Taking your home business overseas might seem like a seismic task, but if there is a genuine demand for your product or service in a particular industry, it isn’t an impossible one. Just because you choose to run your business is from home, you ought not to be confined by borders.
Your home business doesn’t need huge numbers of staff or a stash of excess capital to operate abroad, but it does take insider knowledge and a lot of research. So, if you’re looking to take your business global, here are four important tips to consider before you do.
Research local markets
When entering a new market you firstly need to be confident that there is a demand for your product or service. Once you have established that there is demand, you must identify the right way to market your business. It may be a time-consuming task, but conducting effective customer research through surveys and market research can help you assess whether your services or products are in demand in the countries you want to target.
Market analysis can include assessing the size of the market and the time it will take for you to reach certain targets, this will help make sure your business doesn’t come crashing down due to poorly thought out estimates.
Start looking to develop relationships with insiders that are already in your desired market before you expand. As a home business, you are unlikely to have the time or resources to fully immerse yourself into new countries and cultures for the necessary amount of time. Building these relationships with industry experts and other businesses in your country of choice is therefore vital.
Communicate effectively with local people
For small, growing businesses, cheap or free machine translation tools like Google Translate may be an attractive quick fix when working abroad. This can be a costly mistake. Machines only translate content in a literal sense, from word-to-word, they can make costly mistakes that can be detrimental to your business.
Translation is an important part of running an international business from home, however, a literal translation is not always enough. If you’re marketing to audiences it’s vital to have a more nuanced approach, the same goes for translating documentation. Free translation tools can be spotted a mile way, and will give the impression of a unprofessional business.
However, a top quality translation service tends to be expensive, which may exceed the amount that your business is able or willing to pay. Fortunately, more established translation companies do offer cheaper services that are ideal for cash-strapped businesses. However, London Translations note that budget business translations should be used in only certain circumstances such as ‘foreign newspaper and magazine articles’ or ‘non critical incoming email or business correspondence such as routine help desk requests’ and not for legal documentation or bigger marketing campaigns.
Make sure you localise your onsite content as well as translate it
Once you have identified a market you want to expand into, it’s important that you understand the culture of the country in question, and curate your business to engage with people in that country.
Pure360, a UK-based email & SMS marketing provider explain that “one marketing message can’t simply be translated to every market – cultural values, norms, etiquette, humour and slang all add a further layer of complexity.” So how does localisation impact your business strategy? Well, everything from the colour and layout of your website needs to be looked at through the eyes of the target audience. Pure360 point out that red symbolises joy in parts of Asia, but it signifies mourning in parts of Africa.
Selling or working in a target market takes research and an immersion in a culture often far beyond the scope of a small home-ran business, so linking up with translators is an obvious answer to this issue. However, it’s important to state that translators themselves aren’t the answer; finding a local translator with a working knowledge of your industry is the only way to guarantee flawless integration into a new territory.
Professional translators can also localise your content; as translators of their native country, they will make sure the language of your business website is culturally optimised as well as linguistically, ensuring that you are understood on a local level. This is especially important when it comes to marketing your business, as the last thing you want is to offend potential customers.
Be aware of employment and legal issues everywhere you do business
The last thing you want after months of research and formulating a strategy is to be stung by not having a grasp on the necessary legal issues you may need to contend with. For example, patenting laws differ from country to country. As intellectual property rights are assigned on a country by country basis, you may be at risk when opening operations in new territories.
Statistics by the European Commission show that there is a rise in a high number of shipments and products suspected of violating intellectual property rights. Businesses should apply to all countries they wish to work in one by one, and before they begin operating in those new markets.
Legal systems, employment laws and company laws all differ from country to country. According to Linkilaw, businesses who can’t afford to set up a team in the country in question should seek legal counsel to educate themselves on the pitfalls and legal requirements of international business.