Why International Expansion Is a Huge Business Growth Hack

There comes a time when every company feels like it’s stuck. They generate leads, increase sales, gain revenue and conquer quarterly goals. But then it’s difficult to know the next step.

If this is where you’re at, ask yourself this question: Are you only gaining leads and sales in your home country?  In a globalized world, venturing beyond one’s home turf is often seen as a crucial step towards growth and sustainability.

Still, this growth strategy comes with its challenges. International expansion demands careful planning and adaptation to diverse cultural, regulatory, and economic landscapes.

In this post, we’ll go over the concrete strategy, serious market research, and ability to adapt to new work cultures for successful international expansion.

Jacqueline Foster

Demand Generation Marketing, Lever.co

We can count on them to bring new ideas to the table consistently

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Why Is International Expansion Important for Your Business?

Expanding your business internationally is more than just a growth strategy; it’s a diversification that can bring long-term stability and new opportunities to your brand.

One of the foremost advantages of international expansion is the competitive edge it offers.

By venturing into international markets, businesses can introduce unique products or services. And, considering that the U.S. makes up under 5% of the world’s population, it’ll allow them stay ahead of domestic competitors who haven’t yet explored foreign markets.

Here are several other great reasons to expand your business globally:

Diversify Your Customer Base

  • Broader Audience: International expansion exposes your business to new markets, significantly increasing your potential customer base.
  • Risk Mitigation: By operating in multiple markets, you reduce dependency on a single market, thus mitigating risks associated with economic or political instability in one region.

Global Presence Enhances Brand Image

  • Global Appeal: A brand with a presence in multiple countries often enjoys a more prestigious image.
  • Cross-Cultural Engagement: International exposure allows you to engage with diverse cultures, enhancing brand adaptability and appeal.

Leverage Global Expertise

  • Diverse Talent Pool: Accessing international talent can bring new ideas, perspectives, and expertise to your business.
  • Innovation through Diversity: Diverse teams often result in more innovative solutions and products.

Cost Reduction Through Expansion

  • Lower Production Costs: Manufacturing in countries with lower production costs can significantly reduce expenses.
  • Supply Chain Optimization: A global presence allows for more efficient supply chain management and logistics.

Staying Ahead in the Global Market

  • First-Mover Advantage: Entering a new market early can give you a competitive edge.
  • Understanding Global Trends: Exposure to international markets provides insights into global trends, allowing you to adapt quickly.

Increased Revenue Potential

  • Higher Sales Potential: New markets mean new customers, leading to increased sales.
  • Currency Diversification: Earning in different currencies can protect against currency fluctuations.

Some of the industries that do best in international expansion include:


Challenges of International Expansion

While international expansion offers numerous benefits, like anything else, it also presents several challenges. Here’s an overview of the primary obstacles businesses can face when expanding internationally.

Cultural and Language Barriers

Language, customs, traditions and consumer behavior can pose substantial challenges to global growth, especially if businesses don’t conduct market research before their expansion. Respecting local cultures is crucial for effective market entry and building relationships.

Plus, cultural sensitivity is not only integral when expanding internationally, but is a consumer demand: 83% of consumers prefer supporting companies that are culturally sensitive.

How can companies develop cultural sensitivity? Adapt your products, services, marketing strategies and communication to align with local customs. When you position your offering to meet the needs of the market you’re entering, you’ll have a much better reception of your brand.

Communication and Coordination

About 400 million people in the world speak English natively, which is a mere 5% of the worldwide population, so businesses must work around language barriers with marketing, customer service and even when collaborating with stakeholders.

Plus, time zone differences can make it difficult to network with local partners and communicate with consumers. Many businesses either outsource other companies to satisfy these roles or only expand within their time zone.

Regulatory and Compliance Issues

Navigating foreign legal systems and compliance requirements can be daunting. Some topics you’ll have to consider include intellectual property, employment law, business acquisitions, contracts, data protection and taxes. There’s no such thing as global business laws, so you must hire legal counsel practicing in the specific country.

Adapting to Local Preferences

Understanding and adapting to local consumer preferences and buying habits is key. Success in new markets often hinges on aligning with local consumer behaviors and buying habits rather than barging in and pushing your own customs.

For example, Starbucks initially struggled in Australia due to a lack of understanding of local coffee culture and stiff competition from established local cafes. This example highlights the importance of market research and cultural understanding in international expansion.

Also, it’s important to recognize that local markets may already have well-established competitors. Navigating this competitive landscape requires developing a unique and tailored strategy to gain a foothold and stand out in the market.

Logistical and Supply Chain Challenges

Managing supply chains across borders can be complex, specifically with issues related to transportation and customs. But companies can improve their international presence by using supply chain technology, which can alleviate the difficulties of international logistics.

Despite the resources and tools readily available, only 49% of businesses worldwide are either in the early stages or behind the curve of adopting global trade management technology:

global trade technology adoption curve

This can cause inventory and shipping delays, which will have negative impacts on product availability and customer satisfaction.

Currency Fluctuations

Exchange rate volatility can affect the financial performance of international operations. For example, the Euro weakened in 2022, which caused economic effects on the member states. Your revenue can fall if your domestic currency rises against the foreign one, so managing financial risks associated with currency fluctuations is necessary.

Political and Economic Instability

Political changes, economic crises and shifting government policies can impact businesses, specifically your operations and investments. For example, there’s been a heightened concern about economic instability around the world because of the growing conflicts in various regions, from Brexit to trade tensions to the Ukraine war.

Best Countries to Consider for International Expansion

Some countries consistently rank high as attractive destinations for international business expansion due to their economic stability and business-friendly environments. But keep in mind that the best countries for your international expansion depend on a variety of factors, including your company’s industry, goals, resources, and risk tolerance.

Here are several countries often considered among the top choices for international expansion:

  • China: The world’s largest economy with a large and growing middle class.
  • India: A rapidly growing economy with a young and talented workforce.
  • United Kingdom/Ireland: A stable and sophisticated economy with a strong global presence.
  • Japan: A highly advanced economy with a reputation for innovation and quality.
  • Germany: A leading exporter of manufactured goods and a key player in the European Union.
  • Canada: A stable and friendly economy with a strong resource base.
  • Singapore: A global trade and financial hub with a skilled workforce.
  • Australia: A wealthy and developed economy with a strong emphasis on education and research.
  • Brazil: A large and diverse economy with a growing market for consumer goods.
  • South Korea: A technologically advanced economy with a strong focus on international competitiveness.
  • United Arab Emirates: A rapidly developing economy with a strategic location and business-friendly environment.
  • Mexico: A low-cost manufacturing center with a large domestic market.
  • Netherlands: A gateway to the European Union with a highly skilled workforce.
  • Switzerland: A stable and prosperous economy with a strong reputation for banking and finance.

Top 10 Countries to consider for global expansion

When considering international expansion, it’s helpful to seek guidance from local experts and partners so they can help you navigate the unique challenges of each market.

Advice for Expanding to Another Country

As gainful as expanding into international markets can be, you’ve seen here that it’s not without its difficulties, particularly as every prospective country you’re looking to expand into will have wildly different legislation.

Here is some advice to consider when expanding internationally, which requires careful planning and execution.

Market Research & Financial Planning

Invest time and resources in comprehensive market research to understand consumer preferences, the competition and regulatory requirements. Research and find data on market size and growth potential.

Create a detailed financial plan that accounts for initial set-up costs, ongoing operational expenses, and potential risks. Make sure you have sufficient capital to support your expansion efforts and for unexpected challenges.

You should also assess the spending power of your target audience in the new international market. Weigh the costs of startup and maintenance for the first few years of expansion against the anticipated financial gains that can be achieved in the market you’re considering.

Local Partnerships

Consider forming partnerships with local businesses that have a deep understanding of the market. Local expertise can be valuable in navigating challenges and building connections. You can build partnerships with businesses in HR, finance, legal, marketing, and influencers.

If your business relies on a specific type of supplier, seek out comparable local alternatives in the region you’re looking to expand. Connecting directly with local vendors can reveal crucial details as to the nature of doing business in that area.

Localized TOFU Content

Top-of-funnel (TOFU) content is where you’ll need to win over international leads. This is the stage where your leads gather information on your brand, products/services, and even facts about your industry.

Marketing-Funnel_AIDA Stages

How can you target these consumers with TOFU content? Tailor your marketing and branding efforts to resonate with local consumers. You may need to adjust your brand messaging, content, and advertising campaigns.

Employee Recruitment and Training

International businesses will need to do more than hire qualified staff – they must retain the best talent:

63.3% of businesses say retaining staff is harder than hiring.

So you’ll need to prepare effective training and management tactics. Recruit and train local staff who understand the market and can provide excellent customer service. Foster a diverse and inclusive workplace culture that respects local customs.

Knowing the affluence of your audience in a particular region may make all the difference in deciding whether or not to expand there.

Risk Assessment and Mitigation

Before expanding internationally, identify potential risks and develop risk mitigation strategies.

For example, cyber incidents are the leading risk for all businesses worldwide, and include:

  • Denial-of-service (DoS) attacks: DoS attacks attempt to overwhelm a computer system with traffic, making it unavailable to users. DoS attacks can be used to disrupt operations, damage reputations, and extort money from victims.
  • Data breaches: These occur when sensitive data is accessed or stolen without authorization. Data breaches can damage reputations, erode customer trust, and lead to regulatory fines.
  • Supply chain attacks: These occur when hackers infiltrate a third-party supplier and use that access to attack the supplier’s customers. Supply chain attacks can be difficult to detect and prevent, as they often involve multiple organizations.
  • Zero-day attacks: These attacks exploit vulnerabilities in software that are not yet known to the software vendor. Zero-day attacks can be difficult to defend against, as there is no patch available to fix the vulnerability.

Businesses expanding internationally should be aware of and prepare for potential disruptions that could impact their operations. These disruptions can be broadly categorized into two main types:

  • Operational disruptions: These disruptions affect the day-to-day operations of a business, such as supply chain disruptions, natural disasters, political unrest, and labor strikes.
  • Regulatory disruptions: These disruptions arise from changes in laws, regulations, or government policies that affect a business’s ability to operate in a particular market.

To mitigate the risks associated with these disruptions, businesses should develop a contingency plan that includes specific actions for addressing different types of disruptions, such as:

  • Supply chain disruptions: Identify alternative suppliers, establish inventory buffers, and develop plans for sourcing goods and services from other regions.
  • Political unrest: Monitor political developments, maintain relationships with local government officials, and develop contingency plans for evacuating employees or relocating operations if necessary.
  • Regulatory disruptions: Stay informed about changes in laws and regulations, consult with legal and compliance experts, and implement changes to business practices as needed.

In addition to developing a contingency plan, businesses should also invest in appropriate insurance coverage to protect against financial losses arising from disruptions. The specific types of insurance coverage will vary depending on the business and the types of disruptions it faces, but may include:

  • Property and casualty insurance: Covers physical damage to property, business interruption losses, and liability for bodily injury or property damage.
  • Political risk insurance: Covers losses arising from political events such as expropriation, war, or revolution.
  • Trade credit insurance: Covers losses arising from the failure of customers to pay for goods or services.
  • Cyber insurance: Covers losses arising from cyberattacks, such as data breaches and ransomware attacks.

You may even find your brand needing to invest in professional legal assistance to help you navigate international laws and avoid liability from negligence.

International Expansion Brings Many Opportunities

International expansion is an often overlooked strategy for business growth, offering access to new markets, increased revenue, a diversified customer base, potentially reduced costs, and enhanced brand reputation. While cultural, legal, regulatory, political, and economic risks exist, careful consideration and planning can lead to success in the global market.

The best course of action is to find the countries with the most consumer demand, identify opportunities in your niche, and prepare for any setbacks. This way, you can increase brand awareness internationally while conquering the competition.

If you’re ready to expand internationally and drive sustainable growth for long-term success, Single Grain’s growth strategist experts can help!👇

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