by Guest Author on February 11, 2013
In some ways the world has never been smaller. It might still have the same circumference (just over 40,000 km at last count!) but the advent of the internet has allowed even small businesses to access the global market like never before. Expanding a business to brand new territories can seem like an easy way to boost profits and sales but there are several things to bear in mind when thinking of going global.
Choose your target market
Even if you consider your products or services to have truly global appeal, it can pay dividends to focus your efforts at first. Perhaps the most crucial thing is to conduct market research to ensure there’s a demand for what you have to offer in the first place. After that you should turn your attention to the practicalities of dealing with foreign markets. It’s great to have an overall global strategy but a thorough assessment of issues such as common working practices, legal requirements, import regulations and market trends will also be required for each individual territory.
Localize your website
To some extent English remains the lingua franca or common language of the internet. It’s the single most widely used language online but it still represents only around a quarter of total usage. Bi- or multilingual users also place more trust in languages written in their own native language. A recent study revealed that more than half of internet users across the EU regularly visited foreign language sites but that only 18% said they would make online purchases from a site that was not in their own native language.
A fully localized website will allow you to invest in a country-code Top Level Domain such as .fr for France or .ru for Russia. This can give you a boost in SEO terms (although Google’s geographic targeting tool also allows you to specify geographic areas for generic .com domain names) and it can also help engender a sense of trust by giving your site a more ‘local’ feel.
Tailor your message
Automatic translation programs like BabelFish and Google Translate can be great for a rough and ready translation. They can be prone to contextual errors however and they don’t always deal well with linguistic variations such as slang, colloquialisms, names and abbreviations. A far better solution is to work with native speaking translators. This can help avoid errors and native speakers can also bring cultural knowledge to bear, helping to avoid cultural faux pas and to lend your copy a more natural flow. This pertains not only to static website copy but also to news updates, blog posts and any other kind of marketing material or communications aimed at that target market.
Invest in local personnel
Even if you have the resources to relocate existing personnel, employing local staff can bring the linguistic skills, cultural awareness and knowledge of local business practices and regulations that can help your expansion thrive. A proven manager from within the company may be a good option but providing them with local support staff can also allow them to manage more effectively.
Go global, think local
Your localized website can help get your name out there but there are other ways to extend brand awareness. Many companies now make use of social media marketing and maintaining profiles can also provide you with a means of receiving feedback and communicating directly with your customers. Major social media players like Facebook and Twitter have worldwide audiences but local big-hitters like QQ (China), VK (Russia) and Mixi (Japan) can also be great within certain markets. PPC or pay-per-click campaigns can provide a low-risk, cost effective way to start getting conversions and increase brand awareness within a new market. As with other forms of marketing however, you should ensure that your message is tailored towards the target market and that you use the most effective keywords and ad copy.
The Internet is a powerful tool, but traditional media outlets such as radio, newspapers and regional TV can all be useful as well. Local companies will utilise local media for advertising and brand awareness and doing the same will help you compete within that local market.
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