GO GLOBAL, BUT DON’T GO BLINDLY: How to Dominate in the International Market
By Julie-Mae Stanley, Immediate Past President of NAWBO-Central Jersey, Founder of Global Ambición Group and global strategist and inspirational speaker
With 93% of U.S. consumers outside of the United States, opportunities in international expansion cannot be ignored. Not only can it resuscitate your dreams and put new life into a failing business, but it can also alleviate the challenges of a seasonal business and put your business on a trajectory for accelerated success.
Unfortunately, many businesses falter when executing on a global scale. A lack of vision and fear-based planning due to false beliefs cause business owners to go into the global market without a clear plan or understanding of who their customers are and what the best region is for their product or service. They react to the pressure of needing to expand their business and decide global is the way to go.
Some women business owners make their decisions based on trends rather than what is the best fit for their business. Mistakenly, to achieve their projected growth, they will randomly pick a “region,” i.e. South America or Asia, and bulldoze their way in—only to be stunned when their product flops. Millions in legal fees are lost, deals fail and sales plummet. Domestic sales also go down due to a lack of resources to maintain the current customer base.
So the question is, “What do I have to do to be successful in international ventures?” There are four personal pre-requisites needed to succeed:
- Be honest with yourself.
- Have a certain level of risk tolerance.
- Be committed. Understand that it’s not an overnight get rich quick scheme.
- Acknowledge that the size of your company, large or small, does not dictate your success.
Once you have mastered your personal pre-requisites and you are ready to dream big, follow the four pillars to international market domination:
Pillar #1: Power Up! – Knowledge is power! You don’t know what you don’t know. Market research is one of the most essential parts of your strategic plan. Without it you could be heading down a turbulent path. So first and foremost:
- Conduct primary and secondary research. You will need to dig deeper than Google to find the data you need to make educated decisions. Explore government sources and proprietary databases to find the difficult answers that are not easily accessible online.
- Ask about the political climate, socioeconomic and environmental issues, ease of entry, market saturation, regulations, etc. Is there a trade agreement or visa waiver program? Who are the major players, locally and internationally?
- The final and most significant question of all is, what is your “Why?” Why do you need to be there? Content-rich videos on getting started are available at www.export.gov. Hopefully, they will provide the catalyst to answer your “Why.”
Having the right market insight helps you to make educated decisions about your marketing, branding, sales channels, customer engagement and so much more. It enables you to move forward with confidence.
Pillar #2: Dissect the Culture – Don’t underestimate the power of cultural intelligence. It is imperative that you dissect the culture to know the customs, habits and beliefs. Are there any superstitions and taboos that are still prevalent? Even major giants like Mattel have had the rude awakening of underestimating the power of culture in China. McDonald’s, in contrast, made it their priority.
- Mattel – when Mattel opened their first Barbie Mall in Argentina, they made millions in a matter of weeks. With such amazing success, they took the same business model to China. After investing millions in erecting the mall, they were stunned when the results were not as anticipated. It was a huge failure. Had they dissected the culture, they would have understood the fashion and style of young girls, as well as the family dynamics. Would there have been a greater interest if Barbie’s attire reflected the images of how girls saw themselves? Perhaps if there were relevant, blended activities instead of the standard cookie cutter ones, there would be more engagement. Whichever it is, Mattel certainly failed to dissect the culture to find the hidden gems.
- McDonald’s – To ensure their success, McDonald’s made it their priority to adjust their menu to satisfy the palates of their customers. This included adding seaweed to fries, green tea and red bean to ice cream and frog flavour to their burgers. Don’t get squeamish, this is the fact, and if you want to dominate, you must be ready to incorporate and meet local needs. With more than 2,000 restaurants, they have certainly got it right.
So, again, whatever you do, do not overlook the power of cultural intelligence. Learn about the locals, understand the family dynamics and personal preferences and then adjust your plan accordingly.
Pillar #3: Structure for Success – While you may be tempted to venture forth without inhibitions, I highly recommend you meet with legal leaders to:
- Protect your ideas with intellectual property protection
- Set up your business with smart tax structuring strategies
- Find professionals who are familiar with international laws and who can help you set up your business for long-term success.
It is imperative that you find yourself legal leaders who are proficient in international law and tax structuring. You will save yourself a lot of stress and long-term headache in the future by taking this initial step. The right team will help you review the tax implications of doing business in a specific country and help you mitigate the risks accordingly. With the recent proposal on international trade policies and tax reform, this cannot be ignored. Keep up to date with relevant articles such as the impact of Tax Reform.
Pillar #4: Plant in Fertile Grounds – Become a relationship builder. Don’t underestimate the power of face-to-face contact. Making live connections will be instrumental to your business success.
- Attend relevant events that will expose you to international leaders and help you expand your network.
- Participate in trade shows and trade missions.
- Join a traveling mastermind group of women.
Our recent GEM mastermind to Hong Kong was an eye-opening experience. We not only attended the World SME Expo by HKTDC, but we also met with the Hong Kong Federation of Women, toured the city, networked and ate with the locals. Having this on-the-ground experience was priceless. Not only did it inspire us, but it also shed new light on our initiatives and on opportunities we didn’t dream existed. We made countless connections and planted seeds that are certain to blossom into fruitful relationships.
Get out there, and be present. There are major trade events that you can explore. There is the Dubai Medical Show, Hong Kong Fashion Week and Mobile World Congress, to name a few. Chose the venue that fits your business and you will not only build your list, but also line up prospects before you return home.
If you want to grow, go global, but don’t go blindly. Apply the pillars to dominate in the international market. Answer the key questions with solid market research, get a comprehensive view of the culture, protect your ideas with legal advisors and sow the seeds for fruitful relationships. It may seem intimidating, but it doesn’t have to be. With the right execution, not only will it resuscitate your dreams and put new life into your failing business, it can alleviate the challenge of a seasonal business and put your business on a trajectory for accelerated success.
Learn more about Global Ambición Group at www.GlobalAmbicionGroup.com.
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