Small Business -Go Global

Jeff Cornwall writes in his blog about a new survey released by UPS. It found that most of America’s small and mid-sized businesses have failed to explore the significant growth opportunities offered by an increasingly global economy; 67% of the nation’s SMBs are still relying solely on the U.S. economy. The percentage of the exporters, the ones I am targeting in this post, is even lower. While some people will be surprised by the low number, I am actually not… Going global is risky and scary so one can understand why it should be the last thing on SMB owners’ minds.

Nevertheless, going global can be a very smart move. You expand your market potential, immune your business from local recessions and diversify your risk. It is also fun, and you will learn a bunch. While it is risky and complicated, as a small business you should at least consider it. Here are some points and tips that can get you started:

  1. Transferable uniqueness—What was unique for Minnesota may not be so unique for Germany. Make sure that what you bring to the table is special enough to work in other places.

  2. Analyze the reasons for your local success—What made you successful in the local market? Marketing strategy? Customer service? Your personality? Whatever it is, check carefully to find out whether you can replicate it abroad or find a decent substitute.

  3. Start with one country—Once you have crossed the mental barrier, it is tempting to get excited and try to go for few countries at once. It is common for people to say things like: “if we go for Panama we may as well go for the rest of Latin America” or “All Nordics are the same.” It is true that there are similarities but they are not the same and the stakes are too high. The trick: go for one country and plan to expand to the rest after proving your model.

  4. Learn, learn and learn some more—Invest the time and effort to learn about the market you are targeting. There is a lot to read on line, but nothing will replace going there to meet with potential customers and partners. When you go there, don’t go for 2-3 days. Stay for 2 weeks, meet 10 different customers. Talk with people. Get the feel of the place. In preparation for the trip you can talk with former residents of your target country that live in the US. They can give you a head start.

  5. Form an alliance—I am not talking about a typical distributor or a local consultant. I am talking about a friend, someone who will want to help you. Easier said than done? Not really. Assume that just like you, there are local businesses in your target market that want to sell in the US. You can help them, they can help you—great value without the typical power plays you will encounter with your potential distribution partner. Where to look? Google, Alibaba and other directories.

  6. Suspect the easy—You will notice that it is easy to get people to represent you in the target market. Even easier to find an accomplished local consultant. My advice: suspect the easy. Busy and successful people are not running in trade shows looking for your company. People eager to sell your product may not be right for you. Don’t get overly excited and spend the time to study their abilities in and out.

  7. Not only for the rich and famous—It may sound counterintuitive, but some businesses did an average job in their local markets and amazingly great in markets abroad. Analyze the components of your solution vs. the target market conditions and you may be surprised…

Gadi Shamia


Small Business -Go Global

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