Setting up and running an international business is getting easier by the day. In fact, all entrepreneurs and small business owners should start running their business with a global perspective. With globalization and democratization of most international markets, sourcing products and services from another country as well as selling goods and providing services to a foreign consumer market never had such low barriers.
However, depending on the nature of your business operations, your small business that frequently interacts with foreign suppliers, service providers, customers or business connections may be slapped with a huge expenses bill if you are not careful.
Help is here! Here are 10 Tips to Run an International Business Cheaply.
Adopt Online Marketing Strategies
Done properly, online marketing is the most cost-effective way of selling your product or service. It’s possible to have a website up and running on a very small budget. The web is also the perfect way to get into international markets. By properly localizing your website, in other words, using a professional to translate your content and being sensitive to cultural issues within your target market, you will ensure your online marketing is effective overseas.
Do Your Own SEO
Once your website is set up, it needs to attract visitors. The best way to achieve this is to make sure people can find you in the search engines. You can use paid advertising in search engines, but the most cost-effective way of capitalizing on search traffic is through organic search engine optimization (SEO). This will ensure your website ranks well in the search engines for your chosen keywords.
There is a vast amount of free information on the web about how to do SEO. With a little time and effort, you can learn how to optimize your website for the search engines, without the expense of hiring a professional.
Use Cloud Computing
These days businesses don’t need their own IT infrastructure to run their enterprise systems. More and more businesses are moving into the ‘cloud’. In practical terms this means all your software and data is stored on remote servers, which your staff can access via the Internet. These ‘hosted applications’ avoid the expense of buying licenses for software and hiring IT professionals to manage your systems.
For example, Google Apps provides email on your own domain, word processing, spreadsheets, calendars and presentation software, all for just $50 per user per year.
Work from Home
By working from home, and having your staffs do the same, you can keep your overheads low. It also means that you can hire local staffs in the markets you operate in without the need for physical offices all over the world. You can even rent virtual office space to use for important client meetings. If you use cloud computing for your IT infrastructure, home working can be very efficient and productive.
Cut Travel Costs
When you do need to travel, keep your costs down by using budget airlines and no-frills hotel chains. The Internet allows you to shop around for the best deals on travel. Remember that by booking hotels and airline tickets well in advance you can often take advantage of big discounts. If you travel regularly for business, putting your travel expenses on a business credit card with reward points can also help you save money over time.
Cut Phone Bills
Many VoIP service providers offer packages with internet services, allowing you to cut costs altogether for your business’ needs.
You can make big savings on telecommunications by using Voice Over IP (VoIP) services, like Skype and Vonage. VoIP uses the Internet to transmit voice calls and it is particularly cheap for international calling. The equipment costs are very low because your staff can use their PCs or mobile phones to access VoIP services; there’s no need to invest in any special handsets.
Use a Virtual Office
If you do need somewhere to meet clients or hold staff meetings, there’s no need to have permanent premises. Most major cities around the world now have plenty of virtual office space to choose from. It’s not just somewhere to hold a meeting, you can also use a virtual office as a mailing address and many virtual offices will provide reception services to sign for incoming deliveries.
When you’re moving cash around internationally, banks can be a very expensive way to do it. It’s usually much cheaper to use online services like PayPal and Moneybookers.com. Before using your bank, check out the other options.
Hold Meetings Online
There is no need for people to physically get together in order to have a productive meeting. There are dozens of online services which enable your staff and clients to meet via the web, wherever they are in the world. Attendees of online meetings can see and hear each other by using web cams and microphones and most online meeting providers offer the facility to share documents and view PowerPoint presentations.
Hiring freelancers and contract staffs can offer you big savings. It cuts out the expense of traditional recruitment and means you can hire resources on-demand. You can also tap into local expertise by hiring contractors within your target markets. To read more on this, you can check out 9 Alarming Reasons to Outsource or Hire.
Do You Run an International Business?
Is your business global? In one way or another, you might already be doing business with businesses that are overseas, especially if you are constantly looking for new business partners, connections or services on the Internet.
How are you keeping the costs low? Do you have any experience with overseas business partners or connections that you would like to share?
Leave a comment below to share with us your experience on running an international business.
About the Author
Christian Arno is the founder and Managing Director of global translation service provider Lingo24. Launched in 2001, Lingo24 now has over 120 employees spanning four continents and clients in over sixty countries.
Contact Lingo24 with a translation request mentioning ‘www.wayneliew.com’ before 30 October 2010 and receive a 10% discount on your first order.