Emerald Technology May 19, 2022 12:27:39 PM 26 min read

How to Develop an International Expansion Strategy

"International expansion" — a phrase that is everywhere in today's business world. But what does it truly mean? In essence, it's about extending a company's operations beyond its home turf. It's about tapping into new markets and cultures.

However, international expansion offers more than just increased revenues. It gives businesses the chance to diversify their consumer base. It allows them to leverage global trends. Moreover, it sparks innovation through interaction with different perspectives and ideas — one of the many benefits of globalisation.

But it's not all smooth sailing. Expanding your business into foreign markets comes with its fair share of challenges. It's a complex venture that can be daunting but also highly rewarding.

In this blog post, we will delve deep into the world of international expansion. We'll explore its benefits and challenges and discuss the different avenues available for your business to expand onto the global market.

Firstly… What Does International Expansion Mean?

When we talk about "international expansion," we're referring to the process that takes a business beyond its domestic borders. But it's more than just opening a new store or office in another country. International expansion is a strategic move that involves careful planning and execution. It requires a deep understanding of the new market's culture, regulations and competition.

International expansion is not a one-size-fits-all approach. It can take various forms depending on a business's needs and capabilities. For some companies, it might involve exporting goods to foreign markets. For others, it could mean establishing manufacturing facilities in a country where production costs are lower. And for some, it might mean creating strategic partnerships with local businesses to gain market share quickly.

But no matter the approach, the goal remains the same: to grow the business by tapping into new market opportunities. However, to effectively achieve this, a company must be ready to adapt its operations, strategies and even its products or services to meet the needs of the new market.

Basic stages of international expansion

Embarking on an international expansion journey involves a series of steps. While these stages provide a general framework, it's important to remember that international expansion is a dynamic process. It requires flexibility and adaptability, as businesses may need to pivot their strategies based on real-time market feedback. 

Although the specifics may vary depending on the nature of the business and the target market, the core stages typically include:

Stage 1: Market research

This is the preliminary stage where businesses identify potential markets for expansion. It involves analysing various factors such as market size, competition, consumer behaviour and local regulations.

Stage 2: Strategy development

Based on the findings from the market research, businesses develop a tailored expansion strategy. This includes deciding on the mode of entry, adjusting product or service offerings, and planning marketing tactics.

Stage 3: Legal and financial planning

This stage involves understanding and complying with the legal requirements of the new market. Businesses also need to plan for financial aspects like pricing, international taxation and funding for expansion.

Stage 4: Implementation

Once the planning stages are complete, businesses start executing their strategies. This might include setting up operations, hiring local staff, launching marketing campaigns, and starting sales. We’ll discuss the different options available in a future section.

Stage 5: Evaluation and adjustment

After entering a new market, businesses need to regularly evaluate their performance and make necessary adjustments. This ensures they continue to meet market demands and achieve their business goals — both within that specific market and as a whole.

3 Reasons Why You Should Consider Expanding Your Business Internationally

In the realm of business, growth and expansion are often at the forefront of strategic planning. However, expanding domestically might not always be enough to achieve the desired growth. So, why not consider going international?

If done correctly, international expansion can provide significant advantages that can propel your business to new heights. Here are three compelling reasons why international expansion should be on your business strategy radar:

1. Diversify your customer base

One of the most compelling reasons to expand internationally is to diversify your customer base. Relying solely on a single market for all your revenue can be risky. Economic downturns intensified local competition or changes in market trends can significantly impact your business. By branching out to international markets, you can spread this risk and create additional revenue streams. 

But diversifying your customer base goes beyond just adding numbers. Engaging with international customers exposes your business to different needs, preferences, and consumption habits. These insights can spark new ideas for product or service enhancements, adaptations, or even entirely new offerings that cater to a global audience.

2. Gain access to new talent and resources

The prospect of tapping into a broader, more diverse talent pool is another incentive for international expansion. Different countries have unique strengths and specialisations in various fields. For instance, expanding to a country known for its technological prowess can bring new skills and innovative perspectives to your tech company. 

On the other hand, if your business is in the manufacturing sector, setting up production facilities in a country where raw materials are abundant, and labour costs are lower can reduce production costs. These cost savings can then be passed onto the customer, giving your business a competitive edge. Furthermore, interacting with international teams can foster a multicultural work environment that encourages diversity of thought and innovation.

3. Boost brand recognition and credibility

Going global can significantly enhance your brand's reputation. It's a statement that says your company is growing, adaptable and capable of competing on a global stage. This can significantly boost your credibility, not just among customers in the new market but also among stakeholders back home. Increased brand recognition can open doors to new business partnerships and collaborations. Moreover, it can make your business more attractive to investors, as international operations are often seen as a sign of a company's ambition and strategic capabilities. 

Remember, a well-known brand is a powerful asset. It can drive customer loyalty, attract quality talent and create opportunities for further expansion and growth.

The 6 Biggest Benefits of International Expansion

The decision to take your business global is not to be taken lightly. It involves significant investment, resources and strategic planning. Yet, businesses across various sectors are increasingly looking to expand beyond their domestic borders. The reason is clear — international expansion can offer a multitude of benefits that have the potential to transform your business in remarkable ways. 

Let's delve into six of the biggest benefits that international expansion can bring to your business:

1. Increased revenue and profit potential

The most direct benefit of international expansion is the potential for increased revenue. By entering new markets, you're opening up your business to a whole new customer base. This can significantly boost your sales, especially if your product or service fills a gap in the market or offers a unique selling proposition. But increased revenue is just the tip of the iceberg. 

Operating in international markets can also lead to increased profitability. Lower operating or production costs in certain countries can help increase your profit margins. On top of that, a well-executed expansion can give you a first-mover advantage in untapped markets, allowing you to establish a strong brand presence before competitors step in.

2. Market diversification

Expanding your business internationally allows your business to spread its risk across multiple markets. This is particularly beneficial in times of economic uncertainty. If one market faces a downturn, the impact on your business can be mitigated by your performance in other markets. 

Plus, diversification can help stabilise your revenue stream. Seasonal fluctuations in demand, which can be a significant issue in certain industries, can be balanced out by operating in different geographical regions with different seasonal patterns.

3. Enhanced competitive advantage

Expanding internationally can give your business a competitive edge. By operating in multiple markets, you gain broader industry insights and learn from diverse business practices. This can lead to improved business strategies, innovative product ideas, and superior market positioning. 

Moreover, a strong international presence can boost your brand's reputation, making it harder for competitors to match your global reach and influence.

4. Access to fresh talent and ideas

As we mentioned earlier, international expansion brings your business into contact with a diverse array of talent. This can infuse your company with fresh ideas and perspectives, fostering innovation. Different regions have unique strengths, skills and expertise, which is especially beneficial when it comes to hiring tech talent.

By tapping into these diverse talent pools, your business can benefit from a wide range of competencies. Moreover, a multicultural work environment can promote creativity and innovation, helping your business stay ahead in a competitive marketplace.

5. Improved business resilience

Businesses that operate in multiple markets tend to be more resilient. They can weather economic downturns, regulatory changes, and market disruptions more effectively. International businesses have the advantage of learning from different market scenarios, developing strategies that work across diverse landscapes and adapting quickly to change. This resilience can prove to be a crucial factor in long-term business survival and success.

6. Expansion of customer base

Last but not least, international expansion gives your business access to a larger customer base. This goes beyond mere numbers. Engaging with international customers can provide valuable insights into different consumer behaviours, needs and preferences. 

These insights can drive product development, help you fine-tune your marketing strategies, and improve customer service. This, in turn, can lead to increased customer loyalty and higher customer lifetime value.

5 Common Issues Faced By Businesses When Expanding Into International Markets

While the benefits of international expansion are enticing, it's equally important to acknowledge the challenges. Taking your business global is not without its hurdles. Navigating these challenges requires strategic planning, adaptability, and a deep understanding of the new market. 

In this section, we'll highlight five common issues businesses often face when expanding into international markets. Understanding these issues can better prepare your business for the journey ahead. With that said, let’s jump in:

1. Understanding local market dynamics

Every market is unique, with its own set of consumer behaviours, preferences and norms. What works well in your home market may not necessarily resonate with consumers in a new market. Misjudging the market can lead to ineffective strategies and wasted resources. 

It's crucial to conduct thorough market research to understand the local market dynamics, including consumer behaviour, market trends and competitor activity. This can guide your product adaptation strategies, marketing efforts, and overall business approach to better align with the local market conditions.

2. Navigating regulatory and legal hurdles

International expansion often involves navigating a complex web of local laws, regulations and business practices. These can range from employment laws and tax regulations to data privacy rules and industry-specific regulations. Non-compliance can result in hefty fines, legal complications, and damage to your business reputation. 

It's essential to have a deep understanding of the regulatory landscape and to ensure compliance at all levels of your business operations. This is why expanding into foreign markets with the right partner is crucial.

3. Managing cultural differences

Cultural differences can impact various aspects of your business, from marketing and sales to human resources. Understanding and respecting cultural nuances can be the key to successful international operations. 

On the other hand, cultural missteps can lead to misunderstandings, damaged relationships and even business failure. Businesses should invest in cross-cultural training for their teams and seek local expertise to navigate cultural nuances effectively.

4. Setting up and managing international operations

Setting up operations in a new country can be a daunting task. It involves various logistical challenges, from finding the right location and setting up the office to hiring local employees and managing supply chains. Moreover, once operations are set up, managing international teams and coordinating across different time zones can pose additional challenges. 

Streamlining operations and establishing effective communication channels are crucial for the smooth running of international operations.

5. Handling financial risks

Naturally, international expansion comes with financial risks, including fluctuating exchange rates, foreign investment rules, and changes in tax regulations. These risks can impact your revenue, profitability, and overall financial stability. 

It's crucial to have a robust financial management strategy in place to mitigate these risks. This might involve hedging against currency fluctuations, diversifying investments, and seeking expert advice on international tax planning.

Different Ways to Expand Your Business Into New Markets

When it comes to international expansion, there is no one-size-fits-all approach. The path you choose will depend on a variety of factors, including your business model, resources, risk tolerance and the nature of your target market. Each of these strategies can be effective, depending on your business's unique needs and circumstances.

Let's explore the five common strategies for expanding into new markets:


Franchising is a low-risk, high-reward strategy for international expansion. In a franchise arrangement, your company (the franchisor) grants a foreign company (the franchisee) the right to use your brand name, business model and proprietary knowledge. In return, the franchisee pays royalties and often an upfront franchise fee. This strategy is commonly seen within the F&B industry — think McDonald’s.

Franchising allows you to leverage the local knowledge and resources of the franchisee. It also involves lower capital expenditure as the franchisee bears most of the investment and operational costs. However, franchising requires careful management to ensure brand consistency across different regions. It also involves finding and managing trustworthy franchise partners who can uphold your brand values and deliver a consistent customer experience.

Joint ventures

In a joint venture, two or more businesses agree to pool their resources for a specific project or ongoing business activity. This strategy allows you to share the risks and costs of international expansion with your partner(s). It also gives you access to your partner's local market knowledge, resources and networks. 

It’s a very popular international expansion strategy within tech, with the most famous examples being Google and Fiat Chrysler, Microsoft and General Electric, as well as Sony and Ericsson.

However, joint ventures require careful planning and management. It's crucial to clearly define the roles, responsibilities, and profit-sharing arrangements. Misunderstandings or disagreements can lead to conflicts and can jeopardise the success of the venture.

Set up a local entity

Establishing a foreign subsidiary involves setting up a separate entity in the target market, hence why they tend to also be called “local entities”. This strategy offers you full control over your operations and the potential to reap all the profits. It allows you to directly manage your business and tailor your operations to the local market conditions. All the big tech giants utilise this international expansion strategy, including Google, Oracle and Microsoft — but smaller tech companies such as Wise have utilised this too.

However, setting up a foreign subsidiary can be complex and costly. It involves understanding and complying with local business laws, tax regulations and employment practices. It also requires significant investment in setting up operations, hiring local staff and marketing your business.

Utilise a PEO

A popular option for companies looking to expand into the US, a PEO – or Professional Employment Organisation – is a firm that provides services such as HR, managing international payroll and employee benefits for businesses. In the context of international expansion, a global PEO can help you hire and manage employees in the target market without setting up a foreign entity. This can simplify the process and reduce the legal and financial risks associated with international employment, as PEOs are legally “co-employers” within the new market.

However, working with a PEO does not give you an actual legal presence in the foreign market, but it does make you legally liable. This means you can't conduct business activities that require a legal entity, such as opening a bank account or signing contracts. This also means that both your company and the PEO that you’ve partnered with are legally liable for fines and penalties.

Better yet… Partner with an EOR

An Employer of Record (EOR) is similar to a PEO but offers additional services that make international expansion even easier. An EOR can hire employees on your behalf, handle all employment-related compliance and even represent your company legally in the foreign market. Essentially, while a PEO is considered a co-employer, the EOR you partner with is considered the full legal employer of your foreign talents and obtains all employment liability. This allows you to establish a presence in the new market without the fuss of setting up a foreign entity.

Partnering with an EOR can greatly simplify the process of international expansion. It can help you quickly establish operations in the new market, reduce legal and financial risks, and free up your resources to focus on your core business activities. However, just like other strategies, working with an EOR requires careful planning and management, and choosing a reliable EOR partner is crucial.

How Partnering with an EOR Can Supercharge Your International Expansion Plan

As discussed in the previous section, partnering with an Employer of Record can be a game-changer when expanding internationally. An EOR can alleviate many of the challenges associated with global expansion, allowing your business to operate seamlessly in new markets. 

Let’s delve into five key ways an EOR can supercharge your international expansion plan, taking your business global with less risk and more efficiency.

1. Speedy market entry

One of the biggest advantages of partnering with an EOR is the speed at which you can enter new markets. Setting up a foreign entity can be a long and complex process involving various legal and bureaucratic hurdles. 

An EOR, on the other hand, already has a legal presence in multiple countries. This allows your business to start operations in a new market almost immediately, giving you a significant competitive advantage.

2. Compliance and legal support

Navigating the legal landscape of a foreign country can be a daunting task. Different countries have different employment laws, tax regulations, and business practices. Non-compliance can lead to hefty fines and even legal action. 

An EOR takes on the responsibility of ensuring legal compliance, freeing you from the burden of understanding and adhering to foreign laws. They manage everything from employment contracts to tax withholdings, ensuring your business operates within the legal boundaries of your new market.

3. Local expertise and network

EORs are experienced in operating in foreign markets. They have local expertise and networks that you can leverage to navigate the local business landscape. This includes everything from understanding local business customs and practices to hiring the right talent and building relationships with local partners and suppliers. This local knowledge and network can be invaluable in successfully establishing your business in a new market.

4. HR and payroll management

Managing HR and payroll in a foreign country can be a complex task. Different countries have different employment laws, benefits requirements and tax regulations. An EOR takes care of all HR and payroll functions, ensuring that your employees are paid on time and in compliance with local laws. This not only simplifies the process but also reduces the risk of errors and non-compliance.

5. Risk management

Expanding internationally involves various risks, from legal and financial risks to operational and reputational risks. An EOR can help mitigate these risks by handling legal compliance, managing HR and payroll, and providing local expertise and support. By outsourcing these functions to an EOR, you can focus on your core business activities, knowing that the operational aspects of your international expansion are in safe hands.

Ready to Grow Your Business Internationally?

International expansion is an exciting journey that can take your business to new heights. It opens up a world of opportunities – from tapping into new customer bases and diversifying revenue streams to fostering innovation and resilience. However, it's not without its challenges. Navigating foreign laws, understanding local market dynamics, managing HR and payroll in a different country — these tasks can be daunting, to say the least.

But you don't have to do it alone. Partnering with a passionate and reliable EOR like us can significantly simplify your international expansion journey. With our local expertise across a great many markets, comprehensive legal support and efficient HR and payroll management, we'll handle the operational aspects of your expansion, allowing you to focus on what you do best: growing your business.

If you're considering expanding your business internationally, drop us a line. Remember, the world is full of opportunities — let's seize them together.