Small businesses are often at the forefront of adapting to the many online innovations that can make their work more efficient. From communications tools to social media to e-commerce platforms, companies are no stranger to online tools, but they may still be missing out on a major opportunity. With technology expanding daily, the barriers to entry have lowered for international marketing and sales, making growth through exporting more accessible than ever.
Finding international buyers used to be expensive, largely because the process of designing and producing ads was beyond the reach of most small business owners. This made selling beyond local markets difficult. With the rise of free and low-cost platforms companies know well, such as social media, podcasts, blogs, videos and other online properties, reaching the 95 percent of buyers outside the U.S. is much less difficult than in the past . These digital platforms help companies reach international customers by building a strong online presence, creating customized materials and posts, generating and handling inquiries as well as simplifying communications.
Almost half of small and mid-sized businesses that sell internationally began exporting “accidentally” when foreign buyers found them online, and 77 percent are confident international sales will increase by 30 percent on average in five years, according to the 2017 American Express Grow Global survey. (The survey sampled 501 U.S. companies, ranging in size from $250,000 to less than $1 billion in annual revenues, who report a portion of their company’s annual revenue is currently derived from the sale of goods or services outside of the United States.)
How can your company grab your piece of the (global) pie?
Leverage Tools You Already Use
Online tools you already use may provide an incremental, low-risk and low-cost approach. You may already receive a few international inquiries, but ignore or discard them, assuming there is too much risk or complexity involved in trying to sell them. Online tools like email and video chat services can help you engage and streamline communications with these international buyers. And there are free or affordable translation services available to help with foreign-language leads.
Once you understand your international buyers’ interests, there are resources like your local U.S. Export Assistance Offices that can provide advice on selling and shipping internationally to complete the deals. E-commerce platforms are also an option to simplify the transactional details, especially for products and more and more for services companies as well.
As more international buyers find you, data on these customers will guide your next steps. Consider these key questions to make informed decisions:
- Are you already receiving web traffic from international countries? Which countries are visiting your site the most?
- What products or services appeal to the most to international buyers visiting your site?
- What countries are actually buying from your website?
- What countries provide easy-to-complete online transactions?
Add New Tools
Online and sales data can help you make informed business decisions and select target markets utilizing tools including:
- Translation widgets
- Local language buyer research
- A microsite and/or local top-level domain
- Market specific search engine optimization
This process of leveraging digital platforms and tools puts new revenue streams and profits within reach! Your website already gives you range across the U.S. and the world, and there is a manageable process to continue expanding your business, with global potential.
To dig deeper on this subject, download the full American Express Grow Global Insights Series guide, “The New Calculus: Leveraging the Global Reach of Your Website.”