As we settle into 2016, many companies will be reviewing strategic plans and thinking about sales targets for the year ahead.

In order to boost revenue, you might choose to focus strategically on existing markets (as I discussed in this post) or to expand and discover new opportunities.

The purpose of this post is to share some great news: if you are a Canadian company, there has never been a better time to export abroad.

Read on to find out why 2016 has the potential to be a great year whether you are thinking of entering the US market or exploring even further afield.

Why Now?

Expansion is the key to rapid growth for most companies, but it’s not without its risks. So why should you be considering expanding in 2016?

According to RBC economists, now is the perfect time for SMBs to make their mark abroad.

“The combination of a weaker Canadian dollar, lower energy prices and stronger growth in key export markets is creating the ideal environment for SMBs to expand.” – Royal Bank of Canada

You can read the full report here.

Of course, not every industry will be able to expand abroad. Construction companies, for example, are probably best off focusing on domestic or local markets. However, this is a huge opportunity for many sectors.

But What About the Recession?

Marketers are understandably worried about recent reports that 2016 could mark the beginning of another recession.

However, this doesn’t need to have a negative impact on your company. In fact, it could be a unique opportunity to get ahead of the competition.

In a study of nearly 5,000 public companies, researchers at the Harvard Business School found that those employing a mix of offensive and defensive strategies during a recession were most likely to survive and even flourish.

In particular, successful companies developed new markets while costs were low and took advantage of new opportunities while competitors were slashing budgets and falling behind. It is much easier to establish as a market leader in a new area when competition and noise are low.

Across the Border

For Canadians, expanding into the USA is an obvious and potentially very profitable option.

In addition to increasing your company’s total customer base, 2016 is a great time to sell in American dollars. Since the currency is so much stronger across the border, you will end up with extra profit when sales are converted back into Canadian dollars.

“The U.S. market is vast, complex and can be intimidating to enter. But thousands of Canadian enterprises — small, medium, and large — have been very successful south of the border. More join them every year and there is no reason that your company cannot be among them.” – Government of Canada Trade Commissioner Service

International Expansion

According to Ernst & Young, rapid growth markets such as Ghana, Turkey and South Africa will account for 38% of global consumer spending by 2020.

If you already know there is a demand for your product abroad, taking your company global could be a great decision. If you aren’t sure whether a demand exists, there are a few ways you can find out.

Focus groups and market research could be important, as could sussing out your potential competitors abroad. You can also learn a lot by tracking comments and interactions on social media.

For example, let’s say you write a baking blog and sell cupcake sprinkles in Canada. Baking is hugely popular in England at the moment, so chances are you have a loyal fan base in the UK. Connect with those readers, find out what sprinkles are the most appealing to them, make it easy to purchase online, and voila! Instant international consumer base (just add flour and two eggs).

No expansion will be quite that simple, but the process will be more straightforward if you are able to identify groups that are similar to your current audiences. In the example above, there was no language barrier and lots of cultural crossover and shared heritage, making things a lot easier.

However, if you are willing to put in the extra time and modify your operations, you could also reach out to a more diverse set of consumers.

The Edward Lowe Foundation has put together some really interesting information on multicultural marketing. It’s summarized below, but check out the full guide for more tips and tricks!

Tips for multicultural marketing

  • Do your research and include the target audience and their culture
  • Seek out local knowledge, whether through focus groups or speaking with cultural leaders
  • Language shouldn’t be a barrier: hire bilingual staff and translate your web pages
  • Hire a diverse staff and you’ll have in-house expertise
  • Let local teams drive progress in their area

Closer to Home

Apart from geographical expansion, another way to see rapid growth is to engage with a market that is itself expanding. An example on a local scale is the rise of independent coffee shops in Edmonton. On a global scale, this could be something like personalized medicine.

These so-called ‘fast expanding markets’ or FEMS are a great opportunity to try out a new product or apply something you already produce in a new way.

Take Home Message

Expanding into new markets is not without its risks but it can bring huge benefits even during an economic downturn.

Whether you choose to enter the US market, expand internationally, or create a new product in a rapidly growing sector, 2016 is a great year for Canadian businesses to grow.

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