Making Inroads Overseas: Strategies for Winning International Business
While the U.S. may have the largest third-party logistics market of any nation, there’s plenty of global opportunity to capitalize on. Companies that can break into international markets could reap considerable rewards.
The rise of e-commerce and other internet-based businesses has made the world more interconnected than ever. Consequently, there’s a rising demand for fleets that operate between borders. Smaller, up-and-coming economies with less saturated markets pose an enticing growth opportunity, too.
While expanding into overseas markets can be highly profitable, it’s also often challenging. These six strategies can help companies overcome these challenges to win international business.
1. Research Ideal Markets
One of the biggest mistakes a company can make is expanding into new territory without researching first. Different countries come with different legal restrictions, economic considerations, and market atmospheres. Companies must understand these before choosing where to start their international growth strategy.
For example, Germany has the world’s highest-performing logistics market, which would make it seem like the ideal place for expansion. But since it’s also home to DHL, which holds 39% of the global market share, it may be hard to succeed there. Preliminary market research would’ve revealed that, informing more effective expansion.
Businesses should research the local markets in different countries to find the most profitable area to expand into. That includes looking at tax considerations, competition, and customer needs. Without considering all of these factors, globalization initiatives will likely cost more than they bring in.
2. Understand the Local Culture
Similarly, after deciding on the ideal market, businesses should understand any cultural differences they’ll encounter. Tapping into the local culture can make marketing initiatives more effective and help impress potential clients. Alternatively, if businesses don’t understand these differences, they may accidentally offend or disinterest customers and partners.
Understanding cultural divides can make or break a company’s success, especially when meeting potential international partners. For example, while it’s a rule of thumb in the U.S. to show up five to 10 minutes before a meeting, it may be longer or shorter in other countries. Not understanding that could hinder a meeting’s productivity.
Other countries may have differently structured workweeks and holidays that could affect business, too. The United Arab Emirates, for example, observes the weekend on Friday and Saturday, not Saturday and Sunday. Knowing this before going in can determine whether a business thrives internationally or struggles to get its footing.
3. Partner With Regional Businesses
Another crucial strategy for expanding internationally is partnering with overseas businesses. Companies based in the area will already have the cultural and legal knowledge needed to navigate the local market environment. They will also already have consumer and business connections, giving U.S. companies a foot in the door.
An important step in this strategy is to meet these potential partners in-person as much as possible. Taking the time and money to fly out to meet them shows a willingness to invest in their company. This can give businesses a leg up on any other competitors for the partnership.
Without a local partner, it can be challenging to succeed in a foreign market. Companies will have to establish their brand name, build a customer base, and navigate potentially complicated legal considerations. Foreign partners can cover all of these factors early, letting businesses get off the ground sooner.
4. Adapt Your Marketing Strategies
Since every country has its own culture and values, effective marketing materials are rarely universal. As such, logistics companies trying to expand into overseas markets must adapt their marketing strategies. Research and international partners can reveal local customers’ habits and preferences, informing more effective ads and promotions.
Large restaurant chains serve as excellent examples for adapting international marketing strategies. In France, McDonald’s offers a free illustrated book with every Happy Meal purchased on the first Wednesday of the month. This doesn’t make much sense in the U.S., but children in France don’t go to school on Wednesdays, making this an effective strategy.
Promotions that work in the states may not be as appealing overseas. Similarly, other countries may have holidays, customs, or trends that present unique marketing opportunities that wouldn’t succeed in America. If companies want to be as successful as possible overseas, they must adapt.
5. Localize Your Website
It’s hard to overstate the importance of having an appealing website in today’s market. In many countries, the number of internet users has doubled in the last three years, and websites often serve as customers’ first impressions of a business. While this may be true across borders, what constitutes an ideal website may not be as consistent.
Businesses must localize their sites to fit global audiences. The most obvious step in this process is translating all of the text, but that’s not all localization entails. There are also various cultural connotations and preferences about design and business practices to consider.
Some colors may be appealing in the U.S. but carry a negative connotation in other cultures. While English reads from left to right, not all languages do, so websites in some countries may need to be mirrored to account for this. Turning to contacts in these countries or localization firms can help account for these differences.
6. Capitalize on Local Resources
Many globalization strategies involve taking steps to navigate unique challenges in overseas markets. While these are crucial, the most effective international expansion efforts also look for other areas’ unique benefits. Every country has unique resources to offer, so businesses should take advantage of these opportunities.
One example of a company implementing this strategy is the grocery store chain H-E-B. When H-E-B went international, it bought blueberries from Chile and Peru, giving it access to fresh blueberries year-round. Capitalizing on these warmer climates helped the company expand its offerings, pushing revenue higher.
Businesses should look for what resources different areas have, such as relaxed tax codes or cheap transportation markets. Taking advantage of these instead of keeping business models the same across all countries will maximize international success.
Make the Most of International Expansion
As the world becomes more interconnected, global expansion becomes an increasingly enticing strategy. Companies that can capitalize on it early will see the most success in the future. These six strategies provide a roadmap for doing so.
Winning international business can be a challenge, but it also presents several opportunities. If businesses can act on these steps, they can expand into foreign markets more effectively. They can then enjoy all international business has to offer.