There are many factors that can help contribute towards a successful expansion, and one important element is still an efficient use of telecommunications. With spiralling international call costs causing both customers and businesses no end of problems, we wanted to highlight the issue. So, where else could we start, but with the most famous long distance phone caller of them all, the extraterrestrial: E.T.


Using map and AT&T caller data, we worked out the full cost of E.T.s phone home. See the full methodology on how we calculated the costs at the bottom of this article.  If you want to get an idea of the scale of our task, take a journey through space and with our fully interactive space travel graphic, here.




While you may not be expanding as far as Brodo Asogi, you may well already be working in a new market. Whether that’s Europe, S. America or Asia – you need to prepare effectively. So, what can you do to make sure your expansion goes as smoothly as possible? Here are our tips:


Make yourself local



One of the major challenges that faces you when expanding into new territories with different languages, is making yourself accessible to consumers. You already have to contend with competitors who are well established in the market, so you have to give yourself every advantage.


One way to do this is to make yourself as ‘local’ as possible. Initially translating and localising website copy, domains and details will ensure you’re well equipped, but there are other considerations too. Localization seems to be particularly important for mobile users, with 61% of smartphone users revealing they want ads customized to their immediate surroundings, so make sure your mobile presence is not only search optimized but you have local advertising  ready for your new market too.


Customers appreciate having local listings such as phone numbers so that they can call with queries without heavy international call costs. Businesses should invest in toll-free numbers, which mean consumers can either call for free or at the same as their local rate. Businesses simply pay a modest fee in return for the service. You can even choose your own numbers for promotional purposes. Learn more about toll-free numbers here.

Use social


Social media is invaluable for businesses worldwide and is now a necessity rather than an option. When you work internationally, it can give you great opportunities to start planting the seed of your business in new markets.


You should always try to set up new social accounts in any new markets you work in so that you can directly communicate with your new audience in their language. That way you can offer exclusive, market-specific content without alienating your current audience. Whilst 50% of Facebook users speak a language other than English, 9 out of 10 European Facebook users say they still prefer to browse in their own language, so it really pays to translate.


Social also has some great tools to help you target new audiences in your market. You can easily advertise to specific user groups using demographic targeting. This uses metrics such as age, sex and even the interests they have. Get advice on how to use Facebook demographic targeting here.

Hire people who know your market


Hiring native speakers isn’t just about getting people who speak your target language, they can give you invaluable insight into how their market works. They will be culturally clued into where you’re expanding to and will most likely your customer better than you do.


Even if you don’t have an office in the market you’re looking at, get advice or hire on-the-ground staff to do research and help you get a better grasp of the situation. A large part of language is cultural, so even if you have someone who majored in French at College, they’re not going to be as valuable as a native speaker.


Not only will their expertise help you target customers more efficiently, but if you work in a B2B environment, it will help you establish business relationships more easily. Clients and partners will also appreciate working with people who have an understanding of the country they’re based in.


It’s not just spoken word either. In 2012, the Journal of Business Communication analyzed hundreds of  business letters by  both native-born Americans and non-native Americans and their findings strongly “indicated that the native speakers’ letters overall deviated less from US business communication practices than the non-native speakers’ letters did.”

Be patient and prudent


Expansion doesn’t happen overnight, you have to be prepared to put not only money into your business but a lot of time. If you’ve done your research, invested wisely, and hired the right people, then your business should see success. It might just take longer than you initially thought.


It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of an overseas expansion, but you still need to take care of your business at home. You need to put money into expanding, and you probably won’t be profitable when you first start out, but set yourself budgets and stick to them no matter what. Risk-taking can be a positive thing, but not if it means you lose everything.


Ensure you have contingency funds left over for unforeseen circumstances within your budgets. Mike Kamo, VP of marketing for Strideapp, stresses the importance of pre-planning: “Measure local and regional demographics and spending trends, future development plans for the area, and other pertinent issues before moving forward. You must [follow these steps] to avoid failure.”


E.T.’s phone call: how we worked it out…


An important part of our research was working out where E.T. actually lives. While not named in the film, His planet is named in the follow-up book, E.T.: The Book of the Green Planet. In the promotional material of the film, it’s stated that he’s “3,000,000 light years from home”. So, how much would it cost for him to make the long phone call home to Brodo Asogi?To work this out, we had to calculate the cost per mile of an “international call” made from California, the state in which the film is set. To begin with, we compiled a list of the costs per minute for a phone call to every country in the world, using AT&T as the provider, as it’s currently California’s biggest phone provider. We multiplied each of these costs by 10 to simulate a ten-minute phone call, enough time for E.T. to fill everyone in on his adventures.


We calculated the cost per mile for each country by dividing the cost of each 10-minute call by the distance to each of them from the West American state. The average cost came out at $0.004343021 per mile.


In order to calculate the cost for E.T.’s call, we translated the distance to Brodo Asogi from light years to miles. To figure this out we found the speed of light, which is 186,000 miles per second. Therefore a light-year is 5,865,696,000,000 miles. We know from the movie, that Brodo Asogi is 3,000,000 light-years away, so all we needed to do then was multiply the number of light-years by the amount in miles to get our total of 17,597,088,000,000,000,000 miles. To give you an idea of scale, that’s the same distance as travelling around the world 706 trillion times.To work out the cost of a call, we multiplied our distance in miles by our original cost per mile. That gave us a total cost of $76,424,516,944,816,700.00, or $76 quadrillion. That’s about 2 million times the entire net worth of E.T.’s director Steven Spielberg. It’s a good job E.T. didn’t use a landline in the movie, or Elliot’s mom might have had quite a surprise on her phone bill.


We wanted to chart the journey of a trip to Brodo Asagi, so we also calculated the distance and cost of calls to other planets and systems from both the real world and from other science fiction, including Star Trek and Star Wars. Funnily enough, E.T.’s planet actually does feature in the Star Wars ‘expanded universe’. In fact, members of his species make a brief cameo in Episode I: The Phantom Menace, an Easter egg courtesy of George Lucas in reply to Spielberg’s inclusion of Star Wars figurines in E.T.


What do you think of our calculations? Have any more advice on how to successfully expand your business into the next galaxy (or country)? Let us know on Twitter at @TFFSocial.