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Tips to expand your SME business globally

08 January 2022, 17:42 CET

Small to Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs) make up 99% of all businesses in the EU, contributing around 56% of the total value and employing an estimated 84 million people. SMEs are the backbone of the European economy and form an essential part of the EU's overall total wealth.

However, while SMEs are an essential and integral part of the overall EU trading bloc, there's no reason why these firms should be limited to just trading with each other inside the European zone. Unfortunately, SME business owners often take the view that their firm is too small to think globally, while in fact the complete opposite is true.

The tremendous opportunities offered by the web and web-based tech

Few people would deny the massive impact tech, computers and the web have had on society over the last 20 or so years. However, it could easily be argued that technology has impacted the world of business more than any other part of daily life.

The internet has largely democratized commerce, making it possible for companies big and small to reach out to global markets in ways never before possible. Throw into the mix the huge opportunities offered by social media, cloud computing services and targeted internet marketing and there's absolutely no reason why your firm should think small.

With just a little creative thinking and a structured plan, your firm could soon be operating in a global marketplace, identifying new prospects and branching into entirely new sectors.

Read on for some tried and tested tips used by the pros that could help expand your firm globally.

Get a professional website and think about translations

Today, it's estimated around 70% of all consumer journeys (both Business-2-Business (B2B) and Business-2-Consumer (B2C)) start with an online search. Whether just casual browsing or more targeted searches, we pretty much all turn to the web these days when researching products.

With such an emphasis now on finding products online, you need to ensure your website is as professional and easy to use as it possibly can be. Key products and services should be given adequate prominence on the front page while the overall design and feel of the pages should exude your passion and professionalism as a firm. In short, when someone visits your site, they should be given an immediately favorable impression of your company and know within seconds what it can do for them.

You should also think about adding translated versions to your site if you want to truly engage with foreign audiences, plus also consider buying country-specific domain names to help with your . . .

Website localization and SEO

Contrary to popular opinion, website localization goes way beyond just adding small flags and translations to your website. if you want to have a true impact in foreign territories, you need to consider deep localization strategies on your site that will help push you up the international search engines.

Google currently controls around 92% of all search engine traffic and, while that number might vary slightly in the country you're targeting, you can still be sure Google will control the lion's share. Consequently, you need to ensure your site is targeted to appear high in its Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs) for that nation.

True website localization is far too detailed and complex to outline here so you should think about consulting with a professional firm that has the knowledge and experience to transfer your site so it works in foreign countries. Differences in language and imagery can cause significant problems if you don't take adequate precautions to not cause offense.

Business localization

As well as your website, you'll also need to think about establishing some kind of local presence for your firm in a foreign country. If you're just dipping your toe in the water, it's unlikely you'll want to shell out for country-specific premises but there are still several things you can do to make your firm look more international. Remember, potential clients may be slightly hesitant at the idea of working with a foreign firm, so you need to make them feel at ease.

If you're looking to keep costs to a minimum, you should at least set up a real-world mailing address in the foreign country that will forward your mail automatically to you in your base country.

Another great tactic to make your firm look more local is to set up a country-specific contact telephone number – complete with an answering service. Search online for specialist companies that are skilled in operating contact numbers and can set up your phone answering service.

Get social

Over the last decade or so social media has completely upended traditional sales, marketing and advertising and made it easier than ever for firms to reach out to a global marketplace. By posting interesting content on the usual suspects (YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram), you could massively increase global awareness of your company.

The world's best social campaigns have ended up going viral, so with just a little forethought and planning, there's no reason you couldn't produce engaging content that might end up exposing your firm and its services to the world.

There is one important proviso to remember, however, as noted above in the point about web localization, the vagaries of language, customs and imagery can make it very easy to unwittingly offend other cultures so you should consult with an expert before posting potentially damaging or derogatory content.

Another point to remember is that different social channels are more popular than others in different countries. For example, as a general rule, WhatsApp and Instagram are more popular in Europe than they are in the UK.

Also, while you should ensure you feature on the main social players noted above, don't discount some of the smaller platforms that might prove ideal for your particular business. For example, if you run a company specializing in women's lingerie, Pinterest with its 77% female user demographic could provide the perfect vehicle for promoting your firm and reaching new users.

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