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Common Mistakes To Avoid When Expanding Internationally

Bartosz Majewski in

Blog/Common Mistakes To Avoid When Expanding Internationally

The subject matter of this post is grounded in our own international expansion efforts. However, I strongly believe that our experience has resembled that of any other company trying to conquer new, foreign markets. For the purpose of this post, I’ll focus on a set of six common mistakes that SMEs should avoid in order to successfully break out of their domestic economic environment. Let’s see what these are.

The topic at hand may be something you haven’t thought about much so far. Why would you even want to take up the task of going global, if you’ve been doing just fine in your local market?

Well, there’s this business rule of thumb, saying that in order to sustain growth, you absolutely have to consider international expansion. Your company too has the potential to take that next step. Global reach isn’t something reserved only for large corporations.

Now, let me go ahead and share with you what we at RightHello have learned working with our clients, helping them grow and flourish in foreign markets. Without further ado, here’s a set of dos and don’ts that will help you make your international expansion a success.

#1 Being impulsive and fancy at any costs (AKA trying too hard)

You may be thinking – Everyone has customers in the US, how come we don’t?! Or – Our competition is already in Japan, we have to expand there! You may also be compelled to try and launch operations someplace considered ‘cool’, say Dubai.

Well, newsflash, that’s not the way to go. You have to consider all the pros and cons of the location first. Don’t get carried away by emotions, or act impulsively, when choosing your new target market.

napoleon made mistake during international expansion

#2 Maladjustment of the distribution to the transaction size

This one’s a pretty common ailment. The issue here is that you must choose the right gun caliber to shoot the game you’re after. Adjust the efforts to the value of your target client. For instance, cold emailing a prospect worth $10 won’t yield the expected return.

Another crucial issue is figuring out your target audience’s buying patterns. Say, social media managers are immune to hard sales efforts – they simply don’t appreciate that. Remember that no one’s going to spend $500k without personally meeting you. Even your CEO has to sometimes meet the leads.

go global with good caliber

#3 Misunderstanding the reasons for expansion

The right reasons for international expansion are simple, really. Go for it if:

  • you want to boost revenue
  • you want to diversify revenue
  • your analysis show people will love you
  • you already have some clients in the target market
  • your ambitions go beyond the domestic market
  • your product is applicable globally

#4 Insufficient groundwork (AKA too little preparation)

Just to remind you: “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” Succeeding in your domestic market is hard enough. It doesn’t get easier when you’re going global. Make sure you check these points to come out on top:

  • everyone at your company is a proficient English speaker, or is on the path to become one
  • everyone at your company reads a lot in English
  • everyone at your company has a LinkedIn profile in English
  • start preparing in advance, that is before you actually have to
  • two hours of the founder’s involvement in the expansion process a day is an absolute must

#5 Unrealistic assumptions

Here are three mindsets you DON’T want to start with when expanding internationally:

“We’ll successfully expand because our product is superior and will sell itself.”

Wrong. It’s crucial to have an extensive business background. Distribution is as important as the product quality.

“We’ll expand based on referrals.”

Not really. Your current domestic clients will most likely be poorly connected abroad, so they probably won’t help you much with referrals.

“We’ll expand based purely on content marketing.”

Nope. There’s some dirty work to be done besides content marketing. You have to knock on some doors, attend conferences, send some cold emails, make calls, etc.

#6 Procrastination

Finally, an achiever’s arch nemesis. Some of the most frequent excuses for not getting down to business I’ve been hearing include:

“We have to hire a sales rep.”

A month or so later… Sooo, how’s that going? Are you guys ready to expand? “Well’ we haven’t had the time to write a job ad yet.” Really?!

“We have to implement a CRM first.”

This shouldn’t take more than a week for an SME.

“We have to translate the site first.”

This will take another couple of days via a translation agency, depending on the size of the site. Consider commissioning the task externally to save time.

Conclusions

Alright, you’ve now graduated from the comprehensive international business expansion course and know about the pitfalls to avoid. The basics aren’t rocket science – roll up your sleeves and get down to work.

Choose the target market carefully, don’t let emotions get the best of you. Make sure you understand your prospects’ buying patterns. Know your motivations and lay down proper groundwork. Be realistic about what and how you can achieve and never procrastinate.

There you have it. A set of clearly laid out guidelines to help you make the most out of your company’s international expansion. Good luck!

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Bartosz Majewski

Co-founder at RightHello. 10 years experience in sales. Executed business expansion into 38 markets in 6 continents. A regular speaker at business conferences. An active snowboarder outside of work. Avid book reader and blogger.

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