Going abroad is one of the most important decisions any company makes. This internationalization will allow it to explore new markets and grow the business, either through the export of products or, directly, by settling in other countries. But how do you know if a company is ready for it? There are various methods to find out. Some more traditional, such as attending fairs and preparing market reports; and other more innovative ones, such as the analysis of data on the Internet, and which are within the reach of any organization, especially small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). Several organizations, both public and private, together with banking entities, also provide advice and financing to start the expansion with guarantees.
The internationalization of a business requires a prior process to know what can be sold and where. José Ramón Gonzálvez, professor of marketing international at the digital business school IEBS Business School, explains that the first thing a company must identify is the interest it arouses abroad. To do this, you need to know where your customers come from, both current and potential.
This can be discovered through various channels. The traditional way of meeting customers are fairs and conferences, spaces in which to meet buyers and, therefore, identify foreigners who are interested in the brand. Market studies are also essential to obtain the information that allows guidance on how to internationalize. Consultancies offer this type of research. According to Gonzálvez, a basic search for a dozen contacts in the country of destination, including distributors, producers and commercial offices, costs around 1,000 euros. The more specific the study is and the more information is demanded, the higher the price will be.
Today, the internet makes work much easier, especially through web pages and online sales platforms. Gonzálvez points out that, if the website traffic data shows a growth in visits from other countries, The time has come to consider leaving the borders. It is not necessary for this percentage of foreign traffic to be the majority. This expert indicates that 4% or 5% of navigation is enough.
The surveys in marketplaces like amazon and alibaba, They also help detect if it is time to internationalize. Rodrigo Miranda, director of the ISDI business school, argues that this analysis will serve to understand if the products are also marketed by companies from other countries or if, on the contrary, there is an article with little competition. To carry it out, you must observe how other companies position their goods through certain keywords or keywords. For example, if you sell footwear, you have to search for the concepts shoes, trainers, footwear and sports shoes to determine if the products are distributed and, therefore, in demand in other territories.
The entrepreneur himself may also collect information through what is called desk research (desk research), a method that consists of compiling all the information freely available on websites and libraries: from reports and studies by public bodies, such as ministries; universities or private companies and business associations, as well as news and reports in newspapers and sector magazines.
From the Spanish Confederation of Small and Medium Enterprises (Cepyme) they explain that starting with the export of products is a first step that provides greater guarantees for internationalization, since knowledge about the market in which it operates is developed and accumulated. , which greatly facilitates the subsequent installation in the country. Although, they add, there is another way, derived from the pull effect of larger companies that already operate in that other country and that are clients of the SME. As a supplier, it is easier to move with the big companies to that other market in which they are established.
Specialized organizations: support to internationalize
There are several institutions that SMEs can turn to for information and advice, as well as financing for their projects abroad. This is the case of the provincial and regional Chambers of Commerce, private organizations that defend the interests of companies and organize trips to seek opportunities in other countries and courses on international trade, as well as talks and meetings.
Along the same lines is the Institute of Foreign Trade (ICEX), a public business entity with commercial offices distributed throughout Spain and other countries that seeks business opportunities for Spanish SMEs and designs educational programs for those who are considering, or have already started, the journey international.
The Government has also drawn up an itinerary to encourage Spanish companies to go abroad with aid from the European fund Next Generation EU. The Action Plan for the Internationalization of the Spanish Economy contemplates several programs with which to reinforce the presence of national SMEs, especially those that contribute to advancing in the ecological transition and in digital transformation.
Among these programs is the Non-reimbursable line of feasibility studies charged to the Fund for the Internationalization of Companies (FIEM). Endowed with 50 million euros, it offers aid for SMEs to order technical reports on the viability of their projects and have technical assistance in the internationalization process. Other, the Base Expansion Program Exporter (PABE), managed by ICEX, makes an online self-diagnosis tool available to companies to identify their capabilities when it comes to expanding and a subsequent personalized advisory service for small companies with little or no export experience.
Having a budget is vital to start the expansion outside the borders. Experts agree that it is convenient to internationalize when the initial investment of the business has already been recovered. But each case deserves to be studied according to its characteristics. The work of an expert such as the manager of the bank specializing in companies is key to accompanying the entrepreneur in this process and advising him when it comes to opting for the aid and financing that best suits his business.