Have you been thinking about selling your goods or services internationally? Are you interested in attaining new customers and businesses online in countries beyond America? Have you heard about the benefits of exporting? Are you ready to expand your business and reach global markets? In this blog post we provide a simple overview on how to get started using the Internet to market goods to foreign markets.
Global marketing can be a very cost-effective way of dramatically increasing the growth and profitability of your business-to-business (or business-to-consumer) company.
The Internet offers the perfect opportunity for businesses to broaden their reach into other parts of the world, without having to undertake the challenges, expenses and risks of securing office space and hiring staffers/field sales reps in foreign countries.
Marketing to International Customers and Businesses Online
Two important keys to successful global expansion are:
- Identify where the demand for your product exists; and
- Discover the best methods for reaching those potential customers online.
One of the best ways to identify demand is to look at your US-based competitors. Do they have global-friendly websites (ecommerce or otherwise)? Are there businesses native to the countries that you are interested in, that sell the same or similar products as yours? If so, these are strong indicators that demand is high.
Keeping your ideal customer persona in mind, perform research to discover:
- Where overseas customers and businesses are spending their time online (such as trade or association websites, research websites, social media, etc.);
- The words they use online when researching products like yours (keywords);
- The questions they are asking online (their wants and needs); and
- The types of content that they prefer to consume online (i.e. pictures, videos, whitepapers, graphics, etc.).
Depending on the country or countries you wish to export to, you may want to create several international buyer personas as you gain an understanding of the wants and needs of prospective customers and businesses in those target markets. Cultural differences in each country can lead to varying online buying and decision-making behaviors. Therefore, market research is crucial to a successful launch of your export endeavors.
International Inbound Marketing
Once you have an understanding of your target market, you can lay out a plan for an effective international Inbound Marketing Campaign that will help you to generate and disseminate useful information that attracts international buyers to your website.
In addition, you will need to make sure that your website is ready for international traffic, is ready to be found by the top search engines in your desired country(ies), and is optimized for keywords in the languages used by intended overseas customers and businesses. This involves more than simply relying on Google’s Language Translation Tool to do the job for you.
If you don’t have an ecommerce platform for your website yet, there are other ways you can make your products available to online buyers, just to get the ball rolling:
- Display and describe your products on your webpages, and provide a way for interested buyers to contact you via a “contact us” form, via a “request for quote” form, or via email, Skype or phone.
- Sell your products internationally on eBay, and/or on an international version of Amazon, and/or on international e-marketplaces like Alibaba.
- Work with agents, distributors, and export trading companies who will help you sell your products in a specific geographic market in exchange for a fee. For more information on these particular methods, see Chapter 5: Methods and Channels of export.gov’s A Basic Guide to Exporting.
The Importance of International SEO for Exporting
The best way to find international customers online, is to BE EASILY FOUND.
Optimizing your website for international traffic is crucial to achieving strong global sales. Search Engine Optimization, or SEO, should be taken into careful consideration when developing content for your website (as well as “off-page” content). Many of the same SEO best practices for attracting customers to US-based websites, also apply to global websites. However, a few additional considerations need to be taken into account, such as:
- What are the most popular search engines in the country that you are targeting?
- What keywords and phrases are being used to search for products like yours in the target country?
- What is the native language of the customers & businesses you are trying to reach?
For example, in China, “Baidu” is the most popular search engine (accounting for approximately 62% of market share), while “Yandex” is Russia’s favorite search engine, and Japanese searchers prefer “Yahoo! Japan.”
Each search engine has its own algorithm, and best practices for SEO can differ in various parts of the world. So it’s important to ensure your website is properly optimized for the search engine most widely used in the country you wish to export to.
In addition to Inbound Marketing and SEO, Pay-Per-Click Advertising should be seriously considered as well, because of its pin-point accuracy in targeting specific buyer personas, its microscopic tracking/analysis capabilities, and its affordability.
The Importance of Keyword Research:
In-depth keyword research, performed by a highly-experienced online marketing professional, is an important cornerstone of most any Internet-based endeavor. It is essential for every type of online marketing campaign – international or domestic.
Enlist the help of an expert keyword researcher, and make sure that he or she is working with a native speaker of the language that your website will present. It’s important to ensure that the keyword research is performed both in English, as well as in the native language of the country you wish to export to.
If a native speaker cannot be secured, the next best thing is a translation service. If you go down this road, it is preferable to choose a translation service that is ISO 9001 certified, for quality assurance. Translation is a tricky thing, for example, many times there is no direct translation for a word, and good grammar in a foreign language can be a bit illusive. Consider adding to the mix, a college intern who is fluent in the language, or at least has a true understanding of it. Have him or her proof the keywords (and content) that the translation service provides.
Once the initial keyword research has been completed, it’s time to localize the list of keywords, to increase the relevance of the content, ads and webpages. In addition to keywords — the body copy, currency, addresses, phone numbers and dates will all need to be localized and appear in the standard formats for the targeted country.
Note: For many US-based businesses, it’s easiest to venture into the world of exporting by starting with other English-speaking countries such as the United Kingdom and Australia. Do keep in mind that many differences can exist in syntax, spelling, grammar and verbiage, even though the dominate language is English. For example, in the US you fly on an airplane, while in the UK you fly on an aeroplane.
The Importance of Website Structure
One of the best things you can do to ensure the visibility of your website in another country is to make one of the following three choices for your web address:
- Purchase a CCTLD (Country Code Top Level Domain name). Example: website.mx for Mexico. Your website has a better chance of ranking well when it is based on the “country extension” (a.k.a. CCTLD) of the country it is targeting.
- Use a country or language specific subdomain (i.e. mx.website.com).
- Create a country and/or language specific subdirectory (i.e. website.com/mx)
Buying a country-specific top level domain name will give you the strongest local presence, but requires a larger capital investment, especially if you are building websites for top level domains in multiple countries. Subdomains are more cost-effective, but are treated as separate websites by search engines and will require separate inbound marketing campaigns. Those who wish to maintain the authority of their existing website will want to stick with subdirectories for geographically-targeted webpages.
In addition, you will want to ensure that hreflang annotations are properly implemented into your HTML markup so that search engines understand which webpages on your website are targeted to visitors in foreign countries. This also helps to protect your website from potential duplicate content issues. This HTML stuff can get rather complex, so rather than going into the details in this post — we’re saving the subject for another day. If you need help with hreflang annotations sooner rather than later, Net Site Marketing is willing and able to help you quickly sort it all out.
Attracting International Customers to Your Website
It isn’t quite enough to know where your customers are going online, or to have a website with all of the proper URL structures, markup codes, meta tags, alt attributes, keywords and content (basic international SEO).
As mentioned, your website also needs an Inbound Marketing Campaign, in order to help it rank high in the search engines of your target country(ies). During the process of an Inbound Marketing Campaign, a great deal of content needs to be developed, customized and localized, including social media posts, graphics, blogs, infographics, videos and more.
Always provide the content in the native language of your target country. The content created for inbound marketing is often the first impression someone has of your business. It’s what entices them to visit your website. So you’ll want to invest in a reputable inbound marketing agency like Net Site Marketing, to globalize your website, and to ensure that the right content is created and optimized to drive visits to your globalized website.
Each month ecommerce platforms and online payment methods become more and more accepted by foreign markets. If your website does not yet have an ecommerce solution, Net Site Marketing is experienced in ecommerce and can help turn your website into the international profit-center that it is meant to be.
If you are looking for assistance in developing a trade plan; or learning about documentation requirements, costs and regulations; or need help with export licensing and funding, a good place to start is the U.S. Commercial Service webpage.
If you’ve already done your homework, are ready to start exporting overseas, and want help getting your website (ecommerce of otherwise) in front of the right international online audience, give Net Site Marketing a call. We are ready to help you widen your horizons and GO GLOBAL!
Call Now: (828) 684-4445