If you’ve ever wondered what it might take to expand your business activities overseas, something as simple as your website can be a great place to start!
Nowadays, it’s not unusual for a business to receive a request for a product or service via a website order or company email. For many businesses, with a little time and effort, you can use these inquiries to gauge interest and begin to define potential new markets.
And there’s more good news – there are plenty of dedicated resources available to help you avoid missteps and lead you toward international sales success. The Small Business Administration is one good place to start.
- First, you may want to determine some of the characteristics that attracted foreign customers to your website. Was it the country of origin? The product features? A unique selling point or specialized service? Identifying these things can help you leverage your marketing. This type of research, coupled with market research provided by places like the SBA, can help you create a special page or separate website that is exclusively geared toward your new foreign customers.
- Customer expectations and maintaining your brand experience should still be key considerations but you may not be able to be as attentive, particularly if you do not speak the same language as your new clients. You can help to mitigate some of these concerns with things like FAQ lists in the necessary languages and provide ways for customers to submit questions via email for ease of translation. You may want to take a look at your return policy and make the needed changes for fees and time delays.
- There’s less issue with payment when a buyer pays by credit card as the card provider sorts out the exchange rate as part of the service. Even resources such as PayPal now provide for overseas sales and are commonly used in many countries. However, you may want to add a currency conversion calculator to your site for customer use.
- Shipping overseas has become ever easier and today’s well recognized carriers such as UPS, FedEx or US Postal Service, usually offer international carriage including assistance with the appropriate documentation. Make sure you fill out a customs declaration, having verified that your product is legal in the country that you’re selling it to. You can verify the status of your product using resources such as the SBA. As for customs or import duties, most retailers leave these to the purchaser making sure to state this explicitly in your terms and conditions.
- Payment considerations are important. Sometimes frauds are committed and you may want to have a plan in place for how you process orders, receive payment and shipping based on clearance of payments. Also, make sure your site has the right level of security protection to prevent the possibility of any customer credit information from being compromised or stolen.
- It can be an exciting time for any business to start experiencing interest in their product or service outside the domestic market. Just keep in mind, as you develop these customer relationships, it will serve you well to do your research on cultural and other differences of your primary customer countries. Tailoring your marketing to match your audience will help you grow and sustain your overseas sales and will help to foster strong brand recognition and customer retention.
- Go for it! It’s perfectly okay to start small and remember to utilize the array of services available to you. The U.S. government supports many agencies that are able to assist business with international sales and many of these services are free. To start, contact the SBA http://www.sba.gov/category/navigation-structure/exporting-importing