Thursday, July 3, 2014

Growing Your Business Globally: How to Deal with Common Pain Points

For a business looking to sell products or services around the world, it's not as simple as setting up different buttons on your website and waiting for orders to come pouring in. In fact, even though statistics from the U.S. Commercial Service show companies that export have faster sales growth and are less susceptible to economic fluctuations, only 5.3 percent of U.S. small businesses are currently selling overseas, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. However, with the current administration recently announcing the next phase of the National Export Initiative, the number of small companies exporting should continue to increase.
What legwork do you need to do to grow abroad? What are the key pain points to look out for, and what can you do to help yourself? We have some answers:

Start With Research & a Plan

Do your research about how well your product or service will sell in the targeted market. Check that they have the infrastructure to support your idea. Lay out a strategy and get legal help dealing with the regulations of the market you are selling to. You may also visit the countries in person to build relationships with potential foreign distributors or clients who will help you on the ground.

Pain points come in a few different areas:

Communication

Selling in foreign countries means adapting your company to fit the local market. Educate yourself about the different norms in the countries you're targeting, because "normal" for you may be insulting for another. This could cause you to lose face and lose business. Switch advertising into the local language. The international communications company Mobal offers insight into business language etiquette in major international markets.

Funding

If you are in need of financial support to kick off your international ambitions, the Export-Import Bank of the United States can help youexplore exporting options and provide financing when private banks will not. You can also look at export loans offered through the Office of International Trade.

Payment Processing

Payment processing within the U.S. is fairly straightforward, but once you start selling abroad, you have to contend with foreign currencies and exchange rates. Look for a merchant account provider who can help process credit cards from abroad, help with fraud protection and store cards for recurring billing. Recurring billing company Chargify provides guidance in payment gateways in various countries. Also, consider speaking with banks or financial advisers to hedge against foreign risks, if you do enough business to justify the cost of hiring such support.

Shipping

Shipping internationally comes with a few extra caveats. Many of the major shipping companies like UPS, FedEx, DHL and USPS offer small business specialists to figure out what service best suits your company's needs. There may also be firms that specialize in your targeted market that will offer better rates than the big companies. Make sure you know the custom duties and taxes for the countries you ship to, because these can add up to 30 percent to your shipping fees. Once you have things set up, communicate your shipping policy clearly to your customers.

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