Tips for overseas growth and operations

Operating a company at home is a whole different ball game than operating and growing one overseas. In fact, they might even be different sports. Your home game is strengthened by your knowledge of the playing field—you understand what people expect and how to fine tune your knowledge of what they want.

You’re familiar with your customers’ cultural expectations, as well as your employees’. You know that if you reach out to a blogger to form a mutually profitable relationship, they’ll likely be on board (the only questions are fit and price point).

But once you cross that country line, all bets are off and balls start flying at you from left field. All of a sudden, employees expect a different work environment. Bloggers may see guest-posting as highly suspect, if not downright bizarre. And customers can’t be found using your usual channels. You’ll likely find that in order to grow, your company needs to change to reflect its environment.

Here are our best tips for making that transition easier.

Test and iterate

Entering a new market requires research, hard work and patience. But, most of all, it requires letting go of all prior expectations and testing to see what’s really there. Start small. Begin by testing a translated and optimized landing page or product description and iterate until you find some success. Then you can think in terms of growth. Remember to be objective in how you measure success and not only look for what you’re hoping to find.

Throughout each testing phase (tests should continue through every marketing campaign), it’s vital to communicate with accuracy and cultural sensitivity. You’ll need translators who not only know the language, but can be your Sherpas into the culture. The foundation of your success in foreign markets is the ability to speak their languages—literally and figuratively.

Give your new company an “owner”

In many ways, branching out into a foreign market is like starting a new company, and you wouldn’t start a new company without a CEO, would you? That single point of contact is crucial to direct your efforts and defend your interests in your new location. Just as crucial is giving them enough resources to succeed.

What gets funded gets done

What are three basic things any new company needs? A founder, funding and a purpose. Funding should walk hand in hand with your list of clear short-term and long-term goals, all of which serve your ultimate purpose. Then, add more funding as each goal is reached. This way, you’ll build a roadmap with incentives at every stop along the way to success.

Keep it simple, startup

It’s tempting to grow as fast as you think you can. Why not offer your product in 30 languages? You’ll reach that many more people, right? Not necessarily. You may miss significant opportunities by spreading yourself too thin, or find yourself going into debt with unforeseen expenses.

One online company, Pureprofile, moved into 43 countries in just a few months and did see staggering success. But, according to their director, Marina Cilona, they underestimated how much content would need to be translated and retranslated due to cultural sensitivities and contextual issues. That miscalculation, the result of haste and ambition, cost them more than anticipated.

Scaling and operating your global business isn’t easy, but it could be the best decision you’ve ever made.

For more tips on how to overcome the challenges of entering into foreign markets, download our free eBook, Going Global, Part II: Lean Globalization.


Lauren Van Mullem

The author

Lauren Van Mullem

Lauren assists in content production for Gengo's marketing team. As a former food and travel writer, she has experience communicating with all kinds of people from around the world and believes in celebrating different cultures through understanding them.

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