The ubiquitous combination of online information, inexpensive connectivity/communication, and ease of transportation have created global demand and reduced the obstacles to selling overseas. Today, international sales are a possibility for any business, however being successful takes more than simply launching a new website.
Whether you’re a Fortune 500 company or a self-funded startup, conducting business globally has never been easier. But here’s the thing: it may be easier, but it’s still not easy. Technology has made the logistics more manageable, but a successful global business requires more than a logistics plan. From taxes and tariffs to product adaptation to understanding local restrictions (and this is just the tip of the iceberg), laying the groundwork to operate in a foreign country should be well planned to avoid costly mistakes. It can also be very lucrative as long as you take the time to understand your customers.
Any business can attract international customers. It’s really all about communication. Taking the time to communicate with your customers in a meaningful way is the best way to accelerate growth in your new markets. Here are 3 easy tips that will allow for clearer and more meaningful communication with your new international customers:
Tip #1: Who, where, and what?
Look at your weblogs. From what countries are your visitors coming, and how does this compare with actual enquiries? For example, you might receive a lot of emails from Sweden asking about your products, but the weblogs tell you that 100 times as many people from Korea are hitting your website. Perhaps they are interested in specific products or information – or are more broadly focused. Do they go to your “contact us” page but then leave abruptly? All of this information can help paint a picture of missed opportunity, potential obstacles, and where to focus your efforts.
Tip #2: Don’t underestimate the importance of translation
If you want to do business internationally, you simply must communicate in the language of your customer. Think of it this way: if a customer can’t understand what your product or service is, she’s not going to buy it. Even people from other countries that report reasonable English skills spend more time and dollars on native language websites. Translation must be a priority.
But not any translation will do. Free online or super-low cost Chinese translation services are appealing, but often are worse than not translating at all. Make sure your translation is top-notch; one that shows your understanding and expertise by using the correct technical terms and fluid language spoken in the country. In short, language counts. It’s a critical step in maintaining the integrity of your brand. Your customer’s experience – how well you communicate with your potential customer in English or any other language – speaks volumes about how you value their business.
Tip #3: Your website is your calling card: optimize the experience
Your website will likely be the first step in communication with your new global customer. There is more to clear communication than using the correct terminology and phrasing. You should also demonstrate your understanding of your new market’s cultural norms. Some call this localization. Others call it common sense.
Localization is the process of adapting content or products to a specific locale. Some examples of localization include adapting graphics, modifying content layout to fit standard paper sizes, converting to local currencies and using the proper formats for dates, telephone numbers and addresses, and even modifying content based on local cultural sensitivities. In short, localization gives your materials the look and feel of having been especially created for your target market. It allows potential customers to think of you as a local provider they can trust.
There are other tips, such as international SEO, keeping embedded text out of graphics, using a CMS that enables easy multi-language content management, and more…we’ll save those for another time.