Technology has made the impossible possible for small business owners, and common, everyday advances like email and video conferencing have transformed the small business landscape, making it possible for nearly any businesses to go global — without first transforming into multi-billion dollar conglomerates.

So, if you’re thinking about expanding into the global market, it can certainly be done. There are, however, a few details you should iron out first.  As with any and all business ventures, you’re going to need a plan. Here’s how to get started.

Do your research.

There’s never a good excuse for bypassing the market research phase. Expanding into foreign markets can bring in additional revenue, but it can also bring new challenges. Will you need to rename your product or company? Will your product require physical modifications to work in a new country or region? How will the local economy in your target location impact your bottom line?

Grow slowly.

Find out if there is truly a place for your product or service in foreign markets and start expanding incrementally. Choose one or two of the most promising markets based on your research, and target and refine your efforts in those locations before increasing your reach. Growing too quickly can be hazardous to your business’s health, whether it happens at home or halfway across the globe.

Keep it local.

It seems contradictory to tell a business owner to think local when they’re hoping to build a global business, but it’s absolutely essential. From language and custom to currency and time zone, localization is an important aspect of global growth. For instance, will you need a native speaker to write copy for your website or provide customer assistance? Will you need to offer online support while your team back home is off the clock?

Understand the legal consequences.

What’s legal in one country might not be legal in another. And what’s protected as intellectual property in one region might not be protected on another. Contract language can get muddled in translation, so get an expert to help you maneuver the legal parts of your proposed expansion. It’s important to have solid business connections in your new location.

Meet your competition.

Don’t assume that your competition at home and your competition abroad will be similar. Your market research should include a thorough study of your competition, then check them out personally. Some things are best done in-person, and it’s important to understand how to make your business more appealing to new customers.

Use all the technology available.

The power of the web for small business goes beyond your company website, though ecommerce sites do make it cheaper and more efficient to sell and ship to a global market. Web-based applications also make it possible for you to do everything from manage daily operations to hire staff. By making the most of technology, consultants can advise clients from across the ocean, web designers can build custom sites from thousands of miles away, and fashion boutique owners can offer exotic new designs without ever leaving their home office.

Have you expanded your small business into foreign markets?  How did it go?

Image credit: ilco