10 tips to help your startup scale internationally
For many startup businesses, there comes a crucial time when they begin to consider scaling and expanding into international markets. This is an exciting time for any startup, as it opens up a world of opportunities. Once you have conducted research, you will be able to ensure that not only is your startup ready to scale internationally, but you also know which countries and markets are best for you. You should be able to pinpoint the territories which will receive your product or service well and areas where the talent is available to help your startup scale is located.
Through detailed research and planning, a startup should be able to scale successfully in most territories. We’ve outlined ten tips which will help you expand successfully while remaining authentic to your original brand values and mission.
1. Know exactly who you are and what you want to achieve
The first step when it comes to any business expansion, internationally or locally, is knowing who you are and what your mission is. Your startup needs to have a clear brand purpose and identity if it is to scale successfully. If you don’t have a clear idea of who you are and what you wish to achieve, you run the risk of losing the heart of your business as you grow. Obviously, your goals may change over time as you grow into new markets, but your brand identity should not. Consistency is key to maintaining brand authenticity; if your brand holds completely different values and standards overseas it will lose its integrity. Take the time to talk to your employees and investors about your startup. Ensure that your core values are integrated into your EVP and brand guidelines so that they can be translated across all elements of the business smoothly, even as you scale.
2. Make sure your product can adapt to localised markets
The next thing you must do before you even consider business expansion is to make sure that your product or service can adapt to work in different markets. Many startup founders naively believe that if they’ve seen success in the UK or US, this will be easily transferred to any market they choose. Sadly, this isn’t always the case. Services and products may need to adapt in other markets due to an increase in competition, regulations or even cultural attitudes. While it’s important to know who you are and what you offer, it’s also essential to be able to adapt while keeping these core values in place. Tailoring your service or product doesn’t mean losing yourself; it simply means you understand a new market and their needs.
3. Hire local talent
When a startup business extends into a new territory, it’s not uncommon for hiring managers to unconsciously favour ex-pats or bring over existing members of staff. However, this can be a hindrance to some businesses. No one knows the local market like a local resident; they know what customers in that location are looking for and have an extensive knowledge of suppliers, connections and even insight into the technology that will help propel your business. For example, some countries use alternative or favour different social media platforms to people in the UK and US, like WeChat in China. Without knowledge from someone who knows the country opportunities like this could be missed. Plus hiring local talent will help to enhance your employer brand overseas. You’ll be seen as a business which is investing in the local community, providing employment and opportunities for local talent. Having a diverse workforce will help your business to thrive, and having local expertise will help your startup scale.
4. Check local rules and regulations
Every country or region has different rules and regulations when it comes to business from taxes through to employment law. If you’re serious about scaling your startup internationally, you need to ensure you’re aware of any restrictions and rules that your business must abide by. It’s very easy to get caught out, which is another reason why hiring local talent could be advantageous to you. Make sure you research all business rules that could affect you and seek expert help where needed as it could save you from expensive consequences later down the line.
5. Have a defined EVP
Once you’ve expanded into a new territory, your employees must have the same experience no matter where they are in the globe. If you don’t have a consistent employee experience, it could be detrimental to your employer brand. Having a detailed employee value proposition (EVP) will outline both what your employees can expect working for you and what you can expect from them in return. An EVP can unite your teams by emphasising your brand values on a global scale and ensure consistency throughout your offices. It’s been stated that a well-communicated EVP can improve the commitment of new hires by up to 29% and decrease annual employee turnover by 69%.
6. Offer flexible working
When extending into a new market, real estate and office spaces can be expensive, especially if your team over there is small to start with. While an office is a great way to give your brand a physical presence, in a post-pandemic world we’ve learnt it’s no longer completely necessary. With the rise in technology, expanding your startup across the globe is easy, but these technologies can also be used to offer remote or flexible working to your employees. Embracing remote working will help you in many ways. For example; you’ll appeal to the talent that desires flexibility; you’ll be able to hire talent from further afield; you’ll save money on office space and will be able to adjust to the daily routine in a new territory — not everywhere sticks to a rigid 9 -5 structure.
7. Tailor your marketing to individual markets
Just as your product or service, many need to adapt to succeed in a new market, your messaging and communications may also have to adjust. The same taglines and headlines that resonate with one market could be lost on another. As a startup looking to scale, you can’t afford for your marketing to get lost in translation (and yes, we could mean this literally). You can’t just one of your adverts or social media posts and expect it to have the same impact without doing your research prior. Also, it’s not just a matter of changing the language. Scaling your startup globally is about understanding other cultures, new audiences and how to connect with them in a way that fits your brand.
8. Network, network, network
A new territory means plenty of new opportunities to network. Find groups for local professionals, join any committees and communities as well as utilising events to your advantage. Any connection you make in a new market could help you in some way; whether it’s connecting you with top talent, offering advice on anything from legal issues to supplier recommendations and even helping to spread the word about your business. If you’ve made it to the point where your startup is ready to scale, you don’t need us to tell you the value of networking. So, imagine that scaling your startup in a new territory is almost like starting from scratch, you need to build up connections once again and raise brand awareness for your business.
9. Engage with universities and education providers
One great way to hire local talent, build brand awareness and improve your employer branding within new locations is to engage with universities or other education providers. Whether it’s offering work experience and internships, providing opportunities for graduates or engaging with a relevant course in some way; connecting with universities will allow you to make connections while simultaneously building your reputation with tomorrow’s talent. Think about it, some of your future employees and future customers are likely to be within the education system, so building a relationship with them early on will only reflect positively on you in the future as you expand.
10. Learn about government schemes
Just like other countries have different rules and regulations, their government and local committees are also likely to offer schemes which will help startups and new businesses to succeed. It won’t hurt to conduct some in-depth research into these schemes, as the worst case is that you won’t be eligible for one. However, it could see more financial support, a greater number of networking opportunities and other advantages that your business can make the most of. Many governments like to encourage startup businesses and international businesses as they help to grow their economy, so helping you to scale could be mutually beneficial.