The 4 Ps (product, place, price and promotion) are the cornerstone of traditional marketing strategy. But if you own an online business, is place still important? It is from the sense that you need online visibility to be successful, whether that’s placement on Google or in social media communities.
However, from an offline perspective, should the ‘place’ of your business have an impact on your digital marketing strategy? It should come into consideration, but it certainly shouldn’t limit or mold your marketing plans.
Yet, did you know that many online businesses limit their digital ‘place’ to their domestic online market? Let’s say you sell fabrics online in the US. What’s stopping you from selling fabric to Canada, Mexico or the UK? Nothing! There are minimal barriers to international online trade; you just need to localize your company website and get it in front of an international audience.
Here are five global business tips on how to grow your online business in international markets.
Don’t target the whole world in one hit.
Once you accept that there’s nothing stopping you from selling your brand internationally, online, you may have the temptation to blitz several markets at once by simply translating your content into a dozen languages. Resist that temptation!
If your international online strategy consists merely of translating content for different audiences, it won’t be successful. Each target market will require a modified marketing plan combined with market research, a localized website and after sales support facilities.
The best tactic is to target one market, conduct market research, and tailor your new company site for that audience. When you start building traffic and revenue from that target market, you can evaluate the approach, modify it and reapply to the next target.
Identify your target market.
There is plenty of free data available to help you decide which market to target. Start with your analytics package. Check out the geo section and find out where your current audience is coming from. Maybe you’re getting a lot of traffic coming from an international market already. If you are, this could be a good market to research further to understand the opportunities. There are also two free tools available from Google which are great for providing initial insight into market potential.
First, you can try the consumer barometer which gives insight into the online market size of specific markets within each country. Second, try Global Market Finder. This tool allows you to enter one of your target keywords used by your customers on search engines and discover the search volumes of that keyword in other countries (translated where applicable), ranking national search engines according to market potential for that keyword.
Consider resources and practicalities.
Once you have a shortlist of potential markets, consider the resources and budget that you can make available for targeting it. For example, if you’re a U.S. based business, you may have found that there is huge online demand for your product in China. That’s great news! But before selecting China as your target market, decide on the marketing budget and work out whether you can effectively reach and engage with this market with existing budget levels.
Do you have the budget required to invest in professional translation and localization? Don’t forget social media, SEO, and customer service. You’ll need the funds to localize these tactics into Chinese. If you feel you haven’t got the budget to target China, maybe it’s better to move further along the list to find a target that doesn’t require such investment. For example, Australia may only be third on your list, but if you target Australia you already have the language capabilities in place to manage marketing channels in-house.
Get ready to localize your company website.
Now that you’ve picked your target market, now you need to create a new section on your site which is specifically aimed at this market. If you’re targeting a market that speaks a different language to your own, that means translation is required. Don’t go for the cheap option of Google Translate. It won’t translate your content accurately and poor writing creates a really bad picture of your business.
Use a professional translator or translation company (check out ATA or ITI for more information). Localizing your site isn’t limited to websites targeting different languages. A U.S. company targeting Australia needs to create a section of the site aimed at the Australian audience. The English is going to be a little different; they must shop in a different currency, and maybe different content or products and certainly different delivery instructions will be necessary.
You’re running an international site, but you need to gain trust from online visitors. I helps if they feel comfortable on your site. Think glocal. Let the customer know that your site, services, and products are designed for them.
Leverage international SEO.
Now that your business website is ready for your new international audience, the process isn’t finished yet. Are you getting lots of traffic from search engines in your domestic market? That success is not going to automatically transfer into your international market. You need to conduct international SEO marketing to get search engine traffic from selected international markets.
Going international may seem daunting, but with a bit of research and the right support network, you can multiply your target audience and target market size.
This article has been edited and condensed.
Liam Curley is a director and co-founder of Smoke & Croak, a start-up multilingual digital marketing agency that specializes in website translation and international SEO. He blogs on the Smoke & Croak website. Connect with @smokecroakliam on Twitter.