Expansion is key to the growth and development of any business. The usually formula to grow your business is to increase your sales. But how can you increase sales?
There are many different methods for increasing sales. Some work better than others and the success of each method is dependent on the type of business that you operate. There is no magic formula that works for everyone.
One method that many businesses continuously try to adopt and develop, is to target new customers outside of their own domestic markets.
This is a good strategy to encompass as it allows you to explore new markets and opportunities and acquire new customers along the way which in theory should lead to increased sales.
Successfully establishing your business in international markets can also stabilise and safe guard your business against domestic down turns in the local economy.
So how hard is it to become the next worldwide business sensation? With careful planning you can easily create a global footprint for your business without breaking your back and the bank!
1.First do some basic research. Identify a country that you want to expand in to. Is there sufficient demand for your product or service in the country that you’re targeting? For example, there is no point selling ice to the Eskimos.
But selling ice to the Nomads of the Sahara desert might pose a lucrative business opportunity!
2. Next, do some research on local laws, duties, quotas and embargos and identify any barriers that may hinder you from entering and servicing the population of the market that you have decided to enter. For example, there are no barriers to trading between EU countries, but if you plan to trade with a country like North Korea there may be international laws and trade embargos in place to hinder your strategy. Another example can be found in the motor trade. The variety of cars available for sale in the domestic market in places like India and Pakistan is very limited. Exporting vehicles to these countries could pose a lucrative opportunity for success, however this may not be the case as both countries currently have very strict policies and high tariffs in place for the importing of motor vehicles.
Research is key. It’s better to invest some time and even money to get things right before hand, without finding out the hard way later on.
3. Once you have identified the country that you wish to expand to, the next thing you need think about is how you are going to service customers living in that country. This all depends on the kind of business you are running.
- Perishable goods – good that cannot be transported over long periods of time
A good example comes from food items. For example, if you are planning to open up a chain of burger shops in your chosen country then you will have to invest a significant amount of capital in real estate to purchase or lease suitable properties from which you can set up operations. There are then additional hurdles to overcome which include sourcing local suppliers, hiring localised labour, logistics and observing local laws. In such a situation the ideal thing to do is to hire local consultants who can do the ground work for you in terms of setting up your business. Local real estate agents will know the property market better than you in your chosen market. They can save you valuable time by helping to source locations that work for your business. Local recruitment agents can assist with finding labour and solicitors and accountants can ensure that you have the correct paperwork in place, and that you are compliant with all local rules and regulations. The idea is not to go it alone. Get assistance and guidance from experts who know the local market. Their input and guidance can be invaluable.
- Supply of non perishable goods or items that are easy to transport
If your primary business is related to the supply of goods such as clothing, electrical items, household goods, gadgets and other non perishable / long life items, then your primary focus should be :
- Logistics and customer services
- Company formation and observing local laws and regulation
This can be split into 2 sections:
How easy is it to ship goods to customers in the new country that you are targeting?
How easy is it to replenish supplies once you are out of stock?
There are a number of different solutions that that you can explore. Some solutions may work better than others for your business.
- Find a good courier who can deliver and collect returns overseas.
For example, your company may be based in France and you may wish to provide goods to customers in Germany. The first step to take is to speak to local couriers in France. Find out if they can ship to Germany and what the costs and delivery times will be. They may also be able to collect returns on your behalf. Couriers with global networks will also have knowledge regarding import / export duties between countries and their knowledge and expertise comes for free all part of the service! If you can find a good courier your barriers to enter into new markets can be reduced significantly.
But be warned. This could be an expensive way to go about doing things. Especially if export / import duty is involved. Do your research properly and speak to as many different couriers as possible to get a real feel about the benefits and disadvantages to exporting. From a supply perspective as you are holding all stock physically you are in control of how and when to replenish stocks.
You can handle all customer services in house. To make it easy for customers to reach you or to give the impression of a localised presence you can obtain a local VOIP number with calls routed to your own inhouse customer services agents.
- Find local fulfilment agents.
Fulfilment agents or fulfilment centres as they are also known, provide outsourced storage, packaging and shipping solutions to ecommerce sellers. This is an easy and headache free method of selling goods to customers in an overseas market. You simply ship all of your merchandise to the fulfilment centre and then let them take care of all of the logistics. Amazon is a prime example of a reputable and success company that provides fulfilment services. But be aware of potential pitfalls that can be associated with using fulfilment centres. The main one is stock management. It’s sometimes hard to keep track of items sold Vs items returned Vs items in stock. Many sellers often finding themselves overselling leading to disgruntled customers and bad reviews. You are also putting the fulfilment centre in charge of packaging and shipping. If either services are inadequate you will have to face the full force of disgruntled customers.
When using fulfilment centres you usually need to provide customer services yourself. Giving the impression of a local business is always a good idea when creating consumer confidence. Again the easiest way to do this is to rent a voip number for the country which you are targeting. This is usually cheap and you can receive calls for free via an App or software loaded onto a PC. Any good VOIP provider should be able to provide you with the relevant software.
- Find local drop shippers
This is a great way to supply customers without the headaches of ordering and managing stock. You simply find a local drop shipper who can deliver goods to your customer on your behalf. Many also provide customer services which is great if you do not speak the local language. Although this presents an easy and fantastic solution to product sale and delivery you have to remember that it’s your reputation on the line, not the drop shipper’s. This means that the delivery of inferior products, poor packaging and delivery times and bad customer service could have a huge impact on your reputation without effecting the drop shipper. Research into companies providing drop shipping services well and ensure that you go with a reputable company. There is also the risk of overselling. It is not uncommon to hear about websites selling a product only to find that the drop shipper is out of stock. Ensure you work with a drop shipper who provides real time stock management
- Sale of Digital Goods and Services
The great thing about the sale of digital goods and services is that there are very limited barriers to enter new markets. The power of the internet means that the world is your oyster! One main thing that you should address however, is consumer confidence. For example, is somebody based in Europe comfortable with making a purchase from a company based in Alaska?
The best thing to do in such a scenario is to set up a virtual office or virtual address in the country in which you are marketing your goods and services. This would give your business a local presence. Obtaining a virtual address is relatively cheap and you usually do not need to open or register a company in order to obtain one. The virtual address can be marketed as an “admin office” and displayed on your website. You can also obtain a local phone number from a good voip provider and route calls to your pc or mobile via an App or software.
Obtaining a local address and local phone number is likely to boost confidence of customers and lead to an increase in sales, without leaving am impressionable dent in your pocket.
Company Formation and Observing Local Laws and Regulation
Whether you need to set up a company in the local country in which you operate all depends on the business model that you adopt, the product / services that you offer and the country in which you are planning on entering. In some cases for the sale of physical goods you can set up a “distribution centre” overseas and avoid paying local tax if you can prove that all sales related activity takes place in your home country. In other cases if the goods and services are located overseas and are being shipped from the host country you may be liable to pay tax. In such a scenario the formation of a company may be advantageous.
Locals laws and regulations can be challenging to understand and can change across jurisdictions. Not only do you have to think about paying taxes on the income that you accrue in the country that the sale has been generated but you also may need to pay tax in your home country. It’s strongly recommended that you perform adequate research by speaking to accountants in your own country, and accountants in the country that wish to operate. Shipping agents and couriers can also be a good source of information regarding import / export levies and duties. If you do your due diligence and research correctly then the advantages of engaging in cross border sales cannot be undermined.