The world in which we’re living and working is in a period of flux, where what’s ‘normal’ is continually being challenged. It’s an age where once rigid boundaries are crumbling and previously distinct elements of life are merging, both at home and in the workplace.
We’re calling this ‘The Fluid Society’.
And connecting these once distinct elements of life is technology. The internet has put a wealth of information within easy reach. Social media has made the customer experience public and e-commerce has pulled down barriers of entry for new competitors.
In the build up to the publication of our latest Perspective series report ‘Fluid thinking – working without boundaries’, Emma Jones the Founder of Enterprise Nation, co-Founder of StartUp Britain and author of ‘Go Global’ gives her advice to businesses thinking of taking their product or service to a global audience.
With 1.2 billion customers online around the world, now is a good time to be selling your product or service into new and emerging markets. There is a perception that exporting is difficult to navigate with common questions being ‘How will I get paid?’, ‘Will the product be safe in transit?’ and ‘How do I offer customer service to customers in a different time zone, with their own local language and culture?’
What I have come to realise in speaking with hundreds of successful exporters is that many small business owners fall into exporting almost by accident, but soon realise it’s more straightforward than they thought. Based on these conversations, I’ve devised a 5-step approach that will help any business expand beyond its own borders.
1. Market Research – check to see if you have existing international traffic coming to your site via Google Analytics. Research the markets more likely to buy your product or service through accessing country and industry reports which you can find in the online international resource centres of banks. Or Alibaba.com has a wealth of information too. Consider applying for the Export Market Research Scheme (EMRS) from UK Trade & Investment to source expert help in doing the research. What you’re looking for is data on customers, the country’s local laws/regulations/economy and intelligence on local competitors.
2. Make sales – start selling via powerful platform sites that attract international traffic and enable you to Go Global at speed. Etsy is a haven if you’re in the handmade business. Or consider eBay, Amazon, Elance, iStockphoto and iTunes – whether you’re selling fashion designs or technical apps, these sites will carry you into new territories. Sell via your own website by having e-commerce functionality which comes built in with templates sites such as Powa, Moonfruit and SupaDupa.me.
3. Promote – get yourself known and talked about in all the right places by reaching out to influential bloggers and news outlets that your customers visit. Follow journalists and build your own social media profile on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and YouTube to demonstrate your product and expertise to an international audience. Send releases, as you would in the UK, with strong imagery and a media hook that’s relevant to the journalist at the other end.
4. Sort the practicalities – deliver in time and on budget by making the most of international courier companies. There are a number from which to choose including DHL, UPS, FedEx etc – compare prices on sites such as parcel2go.com and parcelmonkey.com and complete the export documentation so there’s no risk of your product being held up at the other end. Receive payment from customers in multiple territories through use of a payment gateway such as RBS Worldpay, PayPal or Google Checkout.
5. Go Local! – with sales increasing, consider localising your website with help from a translation company who can put things in words and pictures that resonate more with the local market. Consider visiting the country with help from UK Trade and Investment such as the Tradeshow Access Programme or the recently launched Global Jumpstart Competition from Open to Export, which offers flights and thousands of pounds worth of export support as a prize. Consider having a virtual office to give that local feel via companies such as Regus who have offices across the globe in which you can touchdown and show your commitment to the market.
There’s plenty of support available and taking these steps will effectively position you in new territories and prepare you for going global!
Our latest report ‘Fluid thinking – working without boundaries’ will be published at the end of the month and will feature insights from globally successful UK businesses, including King of Shaves and Huddle. Check back soon to download this free report.
Emma Jones is Founder of Enterprise Nation www.enterprisenation.com and author of ‘Go Global – how to take your business to the world’