Expanding your business internationally means opening new opportunities for your company, such as being able to reach out to new potential clients, and boosting your profits. Still, with any new opportunities for growth, new challenges emerge too, and if you want your transition to a foreign market to be successful, you’d better start well prepared. Here are 5 top challenges you should expect.
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1. Communication barriers
Good communication is essential for your success in foreign markets, and to be able to make a breakthrough, you got to speak the language of your customers. Even minor differences in languages, such as those in Anglophone countries basically sharing the same common language, can create great confusion, so imagine all the trouble language barrier can cause when doing business with customers whose language is completely different.
Enabling quality translation of all your products and marketing materials is one of the first things to consider before entering any foreign language market, as the mistakes and glitches can be costly in terms of your profit and your reputation. A well-known brand giant, such as Mercedes Benz can survive such a glitch – when they first entered the Chinese market their name was rendered Bensi, meaning “rush to die”, but they’ve spotted the error quickly and changed it to Benchi, meaning “run quickly as in flying”. To avoid the risk of failures caused by language barriers, avoid common pitfalls such as using cheap translation solutions, and make sure you’ve got all of your translation checked by a native speaker.
2. Cultural differences
When making plans for doing business internationally, be ready to face some cultural differences too. Apart from the language barrier, non-verbal communication can differ significantly depending on culture too. In Russia, for example, too much smiling can be seen as insincere, while in France you should avoid firm handshakes with your customers or partners. Many other rules of business etiquette vary from one country to another. So before heading abroad on a business trip, if you want to seal a deal without risking your reputation, make sure you’re properly prepared and understand their cultural norms and values.
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3. Know the local market
You might be successful doing business at your local market, as you’ve already distinguished yourself from the competition. But, chances are high that, when expanding internationally, you’ll need to face new competition too, and deal with their well-established positions in the target market.
To be able to face this challenge, thorough market research is needed, as well as a fresh marketing approach based on clear insights into both your potential customers and your competition. One of the good ways to get yourself familiar with the local trends on a target market, as well with their economy, culture, and people, is by following relevant news portals in those countries, such as a website Week in China, if you’re considering expanding to the Chinese market.
Nurturing good relations with partners at the target market, like shipping or storage companies can boost your odds of success too, as with their local expertise and knowledge, they can make your transition much easier.
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4. Foreign laws and regulations
Paying fines for breaches of laws and regulations can be quite costly sometimes. Back in 2014, famous San Francisco based Airbnb had to pay a € 33000 fine for breaching the local law in Barcelona, requiring any property rented to tourists to be on the tourist registry. To avoid a similar undesirable outcome, you have to be certain you have a comprehensive understanding of any relevant laws and regulations you might be subjected to. Dealing with international taxes, tariffs and fees can also be a complicated matter, but with an unrushed and well-studied approach to your expansion, you can minimize the risk of such problems.
5. Supply chain challenge
If it’s your first time entering a foreign market, ensure you’ll be able to handle a supply chain beyond your national borders. There are many risks related to the geographical distance and time needed for shipping your products overseas, which can sometimes result in understocking or overstocking on your merch, significantly increasing your costs. You can overcome such issues by developing a proper business plan and using it as a tool to prevent such unexpected situations, which can put your business in danger.
When expanding your supply chain, your chances to work with suppliers that have illegal or unethical practices will increase too. Some of these practices may be unsustainable or even include modern slavery, such as labor exploitation and forced labor. When considering new suppliers abroad, make sure they’re meeting ethical standards, as well as they’re putting an effort in developing sustainable business models.