Fundamental Considerations for Global Expansion
While expansion may begin organically in some international markets due to widespread internet access, there comes a time when you must make proactive decisions such as:
- Which international markets to target specifically
- When to begin serious global expansion efforts
- How much of your time and resources can realistically be spent on expanding into international markets while still maintaining a strong domestic model
Techcrunch's "A Company's Guide to International Expansion" makes this observation: "Before doing anything, you must understand market attractiveness, product readiness and business drivers... In short, when 25 percent or more of your business is coming from international markets, it's time to scale outside your home country. The tricky thing about scaling internationally is that the globalization process requires cross-functional cooperation and alignment - engineering and product teams need to coordinate in a new way with go-to-market operations like sales and marketing."
As is the case when you are launching your startup domestically, before you expand into global markets you must identify your target audience and understand the marketplace in which you will be competing. For instance, suppose you are launching an app internationally. While you may have a deep and wide understanding of the domestic audience to which your app appeals, you must take into account both the similarities and differences in the same demographic internationally. Cultural issues, as well as linguistic issues, must be considered.
Additionally, you must understand the economic structure and legalities that come into play in each country to which you expand. What regulations will impact business in your target countries?
Assessing International MarketsThere are some general guidelines that work for the vast majority of businesses expanding into global markets. For instance, expanding first into other English-speaking countries may prove to be an easier transition than targeting countries with different languages and cultures. A soft expansion into another English-speaking country will help you work out the kinks of your expansion strategy in a relatively pain-free environment.
The Techcrunch article observes: "The most obvious options include non-U.S. markets with high broadband and mobile penetration, favorable socioeconomics, stable political environments, accessible payment infrastructure and relatively easy regulatory and tax requirements (often English-speaking markets).
A good way to get a baseline understanding of which markets to prioritize is to look at GDP per capita compared to overall Internet population by country. Startups typically first tackle countries with a large number of target customers and high levels of disposable income. The U.K., Canada, Australia, France, Germany, and Japan are good examples."
While mobile penetration is an important factor to consider, in some cases countries with widespread mobile adoption may be less attractive for other reasons. For instance, countries such as China, India, and Brazil present challenges due to difficult regulatory and privacy rights environments.
Popular International Markets and Their CharacteristicsThe question, then, is "Where do you need to focus your efforts internationally for best results?" The answer to that question varies according to your particular product or service. However, according to Inc.'s "How to Market Your Startup in Different Parts of the World", there are some markets that show promise for the vast majority of startups. They are:
1) ChinaDespite a difficult regulatory and privacy rights environment, China is an attractive market for many. With 1.3 billion consumers, China is the largest world economy. Add to that the fact that Chinese consumers appear eager to spend, and it is easy to see why China is an attractive destination for product expansion.
However, it must be noted that this attractiveness also makes for a crowded marketplace. Startups looking to make a big splash in China must be aggressive in making themselves heard above the noise of a highly competitive marketplace. For best results, you will likely need to connect with local bloggers and social media influencers to get marketing messages to resonate with the typical Chinese consumer.
The Bottom Line: China is an attractive target market, but there are significant hurdles to overcome to make your products stand out.
2) CanadaThree major factors that make Canada a natural choice for U.S. startups looking to expand globally are its close proximity to the U.S., widespread mobile adoption, and its largely English-speaking population. For many startups, expanding into Canada is relatively painless.
Bottom Line: Canada is a great place to get your global expansion plans off to a solid start.
3) EnglandFor many of the same reasons, England is an attractive market for business expansion. While the English economy has been weak of late, there are signs that recovery is taking place. An additional bonus of expanding into England is that English consumers follow social media in much the same way as American consumers. This means that social media marketing that works in the U.S. has a high probability of success in English markets as well.
Bottom Line: England is a natural fit for U.S. marketers.
4) AustraliaAustralia is an attractive choice for U.S. startups because language is not a large barrier and consumers in Australia have high levels of disposable income. With a thriving economy and a big preference for LinkedIn, Australia is a content marketer's dream.
Bottom Line: Australia is an easy fit for startup expansion.
5) IrelandThough Ireland is small compared to other choices, it takes a very pro-business stance and therefore attracts many larger U.S. companies. Irish consumers, like their English counterparts, are heavily invested in social media, with Facebook being the preferred platform.
Bottom Line: The Irish market may be small, but it is robust.
6) Hong KongHong Kong's economy hinges on international trade and commerce, making it an attractive choice for startups with an aggressive expansion strategy. However, Hong Kong is a complicated place for marketers to target appropriately. The hodgepodge of cultures and traditions which are radically different from U.S. norms make marketing a challenge. Startups looking to expand into Hong Kong do well to carefully research local cultures and craft their campaigns so as to impress without offending local consumers.
Bottom Line: Startups must weigh the challenges versus the rewards to determine whether their products will be a good fit with consumers in Hong Kong.
Language Support for Startup Expansion
Best practices for startups expanding globally includes localization of apps and marketing materials for all target countries. Techcrunch's "How Many Languages Your Startup Needs to Know" notes: "In 2015, reaching 90 percent of the online audience worldwide required localization into more than 25 languages. To reach the same proportion of web surfers in 2020, you will need 48 languages, according to data from Common Sense Advisory."
Addressing the linguistic challenges inherent in global expansion is most easily accomplished by working with a professional language support provider. Benefits of working with a language support agency are:
- Greater scalability with easily added support for additional languages throughout the expansion process
- Consistency of translation which facilitates better brand recognition
- Better alignment of marketing materials with cultural norms in target countries
Dynamic Language offers language support services globally. To discuss international expansion with one of our localization experts please contact us. Our certified team of professionals will work with you to manage all your translation and localization needs.