By Christian Arno, Managing Director
Is your business tapping into foreign markets? If you haven't broken out of your domestic market, you are missing out on a big business opportunity. The idea of selling overseas is attractive to many small and medium-sized businesses. But many small business owners abandon any thought of selling abroad because they don't think they have the necessary resources. In fact, this isn't the case. The internet can provide a whole host of innovative strategies for businesses of any size to break into foreign markets.
Use localization in your online marketing
Online marketing is one of the most effective ways of establishing a presence in foreign markets. You are likely to see a good return on your investment in a properly localized website. Don't rely on your English-language website to do the job for you overseas. A website localized for your target market will build trust amongst consumers and potential trade partners.
So what does website localization mean? A big part of it is translating your content as accurately as possible. While online services, like Google Translate, are attractive for their speed and low-cost, they will never be as accurate as a professional translator. A translator will be able to alert you about any potential cultural issues with your web content. Cultural sensitivities could have an influence on the material you publish on your website, or the way it is presented. Content which may be perfectly acceptable in the USA or Europe may cause offence in other parts of the world. A properly localized website is attuned to these cultural differences.
Good website localization also involves hosting and web infrastructure. Your foreign market website will be more successful in local search engines if it uses the appropriate country domain and is hosted on servers within your target region. For example, a website aimed at the German market should have a .de domain name (e.g. www.yourcompany.de) and reside on servers within Germany. This will allow more effective search engine optimization within foreign markets.
Use local affiliate networks
Online affiliate marketing is a well-established sales channel for many businesses. If you're planning to launch an e-commerce website in a foreign market, local affiliate networks could prove useful in your online marketing mix. Apart from the large global affiliate networks, there are many others operating solely within regional markets. As well as driving sales, affiliate marketing is also useful for building your brand. Many small affiliate marketers use content like blogs, social networks, podcasts and video to monetize their affiliate relationships. Building an army of these small-scale content creators within a foreign market could do wonders for your brand recognition there.
Use local social media
Many businesses benefit greatly from well run social media campaigns within their domestic markets and this success can be exported to foreign markets. Social media is beneficial to many sales and marketing functions, including market research, competitor analysis, CRM and customer service. Utilizing local social media expertise within a foreign market can help you to assess market response to your overseas roll-out and drive traffic to your localized website.
Use the web to find local freelance expertise
One of the biggest risks in tapping into foreign markets is hiring staff overseas. It's not just remuneration that saps the budget; the recruitment process, handling legislation and training are also big costs. And, of course, you'll need premises for them to work in. However, the web has enabled millions of freelance contractors to offer their services on the global market. Whether you need a PR professional, a virtual assistant, a sales director, finance officer or pretty much any other expert, you can find them via online marketplaces like Elance.com or Guru.com.
Many businesses are using freelances to mitigate the risks of starting-up overseas. They are saving time and money by hiring professionals, located in their target foreign markets, without the hassle and expense of employing them on a permanent basis. You can build a workforce quickly and efficiently and easily restructure based on your changing needs throughout the start-up process. Some of the freelances you find may turn into permanent hires once your overseas operations are fully up and running. Thanks to the web, you can find the personnel you need, without permanent ties, half way around the world.
Today’s article is presented by Christian Arno, who is the founder and Managing Director of global translation services and localization agency Lingo24. See more articles by him at http://www.lingo24.com/blogs or contact him on Twitter at @lingo24chr.