Starting a business in one’s own country can be a daunting task. It often involves piles of paperwork and navigating hundreds of unfamiliar processes to get the permits you need.

Once your business is established and running successfully, though, your eyes may look to other horizons—AKA new markets. These markets provide an opportunity to reach a new and wider customer base. Reaching those customers, however, and selling to them can be hard work.

No matter where you decide to set up shop, expanding internationally can be confusing and complicated. However, there are a few things you can do to smooth the process before opening your doors—or your website—to international consumers.

1. Know why you’re expanding your business

Aside from the possibility of generating more revenue from exposing your product to new customers, really think about why you’re expanding your business internationally.

Despite the fact that you’ve never marketed your product there, are you seeing demand from the country you’re targeting? This could include traffic to your website from other areas or purchases from other countries.

2. Have an international business plan

Don’t assume that the business plan you used to start your company in the U.S. will get your international business off the ground. In fact—other than your stellar product—you should act like you’re building your organization from the ground up.

Get familiar with commerce and business laws in your new target country. Understand the processes you’ll have to go through to open your doors or start selling your product to locals. Even if the consumers in a specific market seem like a good fit for your product, weigh the costs of setting your company up in a new country against the potential revenue. 

3. Learn about the culture of the country you want to expand to

Along with a localized business plan, it’s important to understand cultural norms and nuances of your new territory. You’re selling your product or service to people, and successful selling requires understanding their wants and needs, and how they go about their days.

Conduct research on your target market’s social and business cultures across several areas, including:

  • Language (including local dialects and common slang)
  • National and traditional holidays
  • The importance of hierarchies
  • Typical dress code and other signals of professionalism

Not only will this research help you better understand your customers, it will give you better ideas for advertising and help you understand when your sales team is more likely to connect with prospects.

4. Optimize for international SEO

So, you know how you’re going to start your business functions in your target country, and you know about your new potential customers. But how are you going to reach them?

Starting a local website (ending in “.de” for Germany, for example) and translating it to your target country’s official language (or the dialect of your target consumers) will get you on track to better optimize for local SEO.

5. Give your sales team the tools they need to succeed internationally

Once you’ve got customers flocking to your site and recognizing your organization’s name from well-placed local ads, you need to be sure your sales team is set up to handle international prospects.

Letting your leads languish without any response is one of the biggest no-no’s in sales. If you don’t have a salesperson working in your new country of business or dedicated to working hours compatible with their timezone(s), you’ll need a system that—at the very least—sends automated email responses. Set your team up with a decent email marketing or marketing automation solution that allows prospects to schedule phone calls with your sales reps or directs them to relevant resources.

Start your international business the right way

If you started a successful business in your home country, you can repeat the process in other countries…with a few tweaks, of course.

Learn as much as you can about business operations, culture, and SEO in your target country, and you’ll be sure to start the new branch of your business off on the right foot.

Authored by:

Kelsie Anderson

Kelsie is a senior content analyst, writer, and researcher for Capterra. Kelsie has over three years of experience in the B2B software industry, and additional experience in video production, digital marketing, graphic design, data analysis, and SEO and content strategy. When she’s not reading and writing about software trends, she enjoys reading and dabbling in comedic pursuits.