Damon Kelly is the Founder and Managing Director of Enlighten Designs.
OPINION: Expanding into foreign markets can be a daunting thought, perhaps even a pipe dream for small businesses. But with the right knowledge and preparation, it can be achievable for any business, regardless of size.
According to the World Trade Organization, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) make up more than 90% of the business population. SMEs contribute to local and global economic growth through employment, gross domestic product and the stimulation of innovation.
The past two years of great global challenges – including pandemic, war and climate change – have made it clear that we are an interconnected world that relies on international trade coordination and cooperation.
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But even so, the pandemic has also created an environment for some businesses to thrive on the global stage.
Now more than ever, progressive New Zealand businesses have an exciting opportunity to grow their market share and create solutions that have a lasting impact on the global economy. Here are some tips to help you succeed in your international expansion.
Do your homework
Trading in foreign markets has nothing to do with competing with local businesses. Research your international market entry as you would your domestic market. Assess likely consumer demand and delineate competition to ensure you can operate profitably.
It is important to bring a global mindset to the global marketplace. From business practices to cultural nuances to a sense of humor, each country and region will have a different dynamic. Gaining a deeper understanding of the culture will help put you on equal footing with your foreign counterparts.
Expand your network abroad and talk to local experts. They will provide you with useful information about the engagement of your target audience, the environment and local customs. Starting from scratch is always difficult, so try to build on the relationships you’ve already established. You may have existing partners or clients with international connections – they could provide a valuable introduction that can give you a head start.
Consider joining government-run entities like ExportNZ or New Zealand Trade and Enterprise (NZTE). These organizations specialize in helping Kiwi businesses to expand internationally and have been successful in doing so. Since its inception in 2003, NZTE has helped export a combined value of $2.3 billion in goods and services.
Once you have chosen one or more offshore markets, establish your point of difference and your unique selling proposition. This will be the key factor that will encourage customers to choose your business over others.
Consider what makes your product or service different. Is your product the highest quality or the most competitive? Are your services environmentally disruptive or first to market? Either way, a successful USP will matter to your customer and should be deeply integrated into your business strategy.
For example, at Enlighten Designs, one of our unique offerings helps organizations create engaging data visualizations from complex information. It even recently earned us recognition from Microsoft in their Global Partner Awards as one of the top two operators in the Power BI space.
Grow your digital footprint
Greater adoption of technology and virtual collaboration means onboarding new businesses is now possible remotely. When you can’t meet your customer in person, your digital footprint is effectively the face of your business.
Beyond a solid website, your social media is an extension and reflection of your business. It’s also a way to get in direct contact with your target audience and reach key decision makers. When using tools like LinkedIn, it’s important to be yourself and not worry about what other companies are doing. With the help of social media, small businesses no longer have to break the bank to increase their digital presence.
Another way to advertise your product or service is through digital catalogs and directories that give prospects a free “taste” of your offering. A well-designed list can provide solid leads over a long period of time and help you reach a new audience.