8 Tips for Transforming Your Small Business into a Successful Global One

September 25th, 2016 - Get new posts sent straight to your inbox, click here. Aaron O'Keeffe


The idea of taking your small business and turning it into a successful global enterprise can seem exciting, yet a remote possibility. However, with the degree of connectedness, integration of global communications, and tools that could allow you to scale quickly, this dream can be realised – if you plan it carefully. Here, we look at some of the best insights that could support you in transforming your small business into one with a truly global customer base.

1. Refine your branding and marketing strategies

As you plan your reach into new markets, you will need to continue to adapt your brand and marketing strategies. Depending on the specific market you are planning to tap into, these strategies can be vastly different, or you may be making only small adjustments. The key issue here is localisation and using branding and marketing strategies that not only reflect your unique value proposition, but also the local customer base’s cultural and lifestyle values. Working with local marketing agencies could help with this step of the process.

2. Leverage the Internet

It might seem obvious to leverage the Internet as both a marketing and customer service channel as you reach into international markets, but the question is whether or not you have fully explored this option.

For example, your current website and its content might be driving a lot of local traffic and therefore leads to your business, but it will probably not be as effective for your new overseas market. For example, if you are planning to sell to Chinese end consumers, you will likely need to set up another section in your website or a separate website to capture local traffic and to make an impact on Chinese buyers.

If you have not considered ecommerce because you believe it’s not right for your product, review whether or not this is true. Keep in mind everything from tutoring services and houses to airplanes and financial products can be sold online, so explore product delivery modes as well as more obvious options such as marketing. In the end, like other technology tools, the Internet could allow you to leverage your small business’s resources to grow much more quickly.

3. Manage growth with care

As your business grows, continue to manage your growth with care and caution. Work with your business’s financial advisors to ensure you have sufficient cash flow to meet your operational requirements, as cash flow is a common concern for growing businesses. Other issues to prepare for before they arise include staffing needs and supply readiness; that is whether you can meet increasing demand as you grow.

4. Add or expand locations to target new markets

One common way to grow into new territories is to add a local branch or office. Establishing a local presence requires significant investment, as well as the setting up of effective management and control processes. Before doing so, you will also need to have a clear understanding of local regulations and laws (including consumer and employee relations laws), export/import laws, local suppliers, the local market you are targeting, and the tax framework. Note that some alternatives to establishing a local branch include merging with another business or purchasing a local business.

If you are not yet ready to establish a local presence, other options can include licensing your products or services to local providers, or finding local agents or distributors who can, for example, be paid on a commission basis to market and sell your products. Carry out all necessary due diligence to ensure these agents and licensees can in fact represent your company and deliver your services in a way that reflects your brand values.

Similarly, consider government contracts in your local market that could be appropriate for your business’s offerings. The possibility of supplying to local governments is often overlooked by small businesses, but the right contract could set up your business for a significant expansion and provide you with guaranteed demand for a given number of years.

5. Work with partners

Work with complementary businesses on a cross-promotional basis. For example, if you sell health supplements, work with local gyms, fitness experts, or personal trainers to expand your reach and exposure. In turn, you could feature these partners in some way in your local marketing efforts. These types of mutually beneficial relationships can save you on marketing, allow you to quickly establish credibility, and help you tap into niche markets that are otherwise difficult to reach.

6. Diversify your product range

Sometimes your existing product or service range might not closely match the local demographic trends or market demand. In this case, consider branching out to complementary products or services, or including these new product lines in your offerings. Consider the different types of complementary products or services that your target market could have a strong demand for. Conduct detailed research or commission consultants to carry out research to explore new product lines if necessary.

7. Obtain support from agencies and organisations

Australian government agencies along with other agencies in your destination market could be invaluable sources of support as you expand. Agencies like Austrade, for example, provide export businesses with funding and assistance. Research your destination markets to find out how the local government could help you as a provider of foreign direct investment and possible employer of local staff members.

8. Follow the franchise-expansion model

If you think your product or service is suitable for the franchise model, look into how you could execute this type of growth strategy for overseas markets. The franchise model could be an excellent option if you have a great service or product but prefer to work with owner-operators to deliver your products. And as owner-operators usually invest the capital for each new office, branch, or operation, this type of expansion model allows you to grow rapidly if your product offering meets with strong demand. As the franchisee, you might be fully responsible for aspects such as marketing and sourcing supplies. If your model proves to be profitable for owner-operators, you might be able to attract considerable interest and expand quickly.

Through careful planning, expansion, effective management and leveraging the power of the Internet, it can be possible to transform your small business into one that exists on a global scale. Remember to seek advice and support where possible, and note that all of the steps outlined above may not be applicable to your business – so only adopt changes where appropriate.

About the author

Aaron O'Keeffe

Aaron works from an office in the tropical Northern Territory, inciting intense jealousy from his Victorian workmates during winter. He’s an expert in IT solutions from the ground up. Aaron is National Sales Manager of Aussie Broadband, which specialises in bespoke telco solutions for corporate and government customers.