Eventually, most businesses will get to a point where they want to expand into the global marketplace.
A natural first step to achieving that goal is to get out there and network with the various contacts and sources to help get you there.
Like most things in life and business, there’s an easy way, a hard way — a right way, a wrong way – a cheap way, and expensive way — and a quick way, and a slow way.
My motto for business growth has always been: spend as much as you need to, but never more than you have to, in order to get your business to the next level. Networking your way into the global marketplace is no different.
Use social media — the cheap and less-risky way to get out there first.
Some of us still can’t believe it, but social media changed everything for businesses everywhere. All of a sudden, we can reach millions of people without having to spend a fortune on marketing or foreign travel. Even further, we can reach these millions of people in our bathrobe and slippers.
Social media is an incredible tool to set the conditions for your business to be seen all over the world, and build an international following without actually going anywhere or doing anything. Granted, you’ll have to spend a considerable amount of time building a robust social media presence on multiple platforms, but if you can establish yourself for free on some of the most popular international websites in the world, why not start there?
Start regionally — How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.
It’s typically considered safer for businesses to grow from where they started, and work their way out geographically at an incremental rate. A relevant aspect of this is cultural surroundings and the economic infrastructure in neighbouring countries to support and enjoy what you’re offering.
Often, however, neighbouring countries are similar in culture and economic infrastructure. If you’re a United States business and think it’s time to expand across borders, consider networking with an intent to expand into Canada or Western Europe — both regions that are generally similar in culture and economic infrastructure to the United States, which likely means you have a good chance selling there what you’re selling here.
Attend internationally-renowned events for your industry — see and be seen; maximise your exposure and bring the world to you.
Beyond social media, the next step in efficient global networking is attending internationally-renowned trade shows and expos for your industry or a vertical industry — go where the people you want to network with go. You don’t necessarily have to exhibit there.
Just go and meet people. Mingle. Chat. Schmooze.
How did you meet new friends in grade school? You walked up to the other kids on the playground, stuck out your hand, and said, “Hi, my name is…” Come prepared with a quick “elevator pitch” of who you are and what your business is, and you’re bound to meet people, gather valuable industry information, and if nothing else, come home with a plan for the way forward.
People from all over the world attend these things, so why travel the world to network when the world can come to you?
In most cases, you may not even have to travel internationally to do this. Chances are, at some point during the year, there is an international trade show or expo in your industry within driving distance of your home or place of business.
Do your homework on culture — be able to act like you belong there.
This is really important. So, say you’re at an international trade show for your industry and you meet someone from what you believe is your next international target market.
You tell him how much you’re looking forward to the prospect of expanding your business into his region, and when he asks you what you like best about the area, you don’t have anything to say, because you don’t actually know anything about it. You may not know the best area to expand into next, and maybe that’s why you’re exploring your options…and that’s ok.
But before you ever find yourself engaged in discussion with someone who might help you achieve your goals, you really should some homework about the area you’re looking to expand into, if for no other reason than to show your prospect that you’re serious about the area.
Scott L. Girard, Jr. is the Editor-in-Chief of ExpertBusinessAdvice.com and a co-author of “International Business Basics: Learn What You Need in 2 Hours“, and five other titles in the Crash Course for Entrepreneurs book series.
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