Have you considered promoting your goods and services overseas? Read on to find out how to approach international marketing and why it’s worth doing.
- Can your product travel? Many U.S. businesses get occasional orders from overseas — and thanks to the reach of the internet, this can be a great way to develop new customers. But should you actively sell your products overseas? Should you look for a primary foreign market or stick to individual sales? Don’t be afraid to ask your customers how they found you, what drew them to your product and what made them decide to purchase? These types of questions, which can be asked via simple online surveys as part of check out activities, can provide invaluable research to support your overseas efforts.
- What do you really know? Your experience with your business means you know your product best. You’ve managed to solve a problem or fulfill a want or need – are there similar issues overseas that your product could address? Take a look at your foreign business inquiries – are there any trends that you notice in terms of response? Would there be demand for a product like yours? Assessing all this information is a good place to start. Add to your current knowledge by researching your foreign market.
- Do you have to begin at home? A domestic market means that you’re not starting from scratch but it doesn’t always mean you have all the answers. While sales at home is how most companies start, more and more, new businesses are considering selling overseas before they even look at domestic sales. It’s non-traditional, but sometimes leveraging popularity overseas can lead to increased interest when you circle back to your home market.
- Who are the players? Did you know that of the many resources available to assist businesses in exporting, agencies such as the SBA can also help you identify other competitors in your industry? And keep in mind, just because competition may exist, does not mean there isn’t room for a new entry in the market. You may be able to leverage interest in your product simply by being a foreign brand. Again, research trends and how markets respond to other import products to get a sense of how to position your own product.
- Did I say that right? While e-commerce sites make international sales appear relatively simple, things get a bit more complex when you mover from individual sales to positioning your product in a foreign market. You will need to take a look at the local values, customs, language and culture as it will require more than merely translating your site into a different language to truly grow a new market into sustainable sales. Don’t be afraid to make changes that accommodate new customer expectations.
- Who do you know? Working with affiliates, partners, distributors, licensees or agents can help you get established in a new market. Close consultation with business partners on the ground will ensure that your marketing materials have local appeal and don’t include any mistakes. Don’t be afraid to utilize social media and conferencing tools like Skype to start building your team and getting to know who you’re working with. Remember, even if it’s in another time zone, relationships matter so it is worth your time to build them even over a long distance.
- How much? Pricing is more than just understanding currency differences — you need to research and find out what a comparable item would sell for in your new foreign market. Don’t forget that your overheads may also be higher so make sure that your prices take into account the cost of freight and transport, packaging and agent’s commission.
- How will they find me? Your marketing mix will vary in each new place. In some countries, you may rely mostly on social media or online advertising. In other places, it could be local newspapers, outdoor advertising or radio. Use the insights of your team and your market research to best reach your new customer base.
- How will it get there? Don’t forget that logistics, order fulfillment and customer service will all have new challenges not to mention dealing with returns, shipping fees and insurance. Your local shipping resources such as UPS, FedEX or USPS have lots of information to help you make sure you are up to these challenges.
- Exhibit overseas. Through various organizations and the use of Free Trade Zones and Agreements, you can participate in shows and exhibitions in the country you are interested in. You can find out more at the Center for International Trade such as the Sacramento office http://sacramentocitd.org/
So get out there into the world – and don’t forget to use the resources available to help you along the way. A good place to start is with the U.S. Trade Office http://www.trade.gov/faq.asp