HOW BIG SHOULD WE GROW BEFORE WE CONSIDER OVERSEAS MARKETS?
We run a small but thriving clothing business, with a specialism in French-style sailor shirts, writes Clara. The business is 4 years old now and we consider it a s successful venture so far. Given our focus on french-style shirts, the irony we’ve always joked about is that we’ve yet to ever make a single sale in France itself!
WHAT ARE SOME OF THE FACTORS WE SHOULD CONSIDER IF WE WANT TO SELL OUR PRODUCT OVERSEAS?
Clara asks a wise question here. The lure of overseas markets is always a siren call to consider carefully.
- On the one hand, there are obvious benefits: increased consumers, increased cachet for your brand (if you operate in a market for which that is important) and last – but not least – the excuse to travel overseas and call it “work” !
- On the other hand lurks the beast of greater complexity in just about everything you do. Tax structures will need to be thought through, logistics will have to be managed very carefully. If you’re exporting to a country with different languages, simple translation is unlikely to be enough – you’ll need the help of translators, like http://www.textualis.com who understand the concept of localisation. Depending on the nature of your product, people will relate to it in ways that can be surprisingly different from what you will have come to expect.
Every business is different of course. Here are the key questions I feel Clara – and any entrepreneur considering this option should think through:
1. HOW SECURE IS YOUR DOMESTIC BUSINESS?
The last thing you want (and actually, the easiest mistake to make) is to jeopardise your bread-and-butter business – the one that made you successful in the first place. Try a thought experiment: If you were to travel on holiday and pay not attention at all to your existing domestic business for at least 4 weeks, how comfortable would you be? If the thought of doing this brings you out in a cold sweat with thoughts of doom and foreclosure… then don’t even consider the overseas expansion idea for now.
You have to be sure your domestic business can cope with significantly reduced attention from yourself – at least for a while.
2. HOW MUCH WILL AN INTERNATIONAL EXPANSION STRETCH YOUR EXISTING STAFF?
Expanding overseas won’t just occupy your time. It will eat into the resources and time of other senior members of your team. Think through how they will cope. It’s almost unavoidable that people will start to need to pay attention to business emails and calls at different times of the day from the ones they’re used to. After all, you’ll be establishing a new business that operates in a different time zone. How will this affect morale and energy levels? Will it excite staff or demoralise them? Choose the people you assign to help with the expansion carefully.
3. HOW READILY AVAILABLE WILL STAFF BE IN THE COUNTRIES YOU’RE EXPANDING TO?
Expanding to a new country brings with it the need to understand new labour laws and employment environments. If your business is highly specialised, how readily available will staff with the right skill levels be?
4. WHY NOT JUST EXPAND VIA AN ONLINE MARKETING CAMPAIGN?
Lastly, the thing you absolutely should do is attempt to mitigate your risk. Can you simply experiment with overseas markets by setting up a country-specific website and running an international marketing campaign? The more you can learn about what does and does not work for a new market about your product range before setting foot in an airport, the more secure and considered your eventual decision to expand overseas will be.
But, above all, remember: Fortune favours the bold! Bon chance…