Geographical distance can be a barrier to sales. Customers in many time zones make it hard for a sales team that needs to schedule a call to onboard them. These challenges are often taken as excuses for excluding customers far away, but could instead be tackled by automating marketing and sales processes. Making your product more self-service will not only help you target a global audience but will also make you more efficient at home.

The thought of selling your product globally can be intimidating. The unknown can even be scary at times. Countries have different cultures and lifestyles, but the world is getting smaller. What we have noticed since starting Approach is that startups, in particular, are very similar no matter where in the world you are. If you are targeting startups and e-commerce companies, chances are that your customers will have a lot in common no matter where in the world they’re from.

Visiting a co-working space in San Francisco, a startup conference in Jakarta or a coffee shop in Berlin, you are likely to run into similar people. They will use the same lingo, read the same blogs, follow the same people on Twitter and listen to the same podcasts. They will order the same avocado toast and freshly brewed coffee. They are all part of the global startup culture, another successful cultural export from the US.

Many of the startups we’ve come across in Indonesia and India, for example, are well-funded and have big ambitions to grow in huge markets. Chances are, there is already demand for your product, but you’re making it hard for people to buy. The needs of an e-commerce marketer in Los Angeles are not that different from those of an e-commerce marketer in Jakarta. This is an untapped opportunity, especially for many SaaS companies.

It is in the nature of a SaaS company that its product is global from day one. Software doesn’t have borders, nor does the Internet. As interim CMO for a startup in Mumbai, however, I have experienced that many SaaS companies’ sales and marketing processes aren’t as global.

Many SaaS companies send a personalized email when I sign up for a trial and suggest we take a call, showing available time slots. When I ask about one that’s not at 3am, they apologize but never follow-up. Paying for SaaS products with my client’s Indian credit card often doesn’t work. I know why fraud filters exist, but it should be possible to identify promising customers and let them pay, no matter where they’re from. SaaS companies can gain a lot of growth by adapting to a global market, and the effort may be smaller than you think.

Four ways to grow your SaaS business globally

  1. Review your sales-and-marketing funnel. What touchpoints with potential customers require a phone call or physical meeting? What information is your team sharing with the customer at this point? Can this be published online instead? You can record webinars or videos, which can be viewed at any time. You can automatically send onboarding emails. Making these processes more self-service and automated will also benefit your home market.
  2. Make it easy to pay you. A lot of payment services have fraud filters. Some simply disable payments from certain countries. Usually, you can configure the fraud filter to allow payments from any country. For a seller of physical goods, the risk of fraud may not be worth the additional potential revenue. A SaaS product, however, has negligible marginal cost. If you get a chargeback, you can just turn off the service for that user.
  3. Publish sufficient documentation to make it easy for customers to start using your product without your hands-on support. There are many good companies to be inspired by. For example, Zeplin and Intercom. User guides, demos, webinars and questions and answers also help with SEO.
  4. Don’t impose any geographical restrictions. Make sure your mobile apps are available globally. You’d be surprised by how many apps are restricted to one country’s app store. Don’t require a local phone number or address.