What influences peoples’ purchasing decisions? Why do people buy what they do? What makes them choose one company over another? When you are doing business internationally, you want to be sure you are doing everything you can to facilitate the sale and instill confidence in your prospects.
Here are some tips to keep in mind when trying to successfully sell to a foreign market.
Know What Appeals to Your Prospective Audience
Not all ads and marketing will appeal to all cultures. If you’re planning on entering the market in a particular country, research the market thoroughly or hire a marketing expert who is familiar with the specific norms and philosophies for the particular market you are hoping to enter. They will be familiar with the successes and pitfalls and the areas that will appeal to someone with these specific values.
When planning your strategy be aware that even something as simple as color can have different and quite dramatic meaning in different cultures. For example, if you use red as a primary colour on your website, it connotes excitement and desire in Western societies. In Eastern societies, it is the color of celebration and happiness. In the Middle East, it can connote evil, or to be extremely cautious. In some Latin American countries, red with white often elicits religious connotations.
Choose the Right Search Engines and the Right SEM
We all know that Google is king in the US, but did you know that Baidu is the second most popular search engine in the world? Never heard of it? It’s a Chinese search engine, and while not as popular as Google (Google being used by almost 69 percent of the Internet users, compared to a little over 18 percent of Internet users using Baidu), it is still commonly used in China and other Asian countries.
So, be aware of any local search engines in the country you are focusing on. While Google may be king internationally, don’t discount local search engines that people of the culture you’re marketing to may be using. Get marketing statistics to determine whether targeting them will target a new customer base.
Also consider that your prospective customers may use different search terms when looking for your product than your American counterparts.
Website Content in Different Languages
While English is well-known, you will gain more customers in a country if they have access to a website in their language. It may pay to have your website translated into the language of the customers you are trying to target. We touch on this point further in our post on communications and international business.
Delivering the Product or Service
When delivering to an international audience, you need to be mindful of several things that can affect the buying process. You need to be clear as to what you offer and provide options for those who are looking to purchase a service or product.
Time zones become exceedingly critical here. If you’re promising a certain service or product by a certain day or time, be sure you can actually make good on your offer. If your business is in the United States, be aware that at least half the world is shopping while you sleep. For this reason, you may need a 24-hour support line or a line within the country you are servicing should there be a problem.
When looking at your support systems it is very important to make sure you have available a multi-lingual team who can facilitate questions that may come through via online support channels, or on social media. Your prospective buyers will feel more confident when they are able to understand the messaging as well as feel they are being understood. Hiring tech support in the country you’re marketing to may keep your customers happy.
If you’re a hosting company, a client’s overseas infrastructure requirements, such as the location of data centers and load times, can also influence the purchase decision.
Online Transaction/Checkout Process and Currency
When providing a way to check out, be sure to make the checkout process as streamlined as possible and accept your customer’s home currency. Many online services, such as PayPal, will do automatic conversions of money so that the customer can pay in their local currency and you can then exchange the money into the currency of your choice. The online transaction and checkout process are critical to conversion rates so ensuring they are converting properly is of utmost importance.
Be Aware of the Laws of the Land
One point we cannot stress enough is to make sure you have done your legal homework. Are there any local laws that you need to be aware of such as rules around advertising language? If you’re going to run a promotion or contest, what are the implications of the local laws? Enlisting the help of a local expert is the best way to ensure what you’re doing is legal.
Jumping into any foreign market without knowing who your prospective clients are and how they buy is a recipe for disaster. In our next post in this series on doing business internationally, we will look at another very important part of successfully selling and marketing overseas – effective communications.