Tõnu Runnel heads Voog – a web design tool with customers across 80 countries. If you’re on the fence about expanding to new markets, hear what he has to say about achieving international success.
Quitting your job and starting a small business is a pretty tough task for anyone. Will I be successful? Or worse — will I even survive?
That’s why people are looking for easy wins when launching new ventures. Preferably zero forward investment, no office or employees for starters, often direct work-into-revenue model. Most often they choose to sell consultation, digital labor, handicraft or other forms of accumulated experience.
From survival to success
Such a conservative approach makes sense, as survival will be almost guaranteed. But securing some level of success — in addition to just surviving — is not as difficult as people sometimes fear.
The easiest improvement you can do, is to reach even slightly beyond your immediate surroundings. Neither sales nor hiring don’t necessarily have to be limited to your hometown, or the state borders. You’ll probably sell a lot more and increase probability of hiring much better-matching people.
Export isn’t as hard as it looks
In Europe, “state border” is often a real deal breaker. It’s one of the most diverse regions in the world both in terms of culture and language. In addition to 23 official EU languages there are another 30-40 spoken regionally around the continent. More than half of the European population doesn’t even speak English. The number willing to do business in English is even smaller, by far. Asian markets are even more cluttered, more “local” in that sense.
But this diversity also works in your favour — it also builds barriers for your competitors. Barriers, that have become reasonably easy to overcome if you are willing to.
Remote doesn’t mean excessive costs
There’s no need to pile up excessive costs for exporting or remote work. The budget for making your business visible on the basic level isn’t too different from being present only on a local market.
There are simple, low-cost online tools for almost every aspect of the modern remote workflow — for marketing online, for selling goods and services abroad or for managing remote workers. All you have to do is shift your mindset, look around and you will find a way.
Let the world help you
As a rule of thumb, goods and services have no need to be limited to some specific geography. Even more, some products might be more exotic and interesting to buyers abroad.
If you are too small to properly localize your product and marketing for a specific region, you can should at least be present passively by simply translating your website into multiple languages. If your product is great, even this simple tactic of translating your site can work as a spark igniting an explosion. A broader range of people will notice you and spread the word among their local, foreign-speaking circles. Which in turn increases chances for cumulative sparks to emerge.
This is exactly how we got our own business growing a few years ago. At first, Voog was just another great-looking super simple website builder. Soon we reset the focus based on the learnings from our own small export-success — we set out to become the best-known multilingual website builder in the world and help others go beyond the borders too.
Today we have paying customers in 80 countries, even though we’re physically based only in one and only speak just a few languages fluently.
Open yourself up for the world and it most probably smiles back at you.