Five rules for taking your small business international

Branching out into a new market can be exciting, but you obviously need to get your ducks in a row before taking the plunge.

Five rules for taking your small business international

Branching out into a new market can be exciting, but you obviously need to get your ducks in a row before taking the plunge. Natanel Bigger is CEO of MONPURE, the world’s first dedicated scalp and hair health brand, selling into 37 countries having only just launched last year. Below, he outlines a few key things to bear in mind before taking your business abroad …

Find the right time to split your stock.

It’s important to test the market first ‘ as you don’t want to split stock too early. If your local market is the best performing one (as is usually the case), you don’t want to be in a position of not being able to supply to those customers. 

Digitally test the market you’re planning on entering into. Run provocative and interesting ad campaigns on social media and see how people react ‘ read the comments sections. Allow people to purchase overseas from your website, don’t worry about the additional duty you need to pay, you’re not trying to make a profit here ‘ count this as part of your research.

Take local feedback seriously.

If you enter a new market, customer experience is still key ‘ there are too many brands that don’t take it seriously. Allow conversational e-commerce to happen with customers, take on their feedback and learn about local markets and local culture, from social media, to customer service queries and Facebook ads.  You want to be able to advise your customers on how to use your product and ensure they have a seamless experience, from point of purchase to unboxing and using your product correctly.

You don’t have to do everything yourself!

Make sure you build a good network of international partners who can advise on the culture and consumer habits. If you don’t know how to execute on certain areas, you can find a partner to do it for you, providing they follow your brand guidelines. There are loads of flexible warehouse solutions so you don’t have to ship products from a long way off (which is also good if you’re aiming to be carbon-neutral).

Undertake local consumer studies.

Regularly visit the country you’re selling into, to ensure you understand the local culture. Is there a gap in the market due to the culture, religion, climate or landscape? Choose your retail partners and distributors wisely ‘ put some feelers out through your networks. It’s worth speaking to a few people to get the lay of the land. Look into the difference in price elasticity; at home a cup of coffee might be worth £4/3.50, but somewhere else it could cost the equivalent of £9/10. You also need to completely rethink your marketing strategy and calendar, to factor in new promotional periods (e.g. Singles Day in China) and national holidays.

Make sure to protect your brand identity.

Employ a global strategy with local execution. Your brand identity needs to be controlled via a central hub, with clear values that you communicate all over the world in the same way. There’s no good having one thing in one place and the wrong thing in another. For example, if you are going to show a commitment to diversity, this needs to be consistent across all markets. (We have seen how prominent brands can experience a backlash for seemingly ‘white-washing’ their campaigns in certain regions.)

Branching out into a new market can be a daunting prospect, but it could be the best thing to happen to your brand. At the end of the day, don’t be afraid ‘ but do your research! 

Natanel Bigger
Natanel Bigger

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