The Benefits and Challenges of International Expansion

Many successful businesses in the U.S. turn their eyes overseas for new markets in which to grow their company, their client base and their finances. Some companies even take advantage of so-called “tax inversion” loopholes by merging with other companies and then moving their headquarters outside the U.S. in order to reduce their taxes.

Regardless of the method taken, businesses that traditionally deal solely in the U.S. can often faces challenges and hurdles when trying to expand abroad. The cultural differences alone can cause problems for some companies. But if you’re thinking of growing your business and expanding into different countries, be on the lookout for the following potential pitfalls and follow these tips to avoid them.

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1) Know your audience.

You could make a presentation to a client in the U.S., and that client could love what you’ve done and consider it a rousing success. But when you make that same presentation to an international client, it falls flat.

In this case, the problem is likely not with the presentation itself, but with the delivery. Be sure to edit your presentations and pitches to fit the local market to which you are presenting (Japan, China, Germany, etc.). You may need to adjust the content or format or even revamp the entire pitch if it does not fit the target audience.

Be sure to maximize your time, as well. American audiences typically prefer quicker pitches, while European clients likely want to absorb a presentation for longer than an hour.

Finally, one helpful tactic is to design a website for each market, rather than create a blanket international site for all overseas markets. This shows attention to detail to each market and would allow for easier communication to specific nations.

2) Emphasize your history.

You’re presenting your company and your product to a new market, but you aren’t completely starting from scratch. There are certainly financial, cultural and trend differences between the U.S. and international markets, but you should still be sure to emphasize the successes you have had domestically.

After all, you’ve reached the point of considering international expansion, so why hide from the success that brought you there in the first place? Just be sure to tailor your product or service to your new target audience.

3) Understand cultural differences in business relations.

Each market will have different cultural quirks that might go unnoticed but could hamper your efforts to expand abroad. For example, American businesses commonly give positive feedback on presentations, but that feedback might not amount to much in terms of making a deal. European clients, though, prefer to make presenters earn their praise, so take a statement of affirmation from a European businessman to heart.

4) Plan ahead.

International expansion can help grow your business, but it also requires funds to bring it to fruition. Legal fees, acquisition costs, marketing, advertising and new salaries are a few of the expenses necessary to spread your business abroad. Be sure to have enough money set aside to take care of these fees, and set limits for your business so that you have some left over to give yourself a head start once you debut internationally. This will allow you hit the ground running rather than having to work to regain the money you sank into the expansion.

International business expansion is a difficult process, but one that pays off if done properly. Be sure to prepare and execute properly in order to reap all the benefits possible.

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