Global Considerations for U.S. Businesses
Being in the midst of another presidential election year, there’s a great deal of jadedness floating around these days. We live in an era where many U.S. citizens have lost faith in our political system to deliver results in response to the mandates we task our lawmakers with. The task seems enormous: how can we regain faith in a democratic system that is one of the great experiments of our time? One way is to work within the corporate system of widespread capitalization and globalization to enact good, as a company.
Corporate Social Responsibility
Enter the concept of corporate social responsibility—or CSR. John Pilmer argues that, in this day and age, “good global citizenship is nearly impossible to fake.” Try to seek out ethical partnerships that are mutually beneficial and in line with your priorities. For example, the natural and organic food industry has made it a point to offer fair trade as a marketable feature on certain products dealing with crops with a history of exploitation—e.g. coffee. Because it is such a major crop throughout certain parts of Africa and South America, growers stand to make a considerably more substantial living if fair trade policies are implemented by companies who buy from them.
Furthermore, because consumers are aware that their purchasing choices have so much influence over industry trends, doing something as simple as patronizing primarily local farmers and businesses—as opposed to U.S. companies who manufacture their goods in China—can make a surprisingly large impact. A large number of consumers—“55% of global online consumers across 60 countries,” to be exact—say “they are willing to pay more for products and services provided by companies that are committed to positive social and environmental impact.” In other words, ethical corporate practices like fair trade can be quite good for business!
Beyond company profits and ROI, a 2014 study titled The Nielsen Global Survey of Corporate Social Responsibility found that out of over 30,000 consumers in 60 countries, 67% prefer to work for socially responsible companies. Moreover, 55% are willing to pay extra for products and services from companies committed to positive social and environmental change. It seems, therefore, that corporate responsibility is important not just for optimized PR and brand image but also in order to attract talented employees. In addition to supporting socially responsible production practices, therefore, you might also consider strategic partnerships with organizations that reflect values you would like to represent—such as a not-for-profit education foundation or a carbon-offset program.
Where to expand to?
If your company is interested in expanding your business into a global market, which countries or regions do you think would be most feasible and profitable for your particular industry? Of course, it depends on your products or services as to how easy it would be for you to expand your business to outside of the U.S. However, doing so is worth it: in part because the Internet is fueling widespread globalization; also, the potential to increase profits and get a sizeable return on investment is high. Moreover, consider this: 54 percent of U.S. companies have some foreign market involvement; also, 67 percent of U.S. CEOs believe there are more growth opportunities today than there were three years ago, and 80 percent of business executives agree that U.S. companies should expand internationally for long-term growth.
Your website is important if you’re going global
If your business involves a service that can easily translate across cultures without a lot of manufacturing or product placement, you’ll want to be especially conscious of your website and spend a good amount of time designing it with your target international audience in mind. In addition to covering your bases, in terms of including all possible platforms—including Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Instagram—be sure your website is designed to be fully accessible across both desktop and mobile platforms.
You’ll first want to decide on the markets you want to target, then determine which languages need to be added. Look into countries that are politically stable with a strong infrastructure. If there is any applicable legislation, such as import-export duties, import-export legislation, and local target country legislation, you’ll want to make sure of covering those proverbial bases, as well. There are a number of steps involved in expanding your business to a global market—especially if you are a small business.
Are you ready to export?
First of all, make sure you are prepared mentally and emotionally for going global; of course, you also need to be prepared on an operational level. In addition to having export potential, you should be thoughtful about where you decide to expand: beyond cultural affinity or market demand, you should be aware of who will buy your product and why, as well as the size of your market, your potential competition, and whether or not there are opportunities for growth in your chosen country. There’s even a site that directs online users to the closest Export Assistance Center in order to help make the process as smooth as possible.
Consider local culture
If you’re looking to have an on-the-ground presence in your targeted country—for example, an independent salesperson-liaison or a retail outlet—be sure that your partners and team members are fully immersed in the local culture and environment, as well as fully on your side, in terms of having your best interests in mind at all times. Moreover, try to customize your marketing to better suit the particular country’s culture and societal values.
A surprisingly small percentage—a mere 5%—of small businesses in the U.S. export their products to other countries. However, considering the potential benefits and the number of resources out there with small business interests in mind, it’s highly likely that you’ll be successful—that is, as long as all your proverbial ducks are in a row. For example, make sure that you have the ability to fill large orders all at once, service your domestic customers as well as global customers without any loss of expediency, and find a market for your product. Be prepared to network like crazy—for example, at trade shows and conventions, as well as via social media. Moreover, keep in mind that you can always expand further after achieving success in one market first—so start slow!
Remember to utilize some of the same abilities that allowed you to get your business off the ground in the first place—namely, patience, passion, and persistence—and make it your goal to expand beyond U.S. borders within the next five years. It will take time and effort, but if you slowly build toward achieving your goal of breaking free of your national market, you’ll be amazed at where it might take you! Share your experiences with global commerce in the comments, below!
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