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Simple ways to internationalize a B2B business

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Simple ways to internationalize a B2B business
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One of the myths about internationalization is that you have to be a big company with massive resources to look beyond country borders. The reality is that most B2B businesses successfully take their company to international markets, one step at a time. You don’t need extensive financial resources or take years of research before stepping onto the global stage. There are many smaller – and simple – ways to internationalize your B2B business.

What does internationalizing mean to a B2B business?

Let’s get one thing out of the way first. What exactly do we mean by internalization? There was a time when selling products or services outside your country borders did need a lot of planning. Your company needed to figure out:

  • The logistics of shipping products or delivering services in multiple countries.
  • The current state of infrastructure and evaluate if it can support your business model.
  • The local laws regarding taxation, corporate governance, regulations, and rules
  • Market research on the target audience, pricing, sales, and marketing, etc.

And that was just the start. 

But the situation is very different in 2020 and beyond. Today, a B2B business may have an international footprint even without deliberate planning. Customers may be aware of you through the internet or social media networks. They may even use your services even if you don’t have an office in their region. This is particularly true in certain industries like software or digital services. 

In today’s world, going international is much simpler, quicker, and easier. You don’t have to launch your products and services in 25 different countries to reap the benefits of internationalization. You can tap overseas markets, reach new audiences, and increase revenue with some planning and by using your available resources.

Top 5 ways to internationalize a B2B business

1- Communications

For a truly global business, managing communication is vital. To that end, international numbers for your phone system are a great idea. Thanks to the rise of virtual or hosted phone systems, you don’t need an office in the region to get a local number. If you already have a hosted VoIP service for the office, talk to your provider about adding international numbers. Some vendors include them in the basic package while others offer it as an add-on. 

It might seem like a small thing but having a local number is the first step to gaining customer trust. If you don’t even have a local contact number, your audience may not trust your commitment to providing services in their region. 

It’s not just voice and video either. Your other communication systems like email can also help you globalize. For instance, does your email signature or letterhead acknowledge an international audience? Remember that you don’t have to spend a lot to cultivate a relationship with potential clients. The little things do add up to creating your reputation and brand value in a new market.

2- Digital strategies

With the change from analog to digital, going international has never been easier. A B2B business does not have to worry about printing flyers, sending paper ads, or any of the other older analog marketing materials. Now your main means of reaching potential clients are going to be your website and/or social media presence

Let’s tackle the website first. Many companies think that having multiple regional websites is costly and a waste of resources. Nothing could be further from the truth. Even if you need to have half a dozen regional sites, it is not much more expensive to build and design them. Remember that you do need to stick to the design cues of your corporate website. It’s the content and language that has to change

The benefits of doing so, however, are numerous. First is that even if your audience is comfortable with English, they may still prefer a website that uses the local language. The second is that it showcases your commitment to their region. It is a way to build trust with prospective customers. The third benefit is that developing a regional variant will help you understand the target market. You may well learn to avoid certain pitfalls or spot potential opportunities through the site design process. 

The next major source of new clients is going to be your social media presence across the channels where your audience is present. Keep in mind that social media networks and the way people use them are different across countries. The informal style or casual use of certain words that your company is used to may not be appropriate for the new country. 

It is also important to consider what topics to avoid in your digital communications strategy. Are there any topics you should avoid – especially as a foreign company? The social, political, and economic conditions of the country will often influence corporate culture. So always be mindful of local conditions. 

3- Sales and marketing

When it comes to product development for multiple countries, you can pursue one of two strategies. You can customize the product/service according to the local requirements or design a standard service that you can sell across regions. The former is more expensive but has a greater chance of success. The latter is less expensive but you may be unable to tap certain segments because of the rigid approach. Depending on your resources and target markets, you may choose one approach over the other.

When it comes to sales and marketing, there is no reason to pursue a global strategy. In fact, it may even backfire on the company. Most clients will prefer you use local content where possible especially in high traffic places like your website. Localization goes beyond simple translation, however. You have to tailor content according to the cultural context and the communication style used by local companies. 

The level of formality, domain jargon, local nuance, and exposure to the international market will dictate your sales and marketing strategy. Your formal marketing approach may not go down well with clients who are used to a more relaxed communication style. 

Similarly, what is culturally acceptable or not will vary widely even within a country. So consider all these aspects when designing your sales and marketing approach. Get it right and it’s a fantastic win on your internationalization journey.

4- Working with local expertise

When expanding to a new market, working with local experts can yield several benefits. It may not always be feasible. For instance, if the local talent is not familiar enough with your products and service or not trained in your industry segment. However, even in such cases, having a local expert can help you establish a physical presence. You can sidestep potential pitfalls and obstacles that you may not even be aware of.

Hiring and working with local talent can help you in several business processes:

  • Localizing your digital content and website
  • Assisting in customer service
  • Alerting you to local business practices
  • Making the right moves when it comes to your social media presence
  • Help navigate rules and pertinent regulation

Local expertise will also be vital in areas like accounting, taxation, legal compliance, and corporate governance. While some business principles may be similar to what you’re used to working with, it’s likely you will need someone who is familiar with the local conditions. 

5- Use technology to your advantage

Use technology to your advantage when stepping up to the international stage. As you can see from each of the above points, technology can help you reach your goals. Considering how to hire local experts in specific domains? Local job sites and online portals can often be a big help. Wondering how employees working in multiple countries can become a cohesive team? A fast and reliable VoIP phone service can help you conduct training, schedule video conferences, and meetings throughout the company. 

You cannot develop digital content or a website without the technology of course. But there are other – more subtle – ways that technology can help. A semi-automated recruitment system can help you reach, hire, and retain the best talent. You can even use your social media channels to advertise open job positions and attract great staff. 

Your phone system can help you hit the ground running when it comes to launching new products or localizing them to the market. With international numbers, virtual numbers, and CRM integration, you can reach clients more readily. Other technology tools can help you develop local content and setup customer-facing processes quicker. 

Keep your clients in mind when internationalizing

The key takeaway here is simple: keep your potential international customer in mind when developing anything targeted to them. Sometimes, you may have no need to change anything before entering the market, although that rarely happens. It is highly probable that you have to tweak and change some aspects of your business strategy to make it work outside your home country. 

International B2B customers often feel overlooked when it comes to information, communication, and marketing. Keeping that in mind, use these simple ways to internationalize your B2B business in no time. 

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