Expanding your startup globally is a great way to find new customers, build a wider audience and find new sales and investment opportunities. Successful international startups take the time to research international markets to discover whether or not there is interest or a need for their product or service. Then, with that information, they can expand strategically into a market that is not completely oversaturated with similar offerings.
For startups interested in global expansion, here are a few tips I’ve learned by working globally.
Tip #1: Research regional data
Startups can overestimate a market’s willingness to try a new, foreign product, so it’s important to research data points that can help determine whether or not a product will find success in a certain region. This data will also help with marketing. For example, in Argentina, there is a high use of Facebook (one of the highest in the world, in fact). That information is vital for marketing and sales teams trying to reach a local market. Be sure to find out as much as possible about the region you’re targeting before jumping in.
Tip #2: Partner with a local
Giving local partners a strategic say is key to global expansion if you plan to open an office and set up local operations, as is necessary in markets like Brazil, Mexico or China. Often, companies hire a local team but do not allow them any value or disregard their advice, which is a big mistake.
Local partners understand the market on a much deeper level, meaning they know how to reach and build a community in the region. This partner can help your startup remain culturally sensitive and pivot your product, if necessary. While high-level decision-making can continue at the executive level, local partners should have their thoughts and concerns heard in order to make better decisions.
Tip #3: Prepare to change tactics
What works in one market might not work in another market. Startups often make this mistake when expanding globally: taking strategies that worked say, in the United States, and trying to apply them in another global region. In Latin America, for example, business dealings are more traditional with in-person meetings and a shared contact present. Startups more used to dealing with email-only clients might find it hard to transition to more old school tactics. Ultimately, however, that is what will make the expansion successful.
Furthermore, startups might have to pivot their product to meet consumer demand. Products or services that work in one country might not be as necessary for another, or competitors might have already captured the market. Startups should be open to shifting technology or producing new features based on the new market’s needs and wants. Those that can quickly shift will most likely find much more success than companies that try to make a product fit in a market that doesn’t want it.
Tip #4: Sell globally without opening an office
Startups have the option of being a global company from day one, working from anywhere in the world. By acting multinationally from the beginning, startups can take advantage of technological skills sets from around the world — since no one will really care where you are based. This tactic can give startups a competitive advantage since they can reduce costs in terms of office space, U.S. salaries and more.
Startups that are ready to expand globally can find great success in a new market. By listening to locals, remaining open to change, and collecting data from the region, startups can strategically expand to new markets with success.