With the advent of the internet and digital revolution, “global” is an easy word for businesses to use. At the click of a button, businesses can make products or services available across hundreds of countries. The possibilities of global business are immense. But to actually achieve them requires hard work and a focused strategy.
Here are five tips to keep in mind, lessons I’ve learned first-hand while growing a global business.
1. Focus on target markets.
It’s easy to make your product or service available everywhere. But meaningful business in a new market requires close and often long-term focus. Pick around one to three markets that you want to push into in the upcoming year and go for them.
Amazon, for example, is very good at this: when they launch into a new market, they have usually been flying under the radar and making preparations in that market for a considerable time.
2. Don’t make assumptions.
Every country’s market is unique and what works in one market won’t necessarily work in another. Do your research. What are the trends? The supply and retail routes? After all, it pays in dividends to have a holistic understanding of your new customer.
We have been building a business in China over the last two years and everything from culture to government involvement is unique and must be understood fully before any substantial business can be considered.
3. Visit the market.
As phenomenal as digital communication can be, don’t rely on it completely. You need to be focused and serious about that market and there is no better way to understand it, plan for it and make connections than by being there.
In 2014, I spent eight days in India on a business trip. I learned more in that time about opportunities and pitfalls of doing business there than the near decade before it when I was doing deals there from afar.
4. Partner first, presence later.
If you are a large business you may be tempted to really commit and start an office in the country where you are expanding. From my experience, key partnerships are always the best initial route. They allow you to be immediately aligned with expertise and recognition in the market.
Don’t try to partner too widely. Pick one or a small number of potential partners and work on a deal of substance with them. Initially, I tried to cast too wide of a net with my publishing businesses, trying to cover all countries. Now we work on a market-by-market basis, looking for a strong partner first.
5. Plan ahead and give it time.
As someone who is relentlessly impatient, this is very challenging. If I see an opportunity, I want it to start working immediately. But expanding a business in new markets does take time and persistence.
Choose your markets, commit to them properly, and set up regular measurement points. Plan for a long enough period of time over which they can grow. With persistence may well come valuable bottom-line business for your company.
This article has been edited and condensed.
Tom Chalmers is the founder and Managing Director of seven publishing and publishing related companies (including the Legend Times Group) He set up the first in 2005 at age 25. He has been shortlisted for UK Young Entrepreneur of the Year, UK Young Publisher of the Year and UK Young Publishing Entrepreneur of the Year, and longlisted for the Enterprising Young Brit Awards. He also speaks regularly on publishing and business. Connect with @Tom_Chalmers on Twitter.