, with so much uncertainty and upheavals for businesses the world over. By operating in two or more countries, you spread the risk. So while one market may take a nosedive, another may be flourishing.
But expansion is a big deal. Entering an entirely new market and selling to a target audience with a different culture and maybe a different language or different dialect, is always going to be a daunting prospect. Particularly when you’re doing it for the very first time. So are you ready to take the plunge?
3 signs you’re ready to expand
Your business is operationally and financially stable
Expanding into a new market takes time and money. So you need to make sure you have the funds available to invest in it, and the time and staff to oversee the transition. You need to be confident that your business will operate smoothly while you, and other relevant members of your team, concentrate on the expansion. Your processes need to be robust, as expansion puts stress on your business and any cracks will inevitably widen.
You already have international customers
Even if you haven’t deliberately targeted international customers, you may well already have a customer base, or pool of prospects, beyond your national borders. Perhaps you process orders from abroad on your e-commerce site. Or maybe you’re receiving enquiries about your product or services from businesses or consumers based in other countries. Interest in your business from a country you haven’t actively marketed to is a very positive sign that you’re ready to take this step.
Start by looking carefully at your database of leads and customers, segmenting by country. And ask your sales, marketing, and customer service teams for any insight they may have about current or prospective customers from specific markets.
Your entire team is on board
Your business might be anything from just you, to a team of hundreds, but however large or small your organisation, you need to make sure that everyone is fully behind the project.After all, it’s going to be a challenge, so it’s important your entire team is happy to make the big push. Make sure you get buy-in from all levels of your organisation, asking for feedback and ideas so that it feels more of a collaborative process and less like a top-down decision.
How to choose the right market
Apart from deciding when to expand, the next biggest decision to take is which market or markets to expand into. Remember, the answer to this will vary based on your business and individual situation.
Considering expanding into Portugal? Find out why it’s a fantastic place to do business.
Which markets would be easiest to target?
Generally, it’s going to be easier to expand into a market where the language, culture and way of doing business are similar. However, it’s always important to be aware that though two countries may appear similar, like Portugal and Brazil, there are always going to be cultural and linguistic variations to take into account.
Consider your individual and business circumstances. Maybe you or members of your team have knowledge of a specific market, language, or culture that you could draw on. Or perhaps you already have some customers, prospects, or business connections in a particular country. Any of these links would give you a headstart.
Will your product or service sell?
In-depth market research is essential for understanding the demand for your product or service in a particular country, as well as the local and international competition you’re up against. Make sure you also investigate the infrastructure you’ll be working with and the costs involved before committing.
What legal requirements do you need to meet?
The last thing you want is to get your hopes up about a certain market and then realise that you aren’t able to follow through. For instance, your target market might require you to have a specific licence or certification. You may need to meet certain legal requirements, data or privacy laws.
You might want to look into trademarking or copyrighting your products or business name in that specific country. And of course you should check you wouldn’t be violating any copyrights to trademarks already established in the local market.
Figure out the requirements and costs for operating your business in that country to help you decide whether it’s a market worth investing in. This is where working with an expert in the target market can prove invaluable, as they’ll be aware of other brands operating in the space.
Preparing to enter a new market
Once you’ve decided which market or markets you want to move into, it’s time to make sure your business is as well prepared as possible. Here are some steps to get you started.
Consider redesigning or repositioning
No matter how familiar you are with your new target market, this is the stage where you need to bring in an expert on the culture and language you’re targeting. You might need to change your logo or your colour scheme to best speak to your new customers. And the same goes for your snappy slogan – it will probably have to be adapted through a process known as transcreation. You may even need to rethink or reposition your services or products if your market research tells you they won’t sell.
A professional with in-depth knowledge of the market and culture will be able to suggest changes that may never have occurred to you, but which can make the difference between fame and fortune and an outright flop.
Update your marketing materials
If your new target market speaks a different language, then you’ll need to translate your website. You may also need to change images, colours, videos, formatting, and more, to meet the expectations of your new target market, a process known as localisation. Even if you’re not switching languages, you probably still need to localise the content so that it’s relevant and compelling for customers in that country.
But whether you’re localising or translating your website, you’ll need to first make sure the original version of your website is as clear and consistent as possible. Find out how you can write for translation to make the process quicker and easier.
Of course, make sure you use a professional translator who has a deep understanding of the market you’re targeting. And don’t just stop at your website. Have a look at our list of not so obvious things you should translate for your business.
Thinking about investing in Portugal? Discover why Portugal is an excellent choice.