Small businesses should always be looking for a competitive advantage. Unfortunately, only a small percentage of American companies export and over half of those ship goods and services to only one other country.
Small Business Trends spoke with Jeremy Melis, a Director of Small Business Marketing and Digital Customer Engagement for UPS. He supplied some tips on how smaller enterprises can take advantage of international markets.
Tips for a Small Business Going Global
Get Online – If You Haven’t Already
“Traditionally you’d see more small businesses start local, then expand regionally, nationally and then internationally,” he says. “Today we’re seeing a slight shift in that trend with some start-ups and business in the artisan communities beginning online.”
He says websites, web stores and online marketplaces are important building blocks for going global. GoDaddy offers one version with good photo editing tools.
Market via Social Media
Taking advantage of social media platforms is a great way to market a local business that wants to go national or international. Some of the bigger players in the social media management space can be a big help by simplifying the process.
Use Multiple Channels
It’s good to spread the net wide. You can comple, a web store on your website by adding several marketplaces to further your online reach. Look for technology here that allows you to pull these in with a click of the mouse. Check out places like Shopify.
Dig into Pricing Models
One of the problems small businesses find when they try to go global is competing with bigger competition and free shipping. Melis says a little detective work should pay off and allow for some wiggle room. Specifically, looking to see if “free shipping” is really baked into a competitor’s pricing model can work to your advantage as you can adjust your pricing accordingly.
Develop a Good Returns Policy
This is one spoke in a successful business wheel you can’t afford to ignore if you want to go global. Unfortunately, lots of smaller companies don’t place a necessary focus here.
It’s especially important online so you need to develop and communicate a clear policy.
Fid Tools for Managing Those Returns
“Once you have a good returns policy in place, small business should look for tools to make the process part of returns easier,” Melis says pointing to UPS Returns Manager.
These should bolster the customer experience through pre-set options and the click of a mouse. They are a great way to drive customer loyalty.
Ask for Help
Don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it. Tweaking your small business or setting one up to go global can be daunting. The Small Business Administration has a portal where you can team up with small business counselors.
Consider Compliance and Tax Issues
There might be different tax codes and other compliance issues you’ll need to look at. For example, you might need licenses to ship some products like technology outside America.
Find a Local Business Contact
You can learn a lot about what you need to know about a foreign market online. However, contacting local business associations to get some names can provide important insider information about how business gets done in new destinations.
Start with A Logical First Step
Melis points to a proven path for small business globalization and Canada as a first step. Small companies often stay on the continent but jump the border to become international that way.
“It’s a huge population relatively close so it’s a common first step to go north,” he says.