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The 10 Basics of Export Marketing for Small Business

Expanding your company by targeting overseas sales is a fantastic way of developing a business. However, export success certainly won’t happen overnight and there are many potential hazards out there that need to be overcome before success is achieved.

Marketing your business, product or service is crucial to your success. Prior to launching anything internationally, you need to sit down and plan, plan and plan some more.

So here are 10 essential points to effective export marketing that should hopefully help you on your way.

1. Create an Export Marketing Plan

Remember those days when you were launching your company and you sat down and spent hours writing out a business plan? Well you need to do that again but this time to plan out just how you’re going to be successful at launching into export. You need to work out where you are going to aim your product, when this important development of your business is going to take place and how much you should budget for it.  Keep hold of this and continually refer back to it.

2. Do your export homework

You have an idea just where you are going to launch your product but you now need to find out as much as possible about that country or region. Learn about the population, their habits and what possible challenges lay ahead. There is a wealth of free information available online now that exporters can use to get quickly up to speed on all the key areas that might impact their export offering.

3. Competition analysis

It’s important that you find out who your likely competitors are going to be. Find out what they are currently doing, how they are doing it and how you can do it better (hopefully) and conduct a SWOT analysis. If you are going to be selling toothpaste into Indonesia, would you really do so without understanding who already does so and how much they actually sell? Scrutinise competitors’ approaches; take what is good and leave what is bad.

4. Make sure you overcome any cultural differences

The country you are going to be exporting to is likely to have cultural differences and you must find out about these. It’s so easy to make expensive blunders that could have been avoided if research had been carried out. This is particularly important with your advertising material with everything from your logo to the name of your product being potential hazards. A US toothpaste manufacturer once sold into an area of South East Asia where the locals saw black teeth as beautiful! Obviously they didn’t sell too many tubes.

5. The importance of language

From the emails you send to your foreign clients to the language used in your marketing material, there’s plenty you need to learn if you want to be a successful exporter. Don’t include words that may be innocent in your own country but have a totally different meaning in the country you want to trade with. Make sure you use a linguist or a professional from the target country who can advise you on your language as well as your website copy, brochures, manuals, etc.

6. Where is the best place to put your message across?

Once your marketing material has been created where should you place it to get the best results? It could be via a search engine, in the local press or on social media. Again you need to find out what works best in the country you are exporting to. Not every country will have the same channels for marketing and advertising. In some West African nations, the tribal chief might actually be your best marketing channel!

7. An online presence

If you haven’t already got a website then get one!  If you do have one then you need to make sure it can aid your export drive not hinder it.  Make sure your site is towards the top of search engines and get the site translated so your potential new customers can fully understand the message you’re trying to put across. As well as translating the contents, look at the usability of your website. For example in some languages they read right to left – how would this impact your site’s effectiveness?

8. How do you want them to contact you?

Those potential new customers have found your website and understand it too. So what do you want them to do next? Decide if you want them to email you or telephone you. If you do want them to call you make sure you have staff who can successfully take that call. There is no point marketing your service to Germany and then not being able to deal with a phone call or email in German. Think through how these foreign prospects can be dealt with.

9. Ensure you can receive payment

Your new customer wants to buy your product online but is that possible? Make sure that your site can take foreign payments. Ensure you closely look at the local payment methods people use. Online credit card payments are distrusted in Germany so what would the alternative be? Check competitors’ sites and see what they are using.

10. Don’t forget to test

As you’ll see there’s a lot to learn if this export drive you desire is going to work. Have a trial run, start off small and apply what you’ve learnt. Take a small dip in the export waters, learn from any mistakes you make and then start to grow the export side of your business. Test, test, test and improve…..continuously.

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