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  January 25th, 2021 | Written by

How to Expand Your Business Internationally

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  • International expansion is, to many people, chaotic and stressful. But it doesn’t have to be.
  • You need the help of local partners who understand the unwritten laws of the land and local supply chains.
  • When expanding internationally, you need to meet your prospective customers during their research phase.

Running a successful business in a domestic market is easy for experienced business people. Opening a shop abroad is harder, but not very much. What can be extremely tricky is actually attracting foreign potential customers, turning them into paying customers, and surmounting the many challenges that come with international business. These challenges include cultural and language differences, unfamiliar employment and overall business laws, unclear taxation and VAT remittance regulations in different countries, and international marketing challenges. If you wish to expand abroad, you can overcome the said challenges by following these best practices in international expansion:

1. Leverage PEO services

PEO service providers help to expand businesses to hire staff, manage payrolls, and manage employees in foreign territories. Basically, a professional employer organization (PEO) will provide comprehensive human resources support for your business so that your senior executives can focus on actually running the corporate side of the business. They provide your international teams with the professional and personal support they need to be optimally engaged and productive for the benefit of your business. They help you bypass the cultural barriers that overwhelm employers when hiring and managing new talents in unfamiliar cultural settings.

In most cases, PEOs run a co-employment model where they ensure that your business meets all set employment and compliance laws without necessarily having a physical presence in a given country. The advantage of using such a model for your international expansion is that your business can dip toes in multiple foreign markets without committing to building physical offices. It also offers your business a flexible human resource capability; the flexibility and fluidity that businesses need when upscaling/downscaling workforces in new markets. Therefore, if your company operates in India, you can see that partnering with an India PEO would be the proper solution for the rapid growth of your company.

2. Leverage local influencers

The biggest marketplace in the world right now is the digital space, notably social media. That is why you must have a workable digital marketing strategy (and a strong online presence for that matter) whether your business is local, national, or international. A key component of digital marketing is social influencing.

You probably already understand what online influencing is about but in case you don’t, online influencers are celebrities who already command huge followership on social media. People who can influence shopping decisions either by directly campaigning for your products or by sharing their videos or photos while using your products. Studies show that about 66% of all customers across all industries trust the opinions other customers post online, and the surest way of influencing these opinions is through social media influencers.

Now, this is the catch: When expanding internationally, you need to meet your prospective customers during their research phase. You need to capture their attention immediately; they search for products in your niche, convert them to business leads, and close the deal on the spot. It is probably the first time they are interacting with your brand/content, so you have to make the best first impression otherwise they will be lured by the brands they are already familiar with. Subtle product mentions and testimonials from influential people will help you create the best first impression. You, however, have to identify and connect with influencers who appeal to your audience if you are to effectively leverage influencer marketing for international expansion.

3. Find the right expansion partners

It is hard to navigate new markets by yourself. You need the help of local partners who understand the unwritten laws of the land, local supply chains, and distribution channels. But not all local partners are good for your business. You need to find industry leaders who, on top of understanding the nuances of the local market at hand, have substantial experience in international business expansions in other markets. You can always contact their previous collaborators for reviews, something you cannot get from partners who have never been out of their comfort zone/market. It is also wise to choose expansion partners with whom you share a common ground- a company whose business culture doesn’t conflict with your vision and mission.

Now you know the kind of partners to look for, but where exactly do you look? One way to find the partners you need is through your business and professional networks. Your business associates can recommend their international associates to you who’d turn out to be very helpful in your expansion plans. Another source is the government of your current market. If you operate in Europe, for example, you can tap into the database of the Enterprise Europe Network (EEN) for trading advice and collaborations. Foreign embassies, as well as trade commissions back home, also have databases filled with the knowledge that can come in handy during your quest to find international partners. And if you already have a set base in the foreign market, attending local expos and trade shows can give you access to a pool of potential partners.

4. Leverage government resources

Most governments help their ambitious entrepreneurs to go international as a way of encouraging the exportation of locally-produced products and talents. Your government probably holds Trade Events where successful multinational companies’ CEOs and other industry experts train local entrepreneurs on how to go global and actually succeed. You can learn a lot in such events, from exporting fundamentals, understanding international buyers, working with foreign distributors and product representatives, to how you can market your products or services to customers who don’t speak your language. The events also put you in touch with other ambitious business owners from whom you can gain insight and insider perspective about your chances abroad. Other resources that can help your international expansion plans are catalogs that contain special country-specific market reports authored by prolific market experts. In the US, such catalogs are accessible online through the Market Research Library.


International expansion is, to many people, chaotic and stressful. But it doesn’t have to be. You can tap into other entrepreneurs’ experience to formulate a workable expansion plan or, if you have the budget, conduct your independent country-specific market research. Our 4 tips will get you started, but you must consult wider if you are to succeed with your first expansion attempt.