As a small business owner, you must have dreamt of expanding your small business abroad. And why not? One of the primary goals of most small businesses is sustained growth.
Expanding your small business abroad is a great and effective way to reach new customers, grow your revenue, and diversify your market.
Here, I have compiled 5 proven tips to expand your small business abroad. By following these tips, you will learn how to:
- Seek out the best opportunities for your small business
- Avoid a common pitfall many small businesses fall into
- Use digital marketing to your advantage
- Assemble the right team and partners
Let’s get started.
5 Proven Tips to Expand Your Small Business Abroad
Expanding your business to new geographies is not an easy task, especially if you are not prepared for the cultural, legal, and logistical differences that come with operating in a foreign country.
Here are some tips to expand your small business abroad.
1. Research the Market and Identify the Best Opportunities
Before you enter a new market, you need to do your homework. The first tip on how to expand your small business abroad is to conduct thorough market research and analysis.
Comprehensive market research can help you answer the following questions:
- Is there a demand for your product or service in the target market?
- Who are your main competitors and what are their strengths and weaknesses?
- What are the cultural, social, and political factors that may affect your business?
One of the best ways to research the market is to use online tools and resources, such as:
- Google Trends: To check the popularity and seasonality of search terms related to your product or service. Here’s an example.
Image via Google Trends
- Typeform: To create and distribute online surveys and quizzes to your target audience.
- Semrush: To see the keywords, rankings, and ads your competitors use. Here’s a robust Semrush review by Attrock that details the features of this tool in depth.
Image via Attrock
- Similarweb: To see the traffic, sources, and behavior of your competitors’ websites.
Here’s a sample competitor analysis report.
Image via Similarweb
You could also go the brick-and-mortar way by visiting the country or region you want to expand to in person and observing or consulting on the local culture, behavior, and preferences.
2. Know When to Adapt Your Product or Service to Local Preference
One mistake many small businesses make when expanding abroad is assuming that what works in their home market will work in the foreign market. This is not always the case.
Sometimes, customers have eyes only for products that conform to local aesthetics. Other times, they want something that feels exotic.
Data from Statista shows a mixed bag of preferences for local or foreign products by customers across the globe. For instance, 72% of customers in the Netherlands would rather go for local products than foreign ones, while 75% of Indians prefer foreign products to their local counterparts.
Image via Statista
As such, knowing when to adapt your product to local preferences and when to keep it in its original form is critical for success. And it doesn’t have to be a hit-or-miss situation; this is where the insights you’ve gathered from your market research come in.
That said, if your insights suggest that you need to adapt your product or service to local preferences, one of the best ways to go about it is to use the localization strategy. Localization can involve:
- Translating your content and marketing materials to the local language
- Adjusting your pricing and payment methods to the local currency and standards
- Modifying your packaging and design to meet local aesthetics and expectations
- Adding or removing features or functions to suit the local needs and preferences
- Complying with the local regulations and standards
3. Establish a Strong Online Presence and Leverage Digital Marketing
The third tip to expand your small business abroad is to establish a strong online presence and take advantage of digital marketing.
It’s a no-brainer; marketing is super important when venturing into a new market. According to Visual Objects, 91% of small businesses invest in digital marketing in some form or another.
The importance of digital marketing is highlighted by Statista, which revealed that global ad spending on digital advertising was approximately $680 billion in 2023.
But there’s no one-size-fits-all solution for digital marketing. You need to experiment with various digital marketing channels and strategies to find what works best for your business.
Here are some great marketing tips for small businesses:
- Search engine optimization (SEO): This involves optimizing your website’s content, structure, and performance for relevant keywords and topics. Having a website that’s optimized for local SEO is an important ingredient for success in a new market.
According to a BrightLocal survey, Google is the most trusted review platform across all industries, with 87% of all consumers using it to evaluate businesses.
A great way to boost coverage for your product or service is to embed Google reviews on your website so customers can leave reviews of their experience. BrightLocal data shows that 98% of consumers read and write reviews for businesses, which highlights just how important reviews are.
Here’s an example of a quick Google search result on “best taco stand in Los Angeles,” which Time Out is most optimized for.
Image via Google
- Content marketing: This involves educating, informing, and entertaining your audience through mediums like blog posts, videos, podcasts, ebooks, infographics, and more
- Social media marketing: This involves using social media platforms, such as Facebook, X, Instagram, and LinkedIn, to connect and communicate with your target audience. It’s one of the most effective ways to increase your brand awareness, reach, and engagement, as well as generate leads and sales.
- Email marketing: This is one of the most powerful marketing techniques and typically includes newsletters, promotions, limited offers, and more. According to Litmus, for every $1 spent on email marketing, a business can expect to receive $36 in return (ROI).
Image via Litmus
You can use Wishpond to kickstart some great email marketing campaigns. Wishpond allows you to send personalized and interactive emails to prospective customers. This reduces your costs significantly and the margin of conversion is much higher compared to many other contactless marketing campaigns.
Image via Wishpond
4. Find Reliable Local Partners and Employees
Expanding your small business abroad can be even more daunting if you try to do it alone. You could face logistical issues, cultural differences, and, worst of all, language barriers.
For instance, Clairol, an American hair care business, once launched a hair-curling iron called the “Mist Stick” that immediately flopped in some parts of Europe. Why? “Mist” translates in German as “manure.”
Embarrassing flops like this are why having a local partner or employees can be a great asset for your business.
Local employees can help you:
- Communicate and interact with your customers, partners, and suppliers in the local language and context.
- Understand and adapt to the local market trends, opportunities, and challenges.
- Enhance your productivity, efficiency, and quality of your product or service.
- Increase business profitability, growth, and sustainability.
But finding the right partner or team is not easy. You want to look for people who share your vision, values, and goals. You also need to consider their expertise, reputation, and network.
As such, you need to partner with people you have a healthy rapport with to successfully expand your small business abroad.
To find and choose the right partners or employees, you can use platforms like LinkedIn, Indeed, Upwork, and TradeKey. You can also find them through networking, referrals, or government and trade organizations.
5. Follow the Local Regulations and Laws
It goes without saying that compliance with local regulations and laws is critical to the success of a small business looking to expand abroad.
You need to understand and follow the rules and requirements that apply to your product or service and your business operations. Tax compliance and adherence to legal obligations are also incontrovertible.
You also need to get and maintain the necessary permits, licenses, and registrations to operate within the ambits of the law.
One of the best ways to follow local regulations and laws is to consult and hire local experts and professionals, such as lawyers, accountants, and consultants.
Final Word: 5 Tips for Expanding Your Small Business Abroad
Expanding your small business abroad can be a great way to grow your customer base, revenue, and reputation. But it also requires careful planning, research, and execution. To succeed in the international market, you need to follow these 5 tips:
1. Conduct thorough market research to understand the demand, competition, and opportunities in your target market.
2. Know when to adapt your product or service to local needs and preferences and offer value and differentiation to your customers.
3. Create a strong online presence and leverage digital marketing strategies to promote your brand, position your product or service, and reach your target audience.
4. Find the right partners and employees to help you navigate the local market dynamics and establish long-term relationships.
5. Always follow the local regulations and laws, whether tax compliance or permit requirements.
Need more help or tips to expand your business abroad? Let me know in the comments.
Author Bio – Gaurav Sharma
Gaurav Sharma is the founder and CEO of Attrock, a results-driven digital marketing company. Grew an agency from 5-figure to 7-figure revenue in just two years | 10X leads | 2.8X conversions | 300K organic monthly traffic. He also contributes to top publications like HuffPost, Adweek, Business 2 Community, TechCrunch, and more.