Whether your business is based in your spare bedroom, or in the Central Business Districts of Berlin, the key to your company’s international success is your online presence and marketing strategy.
The internet allows you to reach customers anywhere in the world far more cost-effectively than by trying to establish your brand ‘on-the-ground’.
However, in order to sell effectively to different demographics, you must go to the customer, rather than making them come to you – this means localizing your online content, SEO and marketing strategies. There’s been a vast amount of research done into cross-cultural communication and the ways in which different cultural backgrounds affect the way people view information, process it and make decisions, as well as how people’s cultural background influences their online preferences and habits. Without going into it in too much depth here, the upshot is that every different cultural group has its own particular predilections when it comes to ecommerce, and if you can uncover these predilections and play to them, you can be successful in business anywhere in the world.
First up, you need to consider your website. You’ll need a specially focused website for each different target market – your potential customers in China will be looking for completely different things in a website to your customers in New Zealand, and not only in terms of language.
It’s important to have a specific in-country domain for each market you want to target, with its design and content researched to ensure that its appropriate for the culture of its audience in terms of the color schemes, navigability, tone, style and imagery. Naturally, you’ll also need to have your web copy translated by a professional working into their native tongue – language is a minefield of miscommunication, and even within the one language there can be huge differences in terminology between dialects, so it’s safe to say that just using an automatic translation tool isn’t enough.
Even the differences between US and UK English are worth considering. We’re not suggesting you should have a completely different website for US, UK, Canadian and Australian audiences, but you should remember that, whilst a common language is shared, there are countless colloquialisms that aren’t understood across the board.
The classic example which helps to illustrate dialectal differences in general is that of the word coche which, in Spain, is the word for ‘car’. But in many Latin American Spanish countries, coche means a ‘baby-stroller’. However, use the word ‘baby-stroller’ in front of a UK person and you may be met with a furrowed brow, as they are more likely to use the word pushchair, pram or buggy. The point is, you should write your copy in a way that is as internationally friendly as possible.
So you’ve adopted a fully localized-language approach to all your web copy, what next? Well, when it comes to making your web presence felt, search engines rule the land, which is why it’s crucial to employ up-to-date Search Engine Optimization (SEO) techniques.
Your localized in-country domain names (e.g., www.yourcompany.com.nz, www.yourcompany.cn) will help with boosting your site up the rankings. It’s also worth checking that your web host has its server in the country you’re targeting: Google uses this information in its search algorithm and will affect your position on in-country search engines.
But most important of all is making sure that your SEO keywords are appropriate for the region. You can use a simple search tool such as Google’s Keyword Tool, to find out what terms internet users in your target markets have been using to search for mp3 players, or what terms shoppers use when they need a new vacuum cleaner. It’s also important to make sure you’re focusing your efforts on the most-used search engine in your target market – Google isn’t the market leader in every country on Earth.
Lastly, make sure that the marketing strategies you use are appropriate for each separate target market. If you’re using pay-per-click advertising, are you using the right keywords in the most popular search engine for your target market? Are your banner ads on the websites your potential customers are most likely to be visiting? Are you getting your company’s name out to the most industry-relevant and widely read media in the target country, and are you on the RSS feeds of the country’s best blogs? Are you linking to the most popular and credible websites in your target market, to boost your own site’s credibility rating in the eyes of the search bots? Does your company have a presence on the most popular social media sites in your target market? If you’ve ticked all of those boxes, then you’re on your way to success.
Using these simple strategies to localize your online presence and your online marketing campaigns will ensure that you can sell successfully anywhere in the world – there are almost seven billion potential customers out there, what are you waiting for?