A huge range of successful global businesses, from Amazon to Microsoft, started out in garages. And in today’s connected society, it’s getting easier than ever to start a business at home. If you have set up shop in your garage and want to market your small business internationally, your main objectives should be to create the impression of credibility, professionalism, and quality. Your clients want to know that you’re legitimate, that you’re easy to deal with, and that you have something great to offer.

Here are some tips for making your garage-based business look more like a global enterprise.

Understand your new market

Businesses that want to expand overseas usually define their target market first.

Which countries do you think your business would do well in? Which cities? Which demographic are you targeting?

In general, when you’re working in a smaller economy, it’s great to have a wide range of goods or services to offer: but when you go global, it can be better for a smaller company to find a niche.

With some research, you might also be able to identify gaps in the market that you could fill. Maybe your business can offer something unique that no one else trading in this area is providing yet.

Before you start trading, you should have a basic understanding of not only the rules and regulations in the country, but your new clients’ customs and their needs—particularly if their culture is very different from your own.

Other business owners in your country who have already started expanding into this particular market can be an invaluable source of information—as can people who live and work in the country itself.

Finally, it’s always good to have a quick browse online and check out the competition: if you like certain aspects of an existing business, their layout, their shipping policies, or their overall image, you may be able to draw some inspiration.

Preparing your website

Your website is key: it’s your interface with the wider world, so it should be professional and user-friendly. Even small mistakes like spelling and grammar errors can diminish your credibility.

Remember that you want to establish that you are legitimate and real, so the more information you can give about your business to international clients the better. Many sites have an “about” page with a brief business history.

If you want to add a personal, homely touch, a biography and a professional photograph of yourself is a good option. On the other hand, if you want to create the illusion that your business is larger than it actually is, then it’s better to keep the focus on the business itself.

Engaging a professional content writer and designer (and potentially a photographer too) is highly recommended. If you’re marketing your business to a non-English speaking country, using a professional translator to convey your message is also a good idea.

If you’re in the middle of repairs, or it’s taking you a while to get a full website up and running, you might be tempted to add a “website coming soon” page. Unfortunately, some marketers say these can make customers feel unwelcome and deter them from coming back.

It’s preferable to just start with a smaller site, with some basic information and perhaps some links to your social media.

Testimonials and complaints

When people purchase goods or services overseas, they want to know that they can trust the vendor, and that they will receive some assistance if things go wrong.

Having a place on your site where people can ask questions and leave reviews or testimonials can really help, as can getting Google reviews for your business.

When dealing with complaints, prompt and polite communication is vital. Handling problems in a timely fashion is a sign of a trustworthy and professional operation.

Domain name and contact details

Clients are usually more likely to trust a business if it looks like you are specifically focusing on their country. Having a .com domain, and different page options for each country you’re operating in can be a good idea.

Additionally, in any business venture, you should set up an official-looking company email address. It’s usually based around the business name e.g. enquiries@ … rather than your name.

Having a local, toll-free number and either an answering service or a receptionist gives the impression that your company is available to answer questions across time zones.

When it comes to handling emails, it’s a good idea to use a professional signature, and put some thought into the tone of the standard replies, updates, and notifications you prepare.

Depending on the nature of your business, you might want all correspondence to be formal, or it might suit the tone of your business better to keep it casual but polite and clear.

Social media and content marketing

Having a social media presence is expected these days: one of the benefits of having profiles is that if you start to secure a lot of followers, your business will look more successful than it is.

It’s very common for businesses to have a Facebook page and a Twitter account and Instagram is particularly useful if your products are visually striking.

You might even like to think about Tik Tok, if you’re trying to appeal to a younger audience—some businesses have found that introducing #hashtag challenges is effective.

Content marketing is used in conjunction with social media, and it’s all about sharing your particular experience and expertise online: this might be via video blogs, articles, or photos.

The medium that works best for you will depend on your business. If you’re a craftsman, for instance, an engaging and professionally-shot video of you at work will likely create more interest than a few tweets would.

On the other hand, if you’re a clothing designer, some professionally-taken images and a stylish blog post on your website may be more effective.

Company registration

If you’re a sole trader, then forming a company and registering yourself can lend you more credibility.

Remember overseas customers are looking for evidence that you’re legitimate. The more information there is about the business online, the better.

If you don’t want to use your home address as a registered office address, via Private Box, virtual office options are available.

Shipping and tracking

Whenever customers receive goods from overseas, shipping is an important part of their experience. Delays can be frustrating and create the perception of a more amateur operation.

It’s important to choose a reliable shipping company and goods should be tracked. Ideally, customers should be provided with a link to the tracking website so they can check on the progress themselves.

Commonly, when people purchase over a certain amount, shipping is free. It’s not always possible for businesses to offer this, but it’s another way of making overseas customers feel that their business is genuinely valued.

Company addresses

Using virtual offices can create the impression that you are an international company; the addresses can serve as a registered company address, and a place for people to send official correspondence.

Prepare thoroughly

Going global is an exciting challenge but it has risks! It’s important to have a proper business plan in place, and to ensure that you are prepared financially to move into a different market.

You might also like to think of alternative options and ways to diversify. If it goes well, are there other countries you want to investigate? What’s your backup plan, if this doesn’t work out?

Unfortunately, registering your intellectual property in New Zealand does NOT protect you overseas. Different countries have different rules, and there’s no such thing as global IP protection.

It’s best to engage an experienced IP lawyer to help you navigate this process in your chosen country or countries, as well as an accountant to sort through the financial side of things.

Expanding your business can be an exciting and sometimes stressful time. From shipping and marketing to getting your website up and running, there are many details to consider.

To find out about how Private Box can help you manage some of your day-to-day operations, check out our plans and pricing. We provide virtual mailbox and virtual office options, and much more.