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What’s the best strategy to make my start-up go global?

Want to build a global brand? You’ve come to the right place. This guide covers the basics to position your small business as an international player

Sponsored by Verisign

Looking to expand your small business internationally?

Ensuring your company has a strong, positive brand is a key consideration for businesses like yours that are eager to grow.

Your brand is based on how people experience and perceive your company, and can directly impact your business' success, and so it's incredibly important that you get it right.

A company with a reputation for poor customer service, for example, may find it harder to attract customers, and thanks to the internet and social media, it's easier than ever for customers to share their experiences – good and bad – with people all around the world.

With this in mind, if you’re hoping to expand your small business overseas then you should make sure that their brand is as strong as possible, and well-suited to international expansion.

So, how can your small business do this?

1. Be prepared for, and embrace, cultural differences

First, if your company's brand is to successfully translate to overseas markets, you should do your research into different cultures, legal issues and how your goods will be perceived abroad.

If, for example, you sell chewing gum, and draw up plans to expand into Asia, you should know that Singapore has a long-standing ban on gum, which can only be bought in sugar-free form with a prescription. Attempts to expand into this market would most likely be unsuccessful and could tarnish your brand as one that is ill-prepared for overseas expansion, or worse, as one that doesn't understand, or care to understand, its customers.

The flip side of this is that your brand can be greatly helped if you tap into a market where there is strong demand for your product.

If your company has a business website, data analytics may be able to help establish where traffic is coming from and therefore see where interest is coming from, helping establish where there may be demand for your product.

If you don’t have a website for your business, you can turn to market research companies, or public affairs publications – magazines, newspaper and journals –  which will help establish which markets are suited to your product, and which are not.

The benefits of better understanding, and successfully tapping into, an overseas market are plentiful.

Success overseas can help increase your brand's visibility, and as more people become aware of your brand and its positive reputation, sales could increase, potentially empowering you to continue your expansion.

2. Create a brand personality

The most successful brands don't only rely upon strong products.

An excellent product will take you a long way, but to make your brand truly memorable, you need to establish a brand personality that is both unique, and consistent across your entire customer experience.

For example, decide whether your brand is playful, or serious.

If you operate a business-to-business (B2B) company, or a company selling luxury, expensive goods, a more serious tone could be beneficial, as it allows customers to know that you take yourself seriously and they should too.

However, if you are selling novelty goods, or quirky, lower-priced items, it makes sense to take yourself less-seriously and build a brand personality that's less serious, and offers a more fun, convivial experience for customers.

So, how do you build this brand personality?

If you have a website, it's important to tailor your content appropriately. If your company's personality is more light-hearted, for example, this should be reflected in your website's content – from product descriptions to details on the company – using language that is friendlier and less business-like.

That said, for businesses expanding overseas, language and cultural nuances must be considered. If, for example, your business with a more personable brand personality is selling in Spain but is based in the U.K, it's important to avoid using UK-specific slang in any marketing materials, as this may alienate your overseas market.

Whatever your approach, an established, appropriate brand personality can help make it more memorable across different markets.

3. Opt for an international domain extension

When establishing your business' international online presence, it's important to ensure your website will be seen as trusted and well-established, right from the beginning.

When you enter a new market, chances are customers will have never heard of you, and a lack of familiarity and trust in your brand may put them off.

So, how do you establish trust?

An internationally-renowned domain extension can help.

.com, for example, is known all around the world and is seen as trustworthy and reliable. By ensuring your business' online presence is built upon an internationally recognisable domain extension, you can help establish familiarity with customers and get off on the right foot in new markets.

4. Keep it consistent

Finally, in order to build a strong global brand, consistency is key.

Your business' online presence may stretch across different channels – including a website, email, and social media – and it's important to remember that everything your company does online is reflected in your brand.

This isn't restricted to the products you sell, but in how you communicate with existing and potential customers online.

For example, if you are based in the U.K and an American customer sends a query via social media at a time outside of your normal working hours, do you have the personnel in place to answer this query as quickly as possible? If you appear unresponsive, your brand may be damaged as you could seem unhelpful to customers.

Not only should you ensure that your social media channels are manned and responsive, but your website should also provide a wealth of helpful information so that users can have the information they need, regardless of location.

This can include FAQ pages, as well as general information on your business, its product and services, and appropriate contact information.

For a company with global aspirations, details on shipping and the regions you serve should also be provided.

By providing a consistent experience across your online presence, customers from all over the world can come away with a positive experience, and ensure your brand goes from strength to strength.

With a strong brand, the world is your business' oyster.

This article is a part of the ‘Getting Online’ series sponsored by Verisign. Click here for more information from Verisign on how your business can attract customers from across the globe.