For many businesses, selling their products or services globally is a natural next step in their growth. But while the prospect of billions of new potential customers is attractive, going global can be a daunting proposition. Here are a few tips on how to get started.
Tap your network. Take advantage of your network for ideas about going global and assistance in finding strategic partners and international customers. This includes your advisors, colleagues, customers, suppliers, employees, trade association contacts and social media connections.
Leverage technology to boost your global presence. To attract international customers, make the most of today’s technology to “broadcast” your business. Examples include websites, YouTube, blogs, social media networks, and other online platforms. Regardless of the tools you use, the key is to make your business known internationally and to provide content that attracts international visitors to your website.
Determine how you will sell internationally. You can sell directly to overseas customers, but keep in mind that you will be responsible for shipping and other logistics, as well as collecting, which can be risky. A safer option may be to set up an e-commerce site or use an e-commerce platform, such as Shopify, to streamline and automate the sales and collection process in exchange for a percentage of your sales. Other strategies to consider include joint ventures or strategic partnerships with firms overseas, outsourcing global sales, using an intermediary to ship products to international consumers, and licensing and franchising arrangements.
Determine how you will collect. Fear of not getting paid is the biggest obstacle to going global for many businesses, so it’s important to have a collection strategy before you dip your toes in international waters. Strategies to consider include getting paid in advance; online payment platforms, such as PayPal; and banking products, such as letters of credit and sight drafts. In addition, the Export – Import Bank, the Small Business Administration and other organizations have programs that assist businesses in financing international transactions.
Get help. To mitigate the risks associated with going global, it’s important to work with a team of advisors – including lawyers, bankers, and accountants – with international experience. It’s particularly critical to find a qualified lawyer who can help you preserve your intellectual property, comply with the laws in the countries in which you do business, and draft contracts that clearly spell out the parties’ respective rights and responsibilities and protect your interests.
Here are a few sources for more information about selling globally:
- The Balance – Import and Export Business
- International Trade Administration
- U.S. Commercial Service
- Small Business Administration
- Think Outside the Country: A Guide to Going Global and Succeeding in the Translation Economy
- Exporting: The Definitive Guide to Selling Abroad Profitably