5 ways to grow your online business internationally
So you’ve started an online business, it’s growing well, and you’d like to take things up a notch. We live in an interconnected world that has changed your potential target market completely: thanks to the Internet, the products and services you provide could be seen from customers anywhere from Albania to Zambia. But how do you reach people and get your brand known?
Understand the business scene
It’s not enough to offer a website in the target language, or to offer products to a target country; you also need to know who your competition is, and you need to know where potential customers are going online and what is going to interest them. Learn as much as you can about who is operating in this space already, and what potential needs are going unmet for your target customer base.
What works well at home may not work at all in your target country. The more research you can do about the local culture, and what appeals to the local market, the better. Making industry contacts in the area, asking questions of locals online, or using a local marketing/market research agency, can do wonders. Even if you’re trying to promote your products or services to another country in the English-speaking world, you might be surprised how much things can differ, so plan your marketing strategy accordingly!
Consider your point of difference
Now that you’re exporting, the fact that your products or services are imported to that country can potentially be a point of difference in itself. For example, many US candies are unavailable in supermarkets in the rest of the world, leading to American candy shops popping up in all corners of the globe. On that same note, Vegemite has a very different meaning in a mainstream Australian supermarket than in a niche gourmet supermarket in Boston!
There’s also the question of whether your existing points of difference will appeal as much to the overseas market as they do to your local market. You don’t want to be trying to sell people something that they neither want nor need.
There’s a lot of people browsing the Internet in other languages. For example, Spanish is the world’s second most common mother tongue, so making your products or services available in Spanish opens up your potential client base to an estimated 329 million people! Also, just under 40% of French-speakers actually reside in Europe, so professional French translation services to your business by native translators could increase your reach not only in France, but in many countries where French is commonly spoken.
If you’re shipping heavy products, or if there’s high taxes involved, it may not be worth targeting a country at all. If you’re selling an intangible service, this likely won’t be an issue. An interesting way that some businesses get around this issue is to offer international shipping only for a certain fixed period each year; once you’ve reached niche status, this could certainly be a possibility.
There’s also third-party freight forwarding services that you could look into; check out what your competition is using for some ideas!
The format that you sell your products or services in back home might not be ideal for your target market overseas. Whether it’s a change of color scheme, different-sized packaging, or a total product overhaul, it’s worth thinking about how you can make your product/service more efficient for an overseas market. Who knows, this innovative thinking might give you ideas that you can apply back home, too!
Do you have experience in marketing a product or service to an international market? Any thoughts? Feel free to comment below and let us know what you think!