If your goal is to create a brand with global impact, it’s time to start thinking internationally.
By now you’ve found success with a local audience, you’ve built a brand and you’re making money from your business. What comes next?
To reach a global audience, it’s not enough to just stay where it’s comfortable and familiar. You need to start expanding your business internationally to reach new audiences, create new opportunities and generate new income streams.
To find out exactly how to do that, we spoke to Afua Osei at our Think In Color 2021 conference. Afua Osei is a strategy consultant and co-founder of Motherland Mobile Media, a media and events company reaching more than 700,000 women across over 30 countries. In her role, Afua works with global brands to help them communicate with young millennial women across the world and she’s successfully partnered with Facebook, L’Oréal, Google and more.
An expert at expanding businesses internationally, Afua has worked in more than 10 different countries throughout her career. She’s seen the power of international connections and international partnerships to transform a simple idea into something with global influence.
Here’s Afua’s step-by-step guide to expanding your business internationally and key factors to consider before you take the plunge. Skip ahead here:
- Top advantages of expanding business internationally
- 4 steps to expand your business internationally
Expanding your business internationally can seem like a scary prospect – but with big steps come big benefits. Here are 3 of the top advantages of expanding your business internationally.
Make an impact
Why did you establish your brand in the first place? What was your vision for the future?
If you set out with the aim of making a change in the world and even becoming a household name, you need to start expanding your audience.
“If you want to make an impact, the best place you can make an impact is on a global scale because so many people can benefit from you and what you’re doing,” says Afua.
This was a decision she made at the very start of her career – she knew that she could go back to Baltimore after college and have a great career but on that path she would never be able to change the world. So she made a choice to start expanding internationally instead.
If you want to do more, achieve more and connect with more people, you have to take your idea to an international audience.
The world can benefit from what you have to offer.
“Black culture is global culture. Our style, our music, our food, our fashion, the way we talk is copied and replicated all across the world. The biggest stars in the world are our singers, our actresses, our creators. So why not?” says Afua.
“As a thought leader, as a digital creator, as a social media personality, why can’t you tap into the culture that you already have and use it to spread a positive and encouraging, and supportive idea and movement all across the globe?”
If you want to make an impact with your brand, the only way to do that is by expanding internationally.
Diversify your business
Besides the personal and emotional benefits of expanding your business internationally, it also makes good business sense.
If you’re an entrepreneur, a course creator, a consultant or a small business owner, you want to be making money from what you do. The best way to secure your income long-term and make sure you keep making money is to have multiple income streams.
As Afua explains: “The number one rule of making money and being an entrepreneur is don’t have all your eggs in one basket. The word of today is diversification.”
To secure your business long-term you need to diversify. That way you know that if one market is going through a crisis or is shrinking, then you have customers in other markets. You have access to an entirely different market and audience that can help keep your business going.
Don’t rely solely on one audience in one location for your entire business and income. To make your business secure – regardless of what happens politically and economically, it’s time to start expanding your business internationally.
As Afua says: “Don’t limit yourself before you even get started. I promise whatever it is that you have to offer. There’s somebody else out there who wants to learn from you and who wants to connect with you”
Expand your revenue streams
Part of expanding your business internationally also involves expanding your revenue streams.
If you’re currently a course creator – what about being a public speaker? What about getting brand partnerships with international brands? What about collaborating with other creators?
Thinking creatively about what you have to offer is one way to open up opportunities in international markets. When you expand your audience, you’re also creating new space to work with different brands, creators and organizations – and generate more revenue in the process.
Looking for an example? Afua highlights Kelly Rowland, the singer, songwriter and former member of Destiny’s Child. Kelly Rowland expanded her brand internationally, releasing music in Europe and becoming a TV personality in Australia. As a coach on The Voice Australia, Kelly has the chance to generate income beyond the US market and make sure she keeps making money, whatever happens at home.
As Afua says, “Don’t limit yourself just to what you see around you. The whole world can be your oyster and can be your playground. So be like Kelly, be like me and let’s go reach those international audiences.”
So now you know the benefits of expanding your business internationally, let’s look at exactly how you do it.
Thanks to her experience at growing her business internationally – and helping other brands do the same – Afua has a step-by-step method to help you turn your brand into a global powerhouse.
Here are the 4 steps you need to expand your business internationally.
The most important step to expand your audience is to understand them. You need to understand who you’re talking to and what they need from you, wherever they are.
As Afua explains, if you’re a beauty entrepreneur and your audience is black women in the US, understand that there are more than 600, 700, maybe even 800 million black women outside of North America.
“While as black women, we do have a lot of similarities. We have a lot of things that we deal with from our hair texture, to trying to find makeup, to trying to find edge control… but there are also local nuances that make our experiences different that you want to understand and respect.”
When you understand your audience, that’s when you can create content that connects with them. That’s how you learn how to solve their problems using your unique skills, your expertise and your background.
But how exactly can you do that?
Afua recommends two methods: audience research and customer interviews.
To understand who your audience is, you first need to do thorough audience research. That means finding out what your target audience is reading, listening to, watching and where they get their information from.
Here are some key areas to research for your new international audience:
- The most popular media platforms
- The top influencers
- The best-selling books and authors
- The other businesses in your niche
The internet is your friend here. Find out everything you can about the markets you want to expand into to learn more about your target audience.
If you’re a creator who’s already got followers on social media or an established brand community, there’s a high chance that some of your audience will be in the locations where you’re looking to expand your business internationally.
Use your existing network to find out more about those new markets by reaching out to request customer interviews.
Afua recommends starting with 10 people. Choose 10 people in your audience and request a one-to-one call or interview with them or ask them to fill out a survey.
If you don’t have anyone in your network from the markets you want to target, ask for referrals instead. Put a message on your social media or community space and tell people you’re looking to speak to people from Brazil, France, Australia, or wherever your chosen market is about your industry. Referrals will come.
Learn as much as you can about your new audience through research, interviews and customer surveys to set you on the path to expanding your business internationally.
When you’ve taken the time to understand your audience, you can then work on how you’re going to adapt your content for new markets.
Let’s look at how you can localize your content marketing and your course content.
When it comes to expanding your business internationally, that means localizing your content marketing to make it relevant to your target audience in a specific location.
Any successful content marketing campaign needs to speak to your target audience.
Your content marketing needs to address the challenges your audience are facing and the issues that matter most to them.
If you’re based in Toronto and you’re trying to reach a new audience in New York, you ideally need to be doing 2-3 pieces of content per week that clearly communicates your brand message to that new audience.
Afua gives this example:
In West Africa, there’s a period called the rainy season. This typically corresponds to summertime in the US. As an entrepreneur who’s expanding your business internationally and looking to target new audiences in West Africa, you need to take this into account.
If you’re a fashion entrepreneur and you teach a course on styling, think about how that seasonal difference will affect your content marketing. Instead of saying, “Here’s what you can wear when it’s hot outside”, you’ll need to write about “Here’s what you do when it’s raining every day”.
By tweaking your content and being aware of the issues that are happening for people in the locations you’re targeting, you can plug into what’s important to them and capture their attention.
From the language you’re using to the topics you’re discussing, if you’re expanding your business internationally you need to think about how to make your content marketing relevant for different audiences – beyond just your local audience.
If you’re a course creator, educator or infopreneur, you also need to think about how you will adapt your products and services to international audiences.
Is your course content accessible and engaging for international audiences?
If the answer is no, here are some ideas to help:
- Add subtitles to all your videos
- Translate your resources
- Write notes in the language of your target audience
- Divide up your mailing list by language
If you’re expanding your business internationally, you need to think about how you will tailor your course content to your new audiences. Translating your content and adding subtitles is an easy way to take one piece of content and turn it into fresh content for a whole new audience.
If you don’t have the language skills to translate your content yourself, hire a translator to help. If you’re serious about expanding your business internationally, this investment is worth it.
Top tip: To speak to an international audience, make sure you update your cultural references too. Check that you’re referencing international brands and examples. It’s also a good idea to change your images to reflect the people in your new audience.
The aim here is for your new target audience to see your content and think – this is for me. When you localize your content, you’re giving new audiences a chance to invest in you and engage with you.
If you’re serious about expanding your business internationally, you’ll need to invest in building relationships with brands, content creators and media publications in that market.
While your audience can access your content from anywhere in the world – the thing that will make them choose your brand over anyone else’s is credibility and trust.
The way to get that credibility is with a stamp of approval from an established brand in that international market. If you have a local creator or a local media publication that agrees to feature your work, it’s a fasttrack to get your target audience to sit up and pay attention to you.
Here are Afua’s tips to help you build the connections you need:
Research local creators
Look for people who are just like you but operating in the international markets that you’re trying to target. Reach out via social media or email and introduce yourself – then ask if they’d like to collaborate with you.
Here are some ideas to get you started:
- Write a guest blog
- Join an Instagram Live
- Do a social media takeover
- Share your book or resource
- Be a podcast guest
If you can build a mutually-beneficial relationship with other content creators, you can get your content seen by new audiences and start expanding your business internationally one piece of content at a time.
Reach out to media platforms
As a content creator, you are perfectly positioned to become a thought leader in your industry – both at home and in international markets.
To work on expanding your business internationally, spend time reaching out to local media platforms in your chosen markets to secure an appearance. You could write an article, appear as an expert or agree to be interviewed on a topic that’s relevant to your niche.
This is where localizing your content is really important – make sure that what you’re offering is relevant to the publications’ target audiences and include that hook in your pitch.
Try to find unique angles on a familiar topic to appeal to different media platforms and make your pitch stand out.
Top tip: To truly make an impact in a new market, you need to do more than just a one-off content collaboration or guest appearance. When you’re building relationships, focus on long-term projects, such as committing to a guest post every month or a series of guides. The more content the better!
Get your name and your work appearing regularly in trusted channels and publications to build up your reputation in your target market.
The last and most important step to expanding your business internationally is to grow your audience and convert them into paying customers.
You’ve taken the time to understand your audience, localize your content and build relationships with trusted creators and publications – now you need to start seeing returns.
To grow your audience in a new market, Afua recommends using the digital marketing and lead generation strategies that have worked for you in the past, such as:
- Paid advertising – including ads on Instagram, YouTube, Facebook or whichever channel is most relevant to your target audience.
- Email marketing – such as partnering with platforms in your target market and running an email campaign to generate awareness around your brand.
- Influencer marketing – capitalizing on the existing audience of an influencer working in your chosen market to publicize your brand and promote your products or services internationally.
The most effective strategy for expanding your business internationally will depend on your business and your target audience. Look at what has worked for you in the past and use this to help you reach your new target audience.
Example: Afua’s festival in South Africa
To break into the South African market for her business, Afua and her team hosted a large-scale festival in Johannesburg that resulted in more than 5000 attendees. The original target was to have at least a thousand women buy tickets.
Here’s how Afua succeeded in expanding her business into South Africa and exceeding their original goals:
- Time: To organize the event, Afua and her team gave themselves at least 6 months to build and grow their audience in South Africa. She recommends 3-6 months minimum for breaking into a new market.
- Audience research: They created a think tank made up of their target audience – women in South Africa – to find out more about who they should be talking to, the best media platforms and the top influencers in the region, as well as anything else they could find out.
- Paid ads: Afua used lead generation ads to target women in South Africa, taking care to localize the content to include images of South African women and locally-relevant language and references.
- Social media: They adapted their social media strategy to include more South African women in their content, including interviews, case studies and guest posts from South African women.
- PR: The team invested in a local PR agency to help them reach the right media platforms in South Africa for the most impact, resulting in appearances in major publications in the region.
- Data analysis: The team analyzed the data from each campaign and social media post to find out the most effective strategies for their new audience and what was generating the most engagement.
- Brand partnerships: As Afua’s business grew their audience and influence in South Africa, they were able to reach out to global brands for partnerships, including Google, L’Oréal and Glades South Africa to do live activations at the event. This helped them appeal to a wider audience and boost audience awareness of the event.
With this strategy, Afua was able to build a strong audience in a completely new international market, through audience research, localizing content, building relationships and investing in lead generation.
All of these methods put together enabled Afua and her team to create a sold out event that was featured in all the major media platforms in South Africa.
As Afua explains, “We know that when it’s time to go again into that market, we’re gonna have such a strong place because we came into that market.”
So far, Afua has spent six years building and expanding her business internationally and is now seeing the hard work pay off:
“We’re able to go to New York, Toronto, London, Johannesburg, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Nairobi, Lagos and so many other places and have an audience and a community of women who are ready to learn to connect. And of course pay for the services that we offer.”
Where will you take your business?
Ready to start expanding your business internationally?
Expanding your business internationally takes time and commitment but it’s completely within reach of any course creator, educator and entrepreneur. With these four steps from Afua, you can look beyond your current market and build a global brand with a global impact.
For more helpful topics for course creators, save your seat for Think in Color 2022 – a 2-day virtual event designed to help entrepreneurs and creators from underserved communities navigate the ever-evolving digital landscape.
Join us and our panel of inspiring women of Color to share their personal stories, insights, and advice for entrepreneurs looking to gain success with their digital business endeavors.