It’s no secret that the world is getting smaller by the day. Thanks largely to the Internet, we now live in the kind of global economy where overseas markets are as easy to reach as a building three blocks away. The digitisation of purchases has transformed the way consumers and businesses alike buy whatever they need, whenever they need it.
Just a couple of decades ago, the prospect of a small business in Slough selling to a company in California would have been implausible. Today, millions of businesses from all over the world have come together to do battle online. But while the technicalities (at least on paper) of appealing to domestic markets are relatively simple, it’s not quite the same when branching out overseas.
Limitless Expansion Opportunities
Chances are that whatever it is you do, there’s an extraordinary overseas market waiting to hear about it. From the smallest local businesses to the biggest international corporations, it’s now the norm to source products and services of all kinds from overseas.
For some, it’s a case of buying materials, components and finished products at the lowest possible prices. For others, it’s the appeal of outsourcing tasks such as marketing and website development to capable yet affordable overseas providers. So whether you’re out to sell more products or simply save money, the global economy is open for business.
Still, if your intention is to expand your B2B operations overseas, you need to acknowledge the challenges you face. Contrary to popular belief, it isn’t as easy as simply installing a Google Translation plug-in and expecting to attract millions of new customers. Instead, overseas expansion can be a difficult and time-consuming process, but one that promises the richest rewards for those who get it right.
So with this in mind, what follows is an overview of several important tips and techniques for successful international B2B marketing. Just for the record, the tips outlined below are provided in no particular order of effectiveness or priority:
1. Learn the difference between translation and localisation
If you expect to appeal to an international audience, you need to consider the culture of the respective target market. In a working example, you could be a seller of rare and unusual local products with widespread international appeal. Nevertheless, several of your most popular lines contain alcohol. In addition, many of your blog posts and marketing materials in general promote the purchase and use of alcohol. If you’re planning to expand into a market where alcohol is either prohibited or a taboo subject, you’ll need to make the necessary amendments.
This is just one simple example of localisation – the modification of your website and its content to appeal to a local market. Consider the market’s culture and characteristics, the expectations of its consumers and how you can modify your strategy to appeal to them. Realistically, you need to think about executing an entirely different strategy for every international market you target.
2. Be prepared to carry out intensive research
Of course, localisation is only an option when and where you’ve gathered sufficient data. As would be the case at home, you need to invest as much time and effort as necessary in the process of getting to know your target market. The difference being that while you’ll instinctively know a lot about the domestic market you’re a part of, you might not know a single thing about your target audience overseas. What’s more, many of the assumptions you’ve made could prove to be wildly inaccurate.
Don’t make the mistake of assuming you know enough about your target overseas market to create an appealing offer. Instead, research similar businesses operating in the area and see how their approach differs from yours. If possible, begin building a network of contacts in your target market and consider partnership opportunities where they exist. Reach out to genuine members of your intended target audience and get to know them at the deepest possible level.
3. Bring local influencers on board
The power of influencer marketing is universal, therefore should be capitalised on wherever you intend to do business. From America to Australia to the Arctic Circle, a few choice words from a popular local influencer can and often do work wonders. You need to acknowledge the fact that entering the market as an outsider, you’re effectively an unknown with everything to prove. Irrespective of how successful you’ve been at home, this doesn’t mean you’ll be taken seriously elsewhere.
Again, it’s a case of carrying out as much research as necessary to pinpoint the perfect local influencers for your business. Offer free samples in exchange for reviews, or simply discuss paid promotion of your products and services outright. Whichever way you go, local influencer marketing is a great way of getting your business off to a strong start overseas.
4. Revisit your marketing mix
At home, you may predominantly focus on search engine optimisation, coupled with PPC advertising, e-mail marketing and a just a token touch of offline marketing. In your target region overseas, this could prove to be a completely ineffective and unviable marketing mix. It’s worth remembering that the most effective and influential marketing channels at home might be quite different in the overseas markets you’re interested in.
Many regions have moved predominantly to digital and rely near-exclusively on the major search engines. Just as some have transitioned in-large to mobile, conducting most of their online research and making their purchase decisions using mobile devices. In others, however, mobile Internet penetration isn’t nearly as wide-reaching. Likewise, conventional offline marketing – TV, radio, print advertising etc. – still holds enormous value and appeal in many key markets worldwide. Rather than assuming your current marketing mix will work, it’s worth revisiting it and considering the preferences of your overseas audience.
5. Take website translation seriously
One of the biggest and most common mistakes of all is that of simply running your domestic website through a basic translator. On one hand, you could argue that a free automated website translation is enough to communicate the crux of your content to your overseas audience. Nevertheless, you need to consider what kind of message you’re sending by doing so.
When you come across a poorly translated website that’s littered with errors and largely nonsensical content, what’s your first impression of the business behind it? You’re inclined to see them as lazy, amateurish and having no real regard or respect for their international audience. They’ve simply gone for the cheapest and easiest option, irrespective of the fundamentally flawed result. If you’re serious about appealing to international audience, you need to think carefully about the quality of your translated content. A consideration that goes hand-in-hand with localisation.
6. Carefully consider the competition
Unless you’ve come up with something 100% unique, you’ll face at least some level of competition from local providers. Your challenge being to present your offering a way that surpasses local vendors and service providers. Not the easiest job, given the fact that you’re an outsider the locality hasn’t yet heard of.
It’s therefore a case of carefully considering the competition, in order to determine where your unique value proposition lies. It could be that you’re able to provide products and services for a lower price, or simply improve on the quality of what’s available locally. Or perhaps your product/service has features that have had previously been available in this particular region. It’s important to expect initial scrutiny at the highest level. So unless you’re able to clearly define and communicate your unique selling points, you’re not quite ready to enter the market.
7. Create local content
Last but not least, translating your regular content (even flawlessly) isn’t enough. Think about it, if you were writing blog posts for your domestic audience in Doncaster, would your readers be interested in a local business story from Bangladesh? Or the release of a new product in Barbados? It’s the same the other way around – you need to think about the kind of content your target audience overseas will be interested in.
Realistically, finding relevant and interesting topics is easy. Just in the same way you’d research material for your domestic blog, you can do exactly the same for your overseas blog. Instead, the biggest challenge is ensuring they’re written flawlessly in the native language of their intended audience. Ultimately, you may find yourself looking at an international content marketing strategy that amounts to a fulltime job in its own right. You’ll inevitably need to involve translators to create compelling posts, so you may as well consider outsourcing your international content strategy as a whole.
With a carefully structured approach, an international expansion strategy could transform your brand’s performance and prosperity like nothing else. Nevertheless, it’s important to consider expert support and consultancy from the earliest possible stage, in order to steer your efforts in the right direction.