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Top tips for Aussie start-ups expanding offshore in 2021

Innovation flourishes in tough times. As economies, at home and abroad, continue to recover from the effects of COVID-19, we are likely to see opportunities aplenty for small businesses, particularly if they are nimble upstarts that used the ‘lockdown layover’ to build a better mousetrap or find a smarter way to solve a common business problem.

Historically, Australians have excelled at doing just that. The country punches above its weight when it comes to inventing and innovating, with the likes of wifi technology, the Cochlear implant and plastic banknotes all owing their genesis to homegrown inspiration and perspiration. 

Meanwhile, scores of Australian businesses have found lucrative markets overseas in recent years, including the upmarket fashion label Zimmermann, workforce management application Tanda and the billion-dollar DIY graphic design platform Canva, to name just a few.

Historically, taking an Australian business internationally was not a step to be taken lightly. It typically involved months or years of meticulous planning and a sizable investment in infrastructure and personnel. But, in today’s digitised global world, ambitious start-ups with a product offering they’d like to push out to a broader market don’t necessarily have to overcome major financial and logistical hurdles. Digital technology can enable them to make international forays quickly and economically. As a trusted marketing partner to scores of start-ups, ActiveCampaign has seen many of our clients do just that – and make an excellent fist of it. 

Here are three things that have contributed to their success:

Supporting different languages

In the online era, your website and social media presence can take the place of a brick and mortar outlet in a foreign locale. But if you haven’t invested time and resources to translate them into the local language, or languages, they’re unlikely to make much of an impact. That’s why smart start-ups employ a local marketing agency to localise and SEO-optimise their digital assets before declaring themselves open for business. Their fee is usually a snip, compared with the high cost of establishing an on-the-ground presence, and the content they produce can be key to collecting a critical mass of customers much faster than would otherwise be possible.

Investing in customer experience from the outset

Determined to make a dent in an overseas market but don’t have the cash to spare for bells and whistles like top class service and support? Good luck with that. In 2021, customers, at home and abroad, are used to being on the receiving end of personalised, high-quality customer experiences, and they won’t cut you much slack if you don’t provide them, plucky little newcomer or not. Start-ups that want to succeed in the long run recognise this. Rather than prioritising customer acquisition and regarding customer support and success programs as an optional extra they’ll bolt-on when business takes off, they make meeting and exceeding customer expectations in every way their mantra from the get-go. This strategy can convert customers into advocates who’ll drive word of mouth business to your organisation, so it’s a clever way to kill two birds with one stone.

Being prepared to pivot

Since the COVID-19 crisis struck, the concept of pivoting – meaning to turn quickly to an alternative activity – has enjoyed considerable currency in the commercial world. We all clocked the enterprises that were prepared to adapt rapidly to changing circumstances during last year’s unprecedented lockdowns – hello, McCrindle, an Australian-based social research, demographics and data analytics agency that aims to bring data to life. During COVID, the company showed its strength by successfully switching its in-person seminars and events to adapt to an ever-growing virtual world – which flourished as a result. Things don’t always go to plan when you’re venturing into new pastures, either. Start-ups that recognise this and are prepared to pivot, by overhauling their offering and approach mid-stream, stand a greater chance of success than those that insist on sticking to a course, even when all signs suggest it’s not working out. 

Taking the plunge

Expanding overseas can help you grow your business and profitability faster. As the global economy continues to re-open for business, now may be a good time to try your hand. Being agile, locally aligned and passionate about customer service and experience will increase your chances of building profitable new markets.

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Read more: Japan: A sophisticated and reliable market for Aussie exporters

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Jason VandeBoom

Jason VandeBoom

Jason VandeBoom is the Founder and CEO of ActiveCampaign, the global leader in customer experience automation. A lifelong entrepreneur, Jason has been named to Crain’s Chicago Business 40 Under 40 list and was a 2019 Midwest finalist for EY’s Entrepreneur of the Year Award. Jason also serves on the board of the Chicago-based Future Founders Foundation.

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