Small Business International Development in Three Easy Steps

Some companies feel they have a global market ecommerce with an online presence. But are the international clients coming to your online store? And if they are, how did they find you? Does your online website have a real presence in foreign countries?

Once you have a local or national business operating through a website, there are a few steps you can take to develop your market further abroad.

Targeting international markets still involves the same type of market analysis you needed for your current business. Often a bit more market analysis is needed to allow for the cultural adaptation of your products. This market research is multiplied by the number of countries you would like to do business in.

Assess your communication

Then you must step back and look at your current means of communication. The website you have for your own local market. How would foreigners react to your website?

There are a few general questions to ask yourself:

  1. Is your website clear and easy to understand?
  2. Could an 8 year old easily understand what your company does?
  3. Do you only provide an 800 number? Do foreigners know how to reach you? Put in your local land line telephone number. Give your full physical address.
  4. Is your order form compatible for international addresses, or does it get stuck if you don’t put in an American State code? Make sure your order forms have enough lines for foreign addresses.
  5. Do you use one specific word for things? – having two or three ways for saying one thing makes it harder for foreigners to follow you. Choose between “car” and “vehicle”. It is a good idea to create a glossary of company terms – you will greatly appreciate this later on.
  6. Do you use specific cultural expressions or slang? Keep your communication easy to understand by everyone.
  7. Does your website refer to specific national holidays? Is that something you should change?
  8. Do you have any embedded words in your diagrams? Avoid them and it will make it easy for you to translate any images later on.

Making these changes should not take away the strength of your sales message to your local market. The good practices for an effective website in your local market are very similar. Taking those local good practices a little further will open your website up for international expansion. Your communication will become clearer to your international clients.

Once you make these transitions to your current website you will be on your way to your next transition towards an international business:

Localized Websites

Once you have your main website open for international business. If your website is actually speaking to foreign visitors and not alienating them, then it is time to take your next step in developing a global market presence.

All of your marketing efforts should be aimed at determining where you need to sign up for a localized website.

  • Are your current international clients from a concentrated area on the globe?
  • Does you market lead you to choose a specific international market?
  • Is there a country you feel passionate about and feel there is a market there for your products and services?

Depending on your resources you may only choose to develop one new country market at a time. The more countries you do a market analysis for the easier it becomes.

Some companies at this stage decide to translate their website into 5 languages: Chinese, Japanese, Spanish, French, and German. This can be a wasted investment at this stage. Will your product hit the same emotional buttons in your foreign markets? This is highly unlikely.

Remember Spanish in South and Central America is very different from the language spoken in Spain. And the people are different. French is spoken in several countries too. Which culture is your main target?

Become Acquainted With Your Foreign Market

If you are a small business and or do not want to go to the expense of too many changes in translations, take this process slowly. Take your time to get some detailed market knowledge for your products in the foreign countries. You can do this from your “internationalized” local website.

Work with your current international clients. Run international campaigns in English from your local website that stimulates international market feedback. Use traditional methods of market research and client prospecting by phone. Even when only speaking English you will get some feedback. Keep at it until you feel you are now acquainted with your foreign market.

Localized Websites To Get To Know Other Markets

You now know which country you want to sell to. You may even have decided to target a country that speaks your own language. The next logical step is to create a localized website in your first overseas target market.

So what does a localized website mean? Create a second website for your foreign market. This new website is localized for your new target market. It can be hosted locally or in your foreign market. But it will be submitted to all of the local foreign web directories.

And it will be written specifically for your foreign market. Use your original website as a model to adapt to communicate with your new market. Company branding is important. Truly communicating with your foreign markets in a way that will get them to listen to you is more important. Play around with finding the balance.

One key to successfully finding this balance is using web templates…without text imbedded in the graphics.

At this stage probably only part of your website will be translated. This is not the best scenario. It may feel like a cold brochure. Just be sure to give your international clients access to your local website in English. If they know what to expect in which language and this is clearly indicated on your new website, this is acceptable.

Continue to develop relationships with people in your new markets, do more research, test changes and adaptations to your localized website. With a little bit of follow up and concentrated effort you will become very familiar with your new market. You will learn how to offer your product and services to get sales in a different market.

You will then be ready for the next transition:

A Fully Customized Website

Once you have a localized website adapted to each of your target markets you will want your international clients to feel more familiar with your products and services. You will want to improve the level of communication with your foreign markets.

Your website is now localized. It is already on their territory. The best way to deepen your relationship is to communicate with your foreign markets solely in their language, and to communicate exactly how you would if you were your local competitor.

Foreign Language Communication Strategy

The better you know your foreign markets the more options you will have. At the very minimum you could organize an email campaign in their language. Before doing this, make sure this would be appropriate in their culture. Will your target market read your emails, how would they read your emails?

Foreigners targeting North American business men might be surprised at how many of them use tiny little Blackberry screens to read emails. A country like France with high ADSL penetration might forget that other countries are not so lucky and they should therefore send appropriate content in their emails.

Easy, Low Cost, Multi-Channel Communication Each Month

Once these elements ha
ve been defined, create a simple communication strategy in the foreign language. With a little thought and preparation you can come up with a foreign language communication plan for minimal investment in time and money.

Take advantage of the possibility of re-purposing content to be used in different formats both online and offline. Come up with ways to get your international clients to interact with you, plan beforehand to get feedback and track results.

  • Online events
  • Surveys
  • Competitions
  • Ask for feedback campaigns

Use incentives to improve responses. Think of the foreign appeal your incentives might have. This can often translate into something low cost. Tie this with your own local events.

Example Based On A Monthly 2-Page Newsletter Written

One cost effective solution is a monthly 2-page newsletter with 4 articles written by a foreign native marketing professional. This monthly newsletter can be repurposed into several formats using the same content. This will give you a variety of communication touches in your foreign market each month:

  • Monthly Newsletter – online and in print
  • Weekly Emails
  • Podcasts
  • Videos
  • Monthly Surveys
  • Product Reviews
  • Case Studies
  • …and more, with variety over the year

This entire international client lead generation strategy only by investing in one 2-page translation.

This can work very well if combined with a local event, international exhibition or some other way clients can interact with you.

A great bonus is getting your writer to use foreign language keyword optimization.

This foreign language communication campaign will increase your understanding of your international markets even further. A valuable asset for any business. You will be ready to move towards a fully customized foreign website.

Website totally customized to local cultures

You will need to analyze your market potential again. Do you understand what incites your foreign market to buy your product? If so, then it is time to look at translating your entire foreign language website.

Your own knowledge of your international market will make it easier for you to determine which web pages can be translated and which web pages should be exchanged for pages written in the foreign language by industry experts. Your foreign website will probably not look exactly like your original local website.

Adaptation Phase

Creating a foreign language website can be done in stages. Remember to always think of how your foreign visitors may react to this.

  • Welcome them
  • Acknowledge their needs
  • Show them what you have in place already to help them.

You may or may not have a fully multilingual staff, explain this appropriately somewhere on your website.

“We particularly appreciate all of our foreign clients. Unfortunately we are not able to have staff to speak to you in your own language on a full time basis. Please leave us a message and we will get back to you as soon as we can”.

You Have Control Of Your International Development

As your business grows and defines itself, you will set up an appropriate structure and find the partners best suited to your business requirements.

Are you committed to speeding up your international sales cycles?

Learn how to combine cross-cultural marketing tools and international sales strategies for faster sales.

Join us on the International Sales Road Map

Would you like to develop your international business?
Are you a beginner at international sales and marketing?
Read the Beginners Guide Discover Your International Business.

Cindy King

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