In most cases, startups will focus on their local area rather than looking elsewhere for customers. In many ways, this makes perfect sense, says Alexa Cobbold, as it means less legwork and is more convenient when delivering to clients. However, setting up a business that has an international focus can have far greater potential for attracting more lucrative clients, among other things.
If you are looking to set up a company with an eye on building a global client base, there are a few steps that you must take. The first is to look at which countries you plan on trading in. See what the demand is for your product or service in other markets - if it is there, look at how to market it to them. Check out the competition too - visit their websites and see what you can improve on.
Crunching the numbers
Look at how frequent trade is between your home country and the one you want your new business to trade in. Trade between the UK and the Netherlands, for example, was worth £4.5bn in February 2017. Delving a little deeper is important - if your business sells smartphones and there is brisk trade between two countries for smartphones, there’s a market for it.
Speaking of markets, your marketing material should be a priority. To give your business a truly international focus, it should be easy to translate into other languages. Make sure all your content is written in Plain English, so that search engines and web browsers can easily convert it into French, German, Mandarin, Japanese or whatever language your prospective customers speak.
Location, location, location
Looking appealing to international clients is something your business must consider. A big part of that is your location. Whether opting for a permanent space or sourcing an office for the purpose of a single meeting or day of meetings, your chosen office space should be easy to get to and, ideally, be located in a major city. A space such as that of citizenM in Amsterdam Schiphol Airport is a good example, and makes meetings with clients from across the globe a much more doable concept as you can meet in the middle.
Good transport links, access to global markets and facilities including WiFi, parking space and a kitchen will help to make your new business seem more professional. The address, with the name of a major global city on it, will no doubt make your company seem even more like one that potential new clients will want to trade with.
Tools of the trade
Businesses aspiring to have clients from all over the world must have the right technology to hand. Aside from the usual pieces of kit - laptops, a printer/scanner, internet connectivity - anything specific to your industry should be on your shopping list. Accounting software, office suites such as Microsoft Office and communication software for video calls are imperative.
On the topic of video calls, a number of social media sites have enabled video technology, reducing the need for startups to spend money on such things as webcams. Late last year, Facebook introduced the capability for up to 50 different people to be involved in a single video call, which is handy for holding meetings with multiple clients in different locations around the globe.
Funding and saving
Arguably the most important part of gearing a business up to trade worldwide is finance. Saving on running costs, partly through using technology like social media, is a good start. Shopping around for delivery partners when shipping products overseas is important - one that offers value for money as well as reliable delivery to all parts of the world.
Finally, if your location is easy to get to for you, both your business and its customers may save a little on such expenses as taxi fares, train tickets and parking. Then, there’s the question of funding. Any funding your business does need to get started should be aimed squarely at growth across more than just one country.
Should your business have designs on growing in Europe, the European Union has a number of initiatives and grants available for SMEs. They list the various funds that small businesses can apply for, depending on where you live. There is also the Erasmus scheme for younger entrepreneurs.
Be sure to read any small print before applying for funding. You need to find out if you are eligible for different funding sources. If that’s not possible, crowdfunding could be a simpler alternative, but to make that work, it takes extensive use of social media and a really persuasive pitch to would-be investors.