5 Ways Small Businesses Can Strategically Expand Into International Markets

Deciding to strategically expand a small business into international markets is no easy or small feat. Many considerations need to be made before opening your doors abroad. 

From assessing the financial risk to understanding the best way to merge with the diverse set of cultural norms, this article will explore five ways a small business can begin taking steps toward international expansion.

1. Assess Currency Risks

There are many financial considerations that small businesses should make when considering global expansion, such as currency risks. Fluctuations in exchange rates can have a big impact on the bottom line and unpredictable fluctuations across multiple markets can be detrimental to a business trying to expand. Furthermore, depreciation can quickly deflate profit margins. To better educate themselves, small businesses can look to organizations like the International Monetary Fund (IMF), which provides research and tools to help key decision-makers better understand the current risks in unfamiliar markets

2. Focus on Cultural Intelligence and Communication

When expanding into global markets, small businesses must understand cultural differences and communication styles. This not only relates to employees but also to products and services and how they are positioned in the market. Small businesses should recruit people who are familiar with cultural differences, including non-verbal cues as well as differences in hierarchies and formalities. Small businesses can also look to the expertise of organizations that specialize in understanding cultural intelligence. By taking the time to fully immerse itself in the culture and communications styles of different regions before expanding, small businesses will be better positioned for success.

3. Implement Innovative Market Research and Entry Strategies

Successfully implementing innovative market research and entry strategies is crucial for small businesses interested in expanding internationally. There are many different ways in which a small business can do this. First, use big data and analytics to better understand market trends and consumer behaviors in the new markets. The small business can also focus on building relationships with other businesses and influencers within the target markets. Looking at how competitors plan to market in target areas is also key. By examining what has and has not worked for competitors, a small business can start to build the framework of its go-to-market strategy.

4. Pay Attention to the Legal and Regulatory Landscape

Failing to comply with the legal and regulatory rules of new markets when expanding can be detrimental to a small business. For this reason, it’s important to conduct thorough legal research into matters like employment laws and tax regulations in each market. Engaging local experts and even hiring a legal team with experience in target markets can significantly improve a business’s ability to avoid compliance issues. Small businesses should also pay close attention to employee regulation laws to avoid unnecessary and avoidable legal issues down the road.

5. Study Successful Industry Leaders

In a digital world where all the information needed is at people’s fingertips, looking to experts in global expansion should be near the top of the list for a small business interested in international expansion. For instance, Dominic Ng used his experience to transform East West Bank from a small savings and loan association to a large, full-service, and successful commercial bank. By studying both the leadership style of Ng and how he has led the charge in navigating complicated markets while growing the business, small business leaders can align their plans with tried-and-true plans instead of trying to reinvent the international expansion wheel blindly.

Small Business International Expansion Starts Now

Though expanding a small business into new international markets is no easy task, it is achievable with careful research and consideration. From assessing the currency risks to becoming fully immersed in local cultural differences, a small business can begin to better understand new challenges in its target market.

Implementing strategic marketing and communication strategies and developing a strong understanding of local rules and regulations is also important. Last but certainly not least, by taking time to study international expansion pioneers, small business leaders can build a strong foundation of knowledge to start taking the first steps through international expansion.

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