Is now the right time to expand your business internationally?

By Stirling Austin
Playing safe?

For many business owners, choosing to only offer products and services locally is a conscious decision – and it is one that’s more often than not borne out of a fear of the unknown. However, the question of whether or not you choose to expand your customer base to include international audiences is one that could prove detrimental to the success of your business. The same goes for service-based businesses – many firms are simply playing it safe by only selling domestically.

But what about Brexit you say? Isn’t it more complicated now? Well maybe, and if you already trade internationally, or have international suppliers, you will need to think about your online processes, declarations, and logistics. This is critical if your website automates actions related to international transactions, whether for clients or product and supplier management.

However, the Brexit challenge can also represent an opportunity. Your competitors may shy away from that challenge, or they may be planning to deal with it right now. The question is where do you want to be in the next couple of years, national or international?

Whatever the outcome, the UK and European bloc countries will always trade with each other, so unless your product or service can only ever be useful in the UK, it’s worth looking at some of the biggest benefits of trading internationally.

Demand = Opportunity

One of the biggest reasons why you should expand your offering to customers overseas is simply that if you anticipate there being a demand for the products or services that you offer, then it’s an opportunity. To clarify this, you should always aim to conduct some market research surrounding the countries you wish to ship to – do their culture and daily life use your products in the same way as your local customers do? If so, then it could be a great marketing move to ship or sell services internationally. Then again, if your offering is one that is niche and perhaps won’t be as profitable internationally, then maybe withhold from opening up your market for now.

According to the FSB’s report on SMEs and UK exports ‘Destination Export’, here is a sample that was taken of Welsh businesses, and the same potential is true for businesses UK wide:

  • 40% of exporters are start-up businesses
  • 76% of export destination decisions are driven by a direct approach from local markets –this suggests there is a gap in coordination and a need for greater attention to international strategy
  • The EU single market remains the top trade destination for small firms and will likely be for some time to come.SMEs that do export are four times more
    likely to export to an EU destination than a destination outside the EU
  • These general trends are confirmed in other and more recent studies. As the UK Export Finance survey noted: SMEs that only have domestic customers grow at 8%, compared to 20% for those that export abroad

You want to make sure your offering stands out from competitors, no matter where in the world they may be. Again, by conducting some primary research into the competitors that are based in the country or region you’re trying to break into, you can see how your branding stacks up. The ideal scenario is that you want your brand to be succinct and distinct, yet not too different from those you’re competing against. After all, they likely know their own country better than you.


Marketing your business in solely one language – even if it’s English – is unlikely to win you any favours with any international endeavours you undertake. This is because you’re restricting the accessibility of your products and website content for audiences that don’t speak that language or speak it as a second or third preference. By creating a website that is multilanguage, you’re demonstrating favourable values such as global vision and inclusivity, as well as widening your potential target audiences.

It’s not as complicated as you might think to get started

The internet has given small and medium-sized businesses the opportunity to enter the global market in a way that was never before possible. They are able to sell their goods and services and build their brand directly through their website to customers all over the world with minimal effort. Nothing holding you back from internationalising and localising your online presence, and its a worthwhile and modest initial investment to take your brand international.

The Author

Stirling Austin has built manufacturing, service, and distribution businesses in the UK, France, and across Europe, with turnovers ranging from £2M- to £50M. Bilingual French/English, he is now based in Manchester and runs Pixel Executive, a Digital Agency specialising in building multi-language websites that help businesses grow both locally and internationally.

If you need help creating a website that works for international markets, or just advice on where to start to expand your business internationally, get in touch with Stirling.

Pixel Executive is a full-service Digital Agency. Whether for a simple brochure website, a multilingual website, an e-commerce site, or digital marketing, we help you build your business and your brand. Our team is supported by a network of trusted specialists such as copywriters, translators, and experts in multilingual SEO.  Whatever your requirement for design, content marketing, or website maintenance, we support you every step of the way.