By Jackie Fast, Founder & MD, Slingshot Sponsorship,

The world is shrinking. It is now easier to consume globally as well as work globally, than ever before. This is a huge advantage for small businesses – especially those that are niche. The enormity of being a global business (especially if you are still working out of your home office) seems insurmountable; however, this couldn’t be further from the truth.

Furthermore, it is now vital to think and act globally as a business in order to maintain your advantage as the world continues to shrink and overseas competitors start fighting for your market share.

In my experience, expanding your horizons needn’t be daunting. Here are my top tips:

1. Identify the key international markets best for you
Many businesses start by identifying where more of their new customers are located and then launch from there. However, if you are a small business, you have to think about the practicalities and costs to launch in an international market. If you don’t have significant investment to do this, start considering the ease of launch rather than just customers. If you are English speaking, then consider starting to launch in a market that is also English speaking, which has implications not only on your own launch and marketing, but also on your product/packaging.

2. Online is your new best friend
Get to know the internet very well. With low costs and enormous data potential – the internet can help build your brand on very little cost in an international market. However, just knowing how to use Twitter and Facebook is not enough. For example, if you were considering launching in China, Renren and Sina Weibo are much more popular social networks and would be the place to start.

3. SEO and international websites
There are pros and cons to setting up multiple website domains in international markets and it is dependent on the direction you want to take your business. Get expert advice before you invest.

4. Find help
See if there are small businesses that could benefit from offering your products/services abroad. Alternatively, find a business that is similar to yours which would benefit from having a route to market in the UK. By working with someone for the initial year, you reduce overheads and can test out the market prior to heavily investing.

5. Consider sponsorship
Launching in an international market can be made easier by sponsoring the right platform or event. Sponsorship can be a great way to break into a market because there is already the investment on the ground to ensure success, a clearly defined audience, alignment to brand values and the ability to ‘piggy back’ on a large marketing campaign. Ensure that you have identified your international objectives prior to considering sponsorship platforms so that each platform can be assessed based on a strong sponsorship strategy to ensure ROI.