You started your small business with the intent of establishing a local or regional following. You set up a website, embarked on an aggressive marketing campaign and seem to be doing very well. As profits continue to grow, you decide to put a few of your “signature” products on your website for people to purchase online. You also set up Social Media accounts. Business is manageable. Then, before you know it – BOOM! You get a Social Media inquiry from overseas. Suddenly, you begin to notice people visiting your website from different parts of the world. You get a little excited to see people taking such an interest in your products. Then, orders start to come in…and before you know it, your “local” small business is now becoming a worldwide enterprise. In today’s online, Social Media infused, instant marketplace, ANY business is subject to global interest. While you may not ever choose to embark upon any major importing or exporting efforts, you do want to build relationships and make appropriate accommodations for your international customers.
Language and Communication
If you notice you are generating a wide following from a specific region of the world, it would be wise to consider hiring a translator to help develop content for your website. If funds are tight, there are translation plug-ins available (some free, others have a nominal cost) you can incorporate into your website. These plug-ins translate your entire site into the chosen language, however, some of the content may lose its connotation in the “automated” translation. Many companies today already incorporate a Spanish language option. If you accept telephone orders, consider offering language-specific prompts. You can also evaluate the benefits of outsourcing to a trusted call center, such as Global Response to help provide customer service, answer questions, and complete order fulfillment.
Accepting payment from overseas can present a challenge. Obviously, you can set yourself up to take major credit cards, such as Visa or MasterCard. PayPal is another trusted method, which is widely used across the globe. You may want to check out the PayPal guide to selling overseas for additional ideas and helpful tips.
Customs & Shipping
Be sure to research and understand the customs and shipping requirements. There are very specific rules associated with this, and each country is different. There are both export and import regulations to consider.
Duty & Taxes
Each country has different requirements for shipping. Often, there is a very specific way the product needs to be packaged. There are also duty and taxes involved. In some cases, a free trade agreement (FTA) may be in effect. Export.gov is an excellent resource explaining how duty and taxes work
Warranties and Guarantees
If your product comes with a warranty and guarantee, be aware of the costs associated with repairing and/or replacing the product for an overseas customer.
While you may not have intended on taking your business global, the Internet makes international business inevitable. Preparing for it now can save you lots of headaches when global customers come knocking!
About the Author
Gina Smith writes freelance articles for magazines, online outlets and publications. Smith covers the latest topics in the business, golf, tourism, technology and entertainment industries.