How to build credibility overseas

exporting stamp

To successfully take your business overseas, you need to build your credibility quickly. Thankfully, there are some strategies you can use to do exactly that.

Get a good address

As it does in Australia, a good address will add to your credibility. If you’re telling them that you’re a successful Australian business, then the locals will indeed expect you to have one.

Both serviced and virtual offices will help in this regard: allowing you to quickly move in to a business-ready address with meeting room facilities and local phone numbers without having to enter into a lease.

A well-equipped home base will also save you from the chaos of having to work out of a suitcase – something that’s twice as hard to do overseas. Many find that serviced offices also provide good networking opportunities.

Find good help

As much as you might like to, you cannot run a multinational business alone, and your credibility is going to depend on your business being able to function whether you’re in the country or out.

To achieve this, you’ll need to employ a local who can represent your business. But with the right person, you’ll also secure an immediate and invaluable source of local insight.

Have a good product

It sounds obvious, but nothing builds credibility like word-of-mouth. Make sure that you exceed the expectations of your new customers and gather their testimonials. Don’t cut corners. Your products and services should represent the same quality as they do in Australia.

In this regard, however, you should take encouragement from the fact that if your business works in Australia – where regulations and costs are high – it may well work even better overseas.

Keep your costs low

Success overseas will depend on local knowledge, market understanding and trusted relationships: all of which takes time. Nothing will ruin your credibility like failure. It’s therefore vital that your overseas strategy is to keep your costs low while you pursue profitability.

Make sure your business builds credibility through success by:

  • Adhering to a low-cost ‘cookie cutter’ model where your operations are similar across different markets. In addition to making further expansion easier, this will allow your business to remain agile, keeping the quality of your delivery high.
  • Exploiting tools like cloud computing to minimise your set-up and operating costs by sharing business software and resources between sites. The good news here is that, with recent advancements in cloud and communications technologies ‘going global’ has never been easier.
  • Maintaining a light footprint by minimising your investment. This is especially important in China, where you must pay back your total investment before you can begin to take profits out of the country.
  • Sharing space and resources with other businesses – especially with those run by other expats who are in the same ‘cost management’ boat.

Choosing your market

Making the right decision about which market to attack will also affect how quickly you can build a credible business overseas. Questions to ask include:

  • What size is the addressable market? Research how big the potential markets are in the countries you’re considering. The numbers can be astounding. China’s population is currently 1.35 billion, for example, and its middle class is rapidly expanding. Ask who your market is and what penetration you are likely to get.
  • How will my business fit? As discussed, it’s important to understand how an Australian business in your sector will be perceived. What local or international competitors will you have, and will you be able to operate in the same way you do in Australia?

  • Do I speak the language? It’s not compulsory, but speaking the local language will be an advantage for your credibility. If you don’t, you will be more reliant on local staff, depending on how commonly English is spoken in your target market.
  • How difficult is foreign investment? With its Westminster-style system and comparable commercial and contract laws, Singapore is a good choice for first-time ventures overseas. Other Asian markets can be more challenging, while many Middle Eastern nations are trying to make foreign investment more appealing. Examine what restrictions apply. Are foreigners allowed to own businesses, for example, or do you have to give a local partner a majority share? What other governmental and bureaucratic restrictions exist? How much will you be taxed?

10 tips to build credibility overseas

1. Like travel

2. Do your ground work

3. Network

4. Exploit your Australian identity

5. Tell a compelling story

6. Act like a local

7. Get a good address

8. Find good help

9. Have a good product

10. Choose the right market

Summing up

Building credibility overseas can be a surprising task. You’re not exactly starting with a blank slate, but the credibility you’ve built in Australia isn’t an automatic import. You’ll need to work hard as an ‘outsider’, but you will have the advantage of having done it all before. The key is deciding what it is that you bring to table in your new market: the credible experience, know-how or quality that sets you apart.

–Marcus Moufarrige is chief information officer and sales director at Servcorp, a leading global provider of serviced office and virtual office solutions.

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