5 things to consider when deciding if you should sell your products and services abroad

As a solopreneur or small and medium enterprise (SME) owner, you’ll be constantly looking for ways to make more people happy with what you have to offer. One way is to sell your product or provide your service in other countries. The bonus: your business will become more flexible and more independent from your home market. As a result, you can enjoy a more stable, more diverse income.

Whereas some would say that selling internationally is a logical step for any growing business, others may argue that this view is far too simplistic because generic business advice is just that: generic. It doesn’t always suit your individual products and services, preferences, visions and values.

This article will help you decide whether selling products and services abroad is right for you and your business. You’ll find five different aspects to consider so you can draw your own conclusions and decide what is best for you.

We start with…

1.   Your current business situation

What stage is your business at just now? Are you just starting to reap the rewards of your efforts? Are you a well-established business that has been serving customers for years? Maybe your business is successful, but you feel it’s stagnating and/or there’s no more room for growth?

If any of these situations describe you, this could be just the right time to start selling your products and services in other countries.

However, if you’ve just started out on your business journey, it might be a good idea to focus on your home market first and see how things develop. You don’t have to conquer the world right away. Building your business in one country first allows you to obtain crucial business experience, fine-tune processes, and get to know your customers’ needs better. You can then expand your business into other countries quicker, implementing approaches or processes that have already proved successful for you.

2.    Your ideal client

Do you know your ideal client inside out? Or are you still learning about them? Still refining? Still adapting?

Knowing exactly who you want to buy from you is just as important when you’re selling abroad as it is for your home market. Understanding their questions, concerns, needs, and wants will enable you to tailor your offer and content to them. Sharing this information with your translators is essential, too: they’ll be able to translate your content in a way that excites your new audience about your business as much as it does your customers at home (and if you are currently on the lookout for a translator to translate your content this article about how to find the ideal translator might be just what you need).

If you don’t have a clear idea of who you’re targeting, selling in other countries can be risky. You’ll be hitting and hoping on a large scale, instead of dedicating your resources to targeting a specific audience. Spending your time and money on an average social media ad campaign in one country is one thing; running a campaign that appears in different countries and different languages requires more time and money. If you know who you’re targeting, you’ll be able to manage them more efficiently to support your growth strategy.

Note: Your ideal client abroad might be slightly different because of cultural differences between countries. Research your new markets. Learn more about each unique culture. What is the country’s economy like? Do the currency or income levels there give people there more buying power or less?? Does their culture value tradition and the importance of the family more highly? Make the most of this rich information and adapt your offer and content for each target audience.

3.   Your product(s) or service(s)

Depending on your product or services, selling to foreign markets will be easier in some cases, but more difficult in others. Distribution is a major factor.

Here are a few examples that illustrate this:

1.) You’re selling a digital product or service: Are you offering online courses, guides, e-books, templates, or similar products? These work well for selling to an international audience. They’re not too expensive to translate, it doesn’t take excessive amounts of effort to do so, and you can distribute them over the internet.

However, not all online products and services are right for international sales. Let’s say you are a small consulting firm based in the UK and you have recently published an e-book titled „A Freelancer’s Guide to Doing Your Taxes“. While it will be very useful for your British audience, it won’t be for businesses abroad since the tax laws you are referring to don’t apply to other countries. This makes it essential to check if your product or service would only have little or no value to people in certain locations.

2.) You’re selling a physical product: Although selling a tangible product to people in other countries is possible now, the type of product or service you’re selling or providing will make it harder or easier to do. Are you selling stationery, which you can put in an envelope and send, or is it vintage furniture which you’d need to ship out and which would take much more effort? If shipping your goods would be too much of a hassle but you still want to explore this option, look at ways to open a branch in your new target country or partner with local stores.

3.) Your offer includes 1:1 coaching sessions with your clients: The moment you decide to offer coaching sessions to countries in which the people speak a different language, you’ll have to consider teaming up with native speakers. Start by hiring someone there who speaks the target language and can deliver the coaching sessions via a video call. As things progress, set up a proper local branch (if that’s your goal).

4.   Your business’s financial situation

Do you have marketing budgets for international campaigns?

Do you have money to hire translators?

Is your business financially stable?

Or are you just desperately trying to stay in business by selling abroad?

If it’s a case of the latter, selling internationally would be very risky. Cheap options will be extremely tempting to choose if you don’t have a flexible budget. The quality of your products or service provision could suffer, you could disappoint your customers, and your efforts to generate sales could lead to nothing.

5.   You

The only thing missing now is you.

How do you feel about selling your services and products abroad? Does the idea excite you? Does a little voice in your head grumble: ‘Oh great! More work!’? Are you rather uncomfortable about being responsible for a larger area and dealing with international invoicing and shipping?

Whatever you’re feeling, it’s ok. Selling internationally is an option, not an obligation. It’s your business, and you can build it however you want.

Cultural differences are another thing to consider. How receptive are you to dealing with people from other cultures? Selling your goods and services abroad means you’ll be serving people who live and think differently to you. Cultural differences between you and your customers may cause them to ask you questions, give you feedback, or make complaints you weren’t expecting. If you want your customers to keep spending their money with you, you must be friendly, respectful, and keep an open mind.

Selling a product or service internationally can be a great idea if you’re happy serving customers at home, have a healthy business, and feel ready to take the next step in your business.

But there’s no one-size fits all approach. Think carefully about whether it’s feasible or not to offer your product or service in another country (and if applicable, in another language), about what this would entail, and whether you’re willing to do that. Remember your business, your vision, and your dreams, and base your decision upon them.

Take your time, do things little by little, and enjoy the journey.

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