How would you feel if I said you can take your company global? Sound scary?
What if I said your company may already be global?
It's true. Even if you have not realized it, you are likely already running a global business and have taken a huge step toward profitable international sales.
The internet makes nearly every company global.
If you have a website, an e-commerce store or even a Facebook page, buyers from around the world can find you. It's really that simple. That's why so many of the traditional rules and myths of sales growth through exporting are being turned on their head, especially for small and mid-sized companies.
According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, 95 percent of the world's buyers and 70 percent of the purchasing power is outside the U.S. There's a massive potential market, and many are interested in 'Made in USA' products and services.
If the buyers are out there, and you can figure out how to sell to them safely and effectively, then why not do so?
The following five tips may help get your business pointed toward profitable growth from global sales by building on the website and digital footprint that you already have to promote your business at home in the U.S.
1. Simplify global transactions.
Selling internationally will be different than selling domestically, but luckily there are internet tools to help easily guide you through transactional steps. Payment in different currencies, like customs and shipping paperwork, can feel daunting. Payment platforms and integrated international shipping tools provide simple solutions perfectly suited to both rookies and veterans in global trade. Follow their step-by-step processes and you'll be expertly guided through the details of your international transactions.
2. Mine the data.
The good news is that you may already have great information about the global demand and opportunities for your product or service. For example, companies may field requests on occasion from foreign tourists who find their product while visiting the U.S. and inquire how to purchase it back home. Even if you're not receiving explicit inquiries, odds are you have international website visitors. An easy way to learn what countries your website visitors are coming from is to install a routine Google tracking code on your website. The tracking code will provide analytics that allow you to quickly identify stats and trends for website traffic. The data can be helpful, for instance, when you're fielding inquiries from potential reps.
If your site traffic shows that a certain market has sales potential, you may want to focus your efforts there first. Later you may even create special content for those target markets, but that's down the road.
3. Bridge the language gap.
Many of the world's potential buyers read English, but not all do. Don't overlook the importance of making content as accessible as possible for your target market of potential customers wanting to learn about what you have to offer—and place their orders.
If you're worried translation services aren't in your budget, Google's website translator is a handy and free tool which makes your website instantly available to visitors who prefer a different language; it appears as a button on the page that visitors can use to select a language and auto-translate the content. Is it a perfect, colloquial translation? No, but it's a very functional and practical solution to help visitors from around the world do business with you in their language of choice.
4. Ensure mobile accessibility.
Creating a mobile-friendly website through a separate subdomain or a .mobi domain used to be another hurdle for companies to jump, but that is no longer the case. Fortunately, responsive site templates mean that today's websites automatically render properly on all types of devices in all orientations. Domestically, this is important because search engines may omit sites that aren't mobile friendly from search results on a mobile device. And it's beneficial to your customers—poorly formatted websites may deter consumers from staying on the page.
While a mobile-friendly website is important at home, it's even more so in markets with limited hardwired internet infrastructure. This and other cultural factors result in a higher percentage of mobile internet usage in many international markets as compared to the U.S. Further, the prevalence of 3G coverage and fee-per-megabyte billing mean that faster-loading, optimized sites will be more successful with buyers in emerging markets. Make sure images are appropriately sized and that all features are necessary for website functionality.
5. Create a content-rich website.
Remember that international buyers may be uncomfortable calling you to speak in English—not to mention that time zones may make that impractical. That doesn't mean that they are hesitant to learn about your products by reading English. The same sort of rich content marketing that makes your website effective domestically can support your global growth.
Let potential buyers learn at their own pace by ensuring common questions are answered on your site. Fill your website with easily digestible details and make it easy to ask questions. A single “Contact Us" form can be intimidating and cumbersome. Most website publishing tools offer functionality or plugins that let you drop basic forms onto many pages on your site, or even special forms specific to the content on that page. That makes it really easy for buyers to ask questions, whether they're domestic or international.
A Proven Approach
I'm routinely amazed by the inspiring success stories I encounter. Companies that start out with no global ambitions can evolve into multi-million dollar global businesses. It is not unheard of for a hobby, like a small online shop, to turn into a global enterprise. As foreign and domestic buyers find companies, business owners are able to follow the market opportunity and discover growing markets and profitable sales.
Today the accessibility of the internet means that nearly every company with a website is global, and the question is not necessarily how to find global buyers, because they'll find you. Today the question you should ask yourself is, “When do I start?"