How to Enter a New Market Without a Physical Presence
Expanding your business into a new market doesn’t necessarily require you to have a physical presence there, writes Neil Doyle from Blueface.
Entering a new geographical market is exciting, complex and a lot of hard work for any business. It’s also a validation of sorts of how an organisation is performing in the markets it already operates in. After all, the appetite for such an endeavour usually comes from success.
Regardless of previous success, the decision, planning and execution of expansion into a new country involves numerous elements. Pricing and currency issues, legal sticky points, researching and understanding a new culture, and setting up a new office are but a few boxes that need ticking. However, in the case of setting up a new office, that may not be the case.
For some businesses, establishing a physical bricks and mortar presence may not be on the agenda, at least at the outset. Perhaps the business may not have the resources for, nor want to stomach the risk of, such an investment.
So how can a business operate on a day-to-day basis in a new country without an office? Quite easily, actually.
1. Choose an Entry Strategy that Doesn’t Rely on a Physical Presence
There are numerous paths to entering a new country without the need for a physical presence on the ground. Licensing and white labeling agreements for your product or service will see you generate revenue from a market as another company takes on primary responsibility for the operating processes.
Both indirectly and directly exporting can be achieved without the need for an office within the country you’re selling into.
If the business is product-based, establishing a reliable distribution network to serve an overseas market is the fundamental issue needing attention.
The ability to enter a new market using any of these strategies without having to establish a physical presence there will be dependent on the calibre of organisation you decide to partner with – be they a licensee of your goods or services, or a distributor.
2. Use International Numbering
Communication is centrally important to any business. For organisations that don’t have people on the ground in a country, being easily contactable by customers, partners, and distributors remains mission-critical, regardless of what entry strategy is chosen. That’s where international numbering comes in.
Getting an international number for your business has become significantly less hassle than it historically had been. The development of VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) technology means phones don’t have to rely on physical, traditional phone lines but on an internet connection instead.
The upshot of this development means that redirecting and forwarding phone numbers internationally has become more efficient, reliable and also less costly. A business looking to establish itself remotely should make use of this in its communications setup.
Redirecting numbers from your new market to your already established headquarters means that your customers or partners need not face confusion over international extensions or high call tariffs. There is an inherent trust factor in being able to dial a local number.
Furthermore, with VoIP it is possible to configure exactly which phones should be called when someone dials a specific number. If you have direct customers, distribution partners and a white label agreement with another organisation in your new market, it is possible to have a specific phone number for each of these groups to call, which will redirect to the specific person or team they need to talk to in your home headquarters. It is only a matter of initial configuration.
Being able to operate remotely on a day-to-day basis with well-structured business communications goes a long way to being successful without a physical office in a new country.
Be aware, some countries such as Germany, Hungary and France will require proof of address. There are different options in these cases, although set-up of a virtual office is most common.
3. Make Sure Your Website is Optimised for Each Geographic Market
The beauty of the internet is that the entire world is reachable from our fingertips. Use this to your advantage. It is possible, from your established headquarters, to remotely target a new geographic market with great efficiency once you have a website that is optimised for your market.
Do not try to serve a market with a domain name from another country such as using a .ie domain in United Kingdom.
Develop a domain strategy that sees you use a local domain or a .com domain in your new market. Similar to providing that market with a local number, the trust factor is of extreme importance, particularly if your brand is not already established in this marketplace.
A commonly used domain structure that allows for optimising your site in each country is to have a global site at www.example.com and to put country specific iterations of a website in subdirectories such as www.example.com/ie for Ireland and www.example.com/uk for the United Kingdom.
Setting up a proper domain structure will allow for your business to optimise your SEO in each market with either in-house expertise or through the use of an agency. Also, you can be confident that any PPC (pay-per-click) campaigns you run will be sending traffic to a site that is ready to receive visitors from that country. Now you can start to win business in a new market without having a presence there.
Apart from those technical aspects, there are a few simple things to remember when targeting a website to a specific country:
- Pricing information must of course be displayed in the local currency but don’t forget about the VAT rates either. It seems obvious to say that your site must be written in the local language until your remember that the Americanised spelling of colour is in fact, color.
- Remember to put the relevant details on your contact page, including those international numbers you set up.
- Images give a website its character, as they are often the dominating element on any webpage. Are your images reflective of the local custom? Or are they something that visitors will pick out as an indication that your brand is from somewhere else?
As with international numbering, use your website to streamline your business processes. For example, ensure that sign ups and enquiries are automatically received by the right people in your organisation.
So it’s possible – and easier than you might expect – to operate in a new country without the need for a physical presence. It can allow you to dip your toe into untested waters whilst reducing your financial burden/risk. And the rewards? The world is your oyster!
Written by: Neil Doyle, Marketing Executive, Blueface – unified communications for a smarter business
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