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Developing an International Expansion Strategy

When setting the stage for a successful international expansion, businesses should remember growth is a marathon, not a sprint.

Developing an International Expansion Strategy

This article is sponsored by Globalization Partners.

This story originally appeared in the July/August 2020 print edition of Middle Market Growth magazine. Read the full issue in the archive.

New markets. Diverse revenue streams. High returns on reinvestment. Revitalized product development. “Going global” is a strategic maneuver opening the next chapter for many organizations seizing the moment to expand their global footprint.

However, when setting the stage for a successful international expansion, businesses should remember growth is a marathon, not a sprint. International expansion strategies are multilevel strategic plans that businesses use to enter an overseas market, establish a growing presence, and become quickly profitable. When composed properly, these plans make growth more structured and sustainable.

Below are some of the tips, practices and attitudes that help ensure short- and long-term success for international planning.

Let your local team audit—and adapt. Copying and pasting domestic processes onto international ones and expecting identical results almost never works. Hire a high-quality local team member or two, tell them what you’re doing in the U.S., and let them adapt it for local markets to prevent “one-size-fits-all” expansion woes.

Strike while it’s hot—but keep your reputation strong. As the saying goes, your reputation precedes you. A solid domestic foundation is the cornerstone of new initiatives and new efforts. Overseas markets will still have access to your core market impressions, your PR initiatives and the way your customers generally perceive how you conduct business. Your company carries a reputation with it wherever it goes. Make sure it’s a positive one.

Just do it. First-movers are businesses with products or services that are the first of their kind in a new market. While the best foreign expansion strategies are adaptive and thoughtful—requiring nuance, commitment, detailed resource planning and buy-in from cross-departmental executives and stakeholders— there’s a point where you just need to take the leap and trust the local experts you hire. They’ll know the local market better than you ever could.

Match your business model with your mode of entry. Business models are not monolithic. Processes that flow smoothly in your home country won’t necessarily translate into another. All this means an international expansion strategy must include an adapted business model that does two things simultaneously.

For one, it should align with a foreign market’s projected value (i.e., why you chose to expand there). These reasons could include cost-effective production, an expanded customer base, refreshing a product’s lifecycle or even for the new market’s tax incentives, to name a few.

The adapted business model should also align with that new foreign market’s actual culture and practices: A business model with these objectives is a business model that’ll work across international expansion.

Having a plan with these objectives in mind will prepare you for a successful international expansion.


Nicole Sahin is CEO and founder of Globalization Partners, where it is her mission to make it fast and easy for companies to hire anyone, anywhere in the world. Globalization Partners simplifies global business by enabling companies to quickly expand into new countries without setting up branch offices or subsidiaries. Companies find the talent, and Globalization Partners puts that team member on its locally compliant payroll.