Back in 1943, a 17-year-old boy Ingvar from Sweden opened a small business. The selection of products was very random – pens, wallets, watches, picture frames, and nylon stockings. Everything that people needed Ingvar sold at reduced prices.
Eight years later, the young business owner saw an opportunity to sell furniture. Of course, the competition got fiercer – it was still the post-war time, and people needed cheap but good-quality furniture for their homes. The only problem was that they couldn’t touch the furniture before ordering it.
Ingvar listened to the needs of people and opened the first physical furniture shop. Now, this business is known for its signature showrooms, where people can literally sit or lie down and check the furniture’s quality. We are talking, of course, about IKEA.
Today, you know IKEA as one of the most successful businesses worldwide, and it’s hard to believe that one time it was just a small venture. But thanks to Ingvar Kamprad’s skill to listen to people’s needs, IKEA went global.
This story makes me wonder – what other skills do you need to introduce your business to the international market and successfully conquer it?
Let’s take a look.
The Ultimate Guide to Website Traffic for Business
1. Smart risk-taking
Going global with your business is already a huge risk. So, either you should really know what you’re doing, or you just love taking risks.
Or both of these things at once.
Yes, there is such thing as smart risk-taking. And Shell’s history of global expansion proves it.
When in 1833, Marcus Samuel, the founder of Shell, learned about oil reserves in Azerbaijan, he immediately saw a chance to grow his business. He wanted his business to become something bigger – and the opportunity presented itself.
However, there was one obstacle – if dominant oil distributors like Rockefeller learned about his endeavors, he would fail without a doubt.
At that point, Marcus Samuel took the risk and shipped oil in bulk via the Suez Canal, which wasn’t used for this purpose at that time. Such a decision made a revolution in the oil industry, and Marcus Samuel eventually took Shell to the global market.
What’s the lesson here?
- Smart risk-taking can help your brand go global. Marcus Samuel definitely took the risk, but it was also a very calculated move since he had to know the oil market from within.
- Risk–taking spurs creativity. With his decision to tap into the oil market, Marcus Samuel had everything on the line. This inspired him to find creative way-outs.
- As a risk-taker, you break free from the ‘average’. Smart risk-taking helped Marcus Samuel break old standards and introduce new solutions, which made him an innovator in the industry.
So, if you feel that it’s time to take the risk of going global, listen to your instincts. But, at the same time, prepare the safety bag and study the target market thoroughly.
2. Cross-cultural competency
Every business owner would admit that going global is a lot of stress. You need to take so many things into account – budget, marketing, shipping, etc. It’s too easy to lose sight of something.
But there are some things that businesses simply neglect when going international. There’s an old English expression – come rain or shine, which perfectly describes the attitude of such businesses towards some aspects of international expansion.
Cross-cultural competency is one of these aspects.
There have been so many cases of businesses harming their own authority just because they didn’t take the target culture into account. Take KFC’s fiasco in China, for example.
When the company was entering the Chinese market, naturally, it had to translate all its marketing materials into Chinese, including KFC’s slogan Finger-Lickin’ Good.
The translation of this slogan soon became one of the most laughed-at advertisements of all time – Eat Your Fingers Off.
As funny as it may be now, such a failure significantly damaged KFC’s reputation back then. And even though the company still entered the Chinese market, people couldn’t forget this fiasco for a long time.
What can we learn from KFC’s example?
- It’s never a bad idea to invest in a translator. Even better – to invest in a native-speaker who knows the language and culture from within.
- Always study how culture impacts the market. Every culture always has a system of taboos. Make sure you are aware of them before you make any attempts at marketing your business in the new market.
- Think like your target audience. Take some time and learn your new audience’s behavior patterns. It will help you better understand what would make them buy your product.
So, no matter how good of an entrepreneur you are, if you stay blind to the traditions and customs of the foreign culture, you might regret it later. Besides, the foreign audience will quickly uncover your ignorance, so even the biggest budgets in the world won’t save you.
3. Strategic business growth
Oftentimes, going global means acquiring or merging with other businesses. This is called strategic business growth, and it is one of the key skills you need to take your brand global.
One of the most popular examples of a brand going international through strategic business growth is Nestle.
Since 1905 and until today, Nestle keeps merging with more and more companies. The process started with Anglo-Swiss Condensed Milk Company, then it was a German brand Jopa, French chocolate manufacturer Heudebert-Gervais, and so on.
Today, Nestle still keeps merging with new companies and growing their produce. Strategic business growth helped it become one of the top 10 corporations worldwide and maintain its high position.
How do you approach strategic business growth in a smart way?
- Choose businesses that share your values. A merger with another business should strengthen your values and authority, not make people question them.
- Study their relationships with consumers. Otherwise, you might end up being a part of some controversy against your will.
- Determine their attitude towards innovation. Nestle’s first merger with Anglo-Swiss Condensed Milk Company happened because the latter pushed hard towards developing technologies that businesses needed at that time. Today, the situation hasn’t changed, and your attitude towards innovation defines your future success.
As you can see, even though strategic business growth via mergers can be a good idea, there are a lot of hidden obstacles.
What’s the solution here?
Be open-minded but remain true to your business’s values.
Taking your brand global is a rocky road. If you are not prepared for it, you’ll end up stumbling on every single pebble.
So, make sure you equip yourself not only with knowledge but with essential skills as well. Learn how to take smart risks, acquire cross-cultural competencies, and develop the skill of strategic planning.
Is this enough to take your brand global?
Of course not, because there’s always a bit of luck involved. But these skills will help you remain goal-oriented even in the most difficult times.
Guest author: Ryan is a passionate writer who likes sharing his thoughts and experience with the readers. Currently, he works as a digital marketing specialist at Preply.com. He likes everything related to traveling and new countries.