How to internationalize your company in the internet age

Once the decision has been taken to enter foreign markets there are several options to establish your company in the new market. It’s going to be a great adventure!

Your options
1. Building a localized website AND opening local with an expat or local workforce
2. Just building a localized website and having an account manager deal with the market remotely

There are more options, but I am keeping it simple here.

-Option 1 is very involved. It takes a lot of preparation, a business plan, hiring local staff, relocating a expat, establishing a local office and a warehouse. Building a local website and creating a local Adwords campaign
-Option 2 is the cheaper option. Just translating the home market website and an Adwords advertising campaign.

Start online
Sometimes there is no other option than to go for option 1 and open that local office. But generally it is better to go growth hacking and to just start the webshop and the advertizing. Say you are going from a small European country to the USA. A manned office easily costs 30 K Euro per month. Throw in an Adwords campaign and its another 10 K. Just built a website for say 5.000 Euro’s one time plus 10 K for Adwords to drive visitors to your site and you are saving 355 K per annum. Just building the web site may seem like a slow start. But you can start analyzing your website after few months and find out in what starts there is most interest for your products. The website will generate leads which will convert in customers. Building relationships with clients will be great for understanding the market.

The next level
Once there are 20 plus customers there is much greater knowledge of the market plus a revenue stream which will pay for a local office. This step will then naturally flow out of a web only approach.

The next article will be a how-to of creating a local website

Scraping the bottom of the B2B barrel online

Scraping the bottom of the B2B barrel online

When we compare to the quality or value of the average client which was won by internet marketing to the average client which we found using off line methods the quality of the former is lower than that of the latter.

The quality of the kind of person looking for a solution on Google is lower than a person who uses his experience or network for finding solutions. Is there a person more ignorant than the one who looks for his answer on a search engine? On the other hand the average person who represents a company in the client portfolio of a non-online marketing has more knowledge of the products, the market and pricing. They got to the company by picking up the phone or sending an email or meeting in person.

How to make money from low-grade online B2B clients

Traditional companies concentrating on the high quality, high value clients will notice that they are standing still. There is small growth in high value, high quality big clients. There is great growth in tiny start-ups however. These know-nothing clients start from the garage needing all kinds of B2B solutions to sell their products and services. They find them online using google.

Grow with the customer

In order to win then over strong Adwords advertising campaigns are necessary, a good website, low-end products with decent pricing compared to the other online offerings. After this low-grade customer placed their initial order placed the online company waits. Although quite a few of these clients will go broke or quit others will thrive and grow. They will grow in turnover and size, they will grow in their needs and they will grow in knowledge. The online company has to keep track of them, offer information on the website and keep in touch using phone and email. With more advanced offerings the full potential of the relationship will be fulfilled and the online B2B company will grow with its customer base. This is how we make money in B2B online.

Corporate communications: graphic or wordy?

Recently I was speaking to the CEO of a company growing quickly on corporate communications. He wanted to renew his corporate site. This wordy site showed his corporations’ labels, services and showcased some projects. The site received decent organic traffic from Google, no advertising.

Going for the best impression

The CEO had a new site designed with lots of pictures and very little text. His reasoning? No body reads text anyway.

He is wrong even if he is right.

What is the goal of a corporate site? A corporate site should assist the CEO and any Business Developers in Business Development. Existing business runs in meetings, mails and calls. High level new business needs back up by a web site. Pictures may get the message accross, emotionally.

But in order to be found by companies who do not know you requires the site being discovered on web searches by other CEOs looking for the services and product which you offer.

Engage by being engaging

Google, the search engines, will only show you if your website has lots of interesting engaging stories about you and your business. You need to be open or you will risk to end up in a cul de sac of the internet.

The visitors to your website who do not read, are not in the market anyway.

Market knowledge

One of my client’s has been working on the Danish market for a while. Because nobody in the company speaks Danish updating the Danish webshop was rather challenging. It is also difficult to target the market with keywords without knowing the language or competitors. It is difficult doing export marketing without market knowledge.

A local account manager

Two months ago a Danish account manager was hired. She started improving the website right away. Last week we started to add new keywords and writing Danish Adwords ads. I am looking forward to see how the Danish campaign will improve. Already I feel that we are making a difference in 2 of the 5 product groups we have been looking to improve. In about a week I feel we shall be ready to finish the work that needs to be done on the campaigns and the website and I am excitedly looking forward to the results.

Export market research

Export-markets-september

It can be daunting to choose a new market to export to. A marketeer can be of great assistance in the research if he thinks of the following: size and traffic.

Size

Size. Size matters. Depending on the size of the markets you already dominate, one should consider the size of the target market. Bigger is not always better. If one’s home market is small it can be a mistake to enter a market that is too big. An example. A company from Denmark: Holger AS. Suppose Holger AS dominates the Danish market for little reclosable bags. Is it a good idea to enter the bordering German market? Or should they rather go to neighbouring Sweden or Norway?

Comparing population bases

The German competitors of are going to be huge. Danmark has less than 6 million inhabitants. Germany 80 million. Even if the German competitors do not have a strong online presence, once the Holger AS makes big inroads selling reclosable bags Online winning 10 percent of the market, the Germans will have deep pockets to fight back. Simply by imitating the Holger AS webshop and moving a big budget to Google Adwords, they will be well positioned to push up the prices for relevant keywords in the Google Adwords auction and smother Holger AS’ marketing campaigns. It is a better idea, to capture the Scandinavian markets first. Norway with a 5 million population and Sweden with a 10 million population are relatively easy to capture from a Denmark’s 6 million population base. Suppose they can be dominated in 3 years, then Holger AS has a 21 million populations base. That is a much better base to dominate the German market than the hopeless 6 million base.

Traffic

Looking at the size of the population is a very rough indicator of the potential of a give market. A quick way to estimate a market’s potential is by looking at the traffic for the essential keywords. In this case “packaging”. Entering “packaging in Google’s export tool gives the following results:

Country Traffic

Germany 6.800
Danmark 2.900
Norway 880
Sweden 3.100

Measured by traffic Sweden and Norway add 4.000 keyword searches to Denmark’s 2.900 adding up to a total of 6.900. That is the equal to Germany’s 6.800. This quick and dirty analysis indicates that capturing the other Scandinavian countries is the key to online parity in Germany for Holger AS.

After Sales and Trust

In International Online Sales it is essential to maintain trust after it has been established. This article raises two questions:

1.What can be done to maintain trust and stay in customers’ confidence?

2.Does trust work the same in different countries?

Trusting-like-a-child

Three step trust program

The first step is to always ask for feedback. New customers must be asked how their experience was with our company. Soon after the product has arrived with the customer he should receive a quick simple survey email to ask him how was the buying experience. The message should only contain 3-5 questions and focus on whether the experience was: 1. bad. 2. as expected 3. recommendable to friends and partners. The customer should be able to finish the survey in less than a minute.

At the time of the making of the sale, customer service should ask for an email address where the survey can be sent, to ensure high rates of participation.

Stay in contact. Get in touch with the client when you ship his goods. Once the goods have arrived, check with the cusomer again to check if everything is okay. Make sure customer service is not too busy to keep in touch with customers. If customers are forgotten the moment his goods are shipped, the custoemer will feel this and shall not be loyal. If you take care of any potential shortcomings before they are felt we will gain the customer’s confidence and win his confidence.

Act like a virgin. This means you should treat each customer like he is the first. Do not be afraid to be honest about the size of the company. A small company needs its customers and should not be afraid to show eagerness. Clients will feel loyal to a supplier who needs their business and treats them accordingly.

Comparing trust internationally 

Online marketing is very much a North American invention and the main unspoken assumption is that Online Marketing is similar accross the globe. However, just within Europe there is a big difference between one country and the next with regards to trust. In southern European countries there is less trust as has been established in the work of the Political Scientist Francis Fukuyama. E.g.in his book “Trust“.

Trust-Fukuyama

In “Trust” Fukuyama establishes that levels of public trust differ from nation to nation. He shows that there are political consequences but more relevantly economic consequences too. In low-trust societies it is more difficult to make transactions happen. The USA is a high-trust society and so are northern European countries. But in the Latin, Southern European countries trust is generally lower and buyers need more assurance to buy than a website can give them. So they will use a web shop as a catalogue, but will only purchase after personal contact through a phone call with a customer service. They need to establish whether a businesws is legit by interacting with a real human being as a representative of that business.

Exporting southwards is a bigger investment

As a result it takes much more customer service to establish a viable business in Southern Europe than in Northern Europe or North America, something an export strategy must take into account.

Trust and Brand Value

Have you ever visited a webshop to make a purchase for something we needed and left because you just did not trust the business? The product looked good. The price was right. But something stopped you from coming to a transaction and that something was a lack of trust.

Trusting-like-a-child

The Value of Trust in becoming a Brand

In order to induce visitors to fill out a lead form of make a purchase in a webshop first trust has to be established with the visitor. A first time visitor wanting to make a purchase or leave his contact details will be looking for signs that the website will fulfill his expectations.

The visitor will only leave his money with a website he trusts. Trust has to be won initially, when a visitor finds our website for the first time. Trust has then to be kept up. The customer’s expectations must be met, so he will come back and make a repeat purchase. Repeat purchases are what makes an online campaign profitable. If we analyze the marketing cost of a a keyword phrase, there are many keywords looking unprofitable if we do not realize the value of the customer coming back repeatedly and making purchase on the phone or by email. This is why it is unwise to pay too much attention to web analytics data and to measure the revenue of a channel as a whole. If we manage to deliver more to the customer than he expected the customer may not just come back, but also recommend our business to others. We then gain business by worth of mouth, which from the point of view of Return On Investment has the highest return.

To recapitulate:

1. win the visitors trust

2. meet his expectations

3. induce the customer to recommend your business to his friends and partners.

A marketing campaign, whether online or offline becomes profitable when we reach 3. Look at it this way. A competitor who manages his campaign from web analytics data will ignore many important search terms,because he is not recouping his investment on those keywords.

Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt

The barricade we have to overcome is the visitor’s Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt (FUD). The visitor is uncertain that if he leaves his money the expected product is not delivered  or does not meet his expectations.

How to overcome the FUD-factor?

In order to overcome the FUD-factor we have to present ourselves as objectively as possible to the visitor. First we can start write an extensive “about us” page, with who we are, the owner or manager, employees with pictures, a place where the customer can visit our shop or office. Also it is nice to explain what our vision is. Why is it a good idea to become our partner?

Describe in detail to the customer what the product looks like, when it will be delivered, what additional charges to expect. Show the customer our Terms and Conditions, so the serious visitor has the possibility to be convinced of our reliablity. Although only about two to five percent of our visitors will read the “about us” page and our Ts & Cs the percentage of those who read them who will make a purchase is very high.

Because people expect us to oversell ourselves it is a good idea to invest in external validation of our business. An excellent external validator is an online review. By asking our customers for a review and displaying reviews on our websites we establish trust. Our customers can see how good we are and what issues we have. External reviews make us look real.

Overdeliver

Finally, when the visitor decides to make a purchase, we have to make sure that his expectations are exceeded. Our customer service should be very good, if anything goes wrong, the customer should find us quickly and generously putting things right. There should be suffiicient customer service and account managers to engage dissapointed customers and we should make it part of our everyday business practice to feel the customers pulse and to check UNINTRUSIVELY whether his expectations were met.

Becoming a brand

When we built up a customer base of partners who trust us, who are delighted to have done business with us, who recommend us to their friends and partners we have become a brand. We are a business with ther reputation that we deliver what we promise and then some and customers keep coming back. We achieve this by looking further than online, by emphasising good customer service and treating customers right the foundation of our business.

Trust in International Online Marketing

In business the most important condition to turn a visitor to a website into a client is Trust. Before a visitor can become a client he first has to become convinced that you will meet his expectations.

This seems obvious , but can this be proved empirically?

To prove the point I am making here I will offer som Google Analytics statistics as evidence. People tend to trust paid advertisement less than free publicity. So by comparing conversion rates of Advertising and natural traffic to a website, it can be proved how important trust is.

In the last month a German webshop selling packaging materials shows a conversion of 0.65 percent for Adwords Advertisement and a whopping 3,78 for organic visitors. That means that organic visitors buy at nearly 6 times the rate of visitors to the webshop clicking op paid ads.

Finally it is obvious that investing in organic results by engaging an SEO firm makes a good business case.

German-Trust-Graph-short

Owning your brand

To be strong in the long term a company must own its brand. Owning the brand allows the company to build the fortress that I mentioned in the previous post on strategy and branding. Branded search has become an important part of SEO. The more searchers search for your brand the stronger Google will favour your company in your main market. E.g. if your main business is selling electric tooth brushes and your website has the same strength in linking and content as your main competitor, but your competitor, say Oral-B, receives more branded search, your competitor will not just receive all this branded search but also a higher position in organic than your website.

The cost of registering a brand

The question is how much it costs to register a brand internationally.

I just applied to register three brands Europe wide through a international law firm a week ago and the bill was 6.000 Euro’s. That is for 10 years. That is 600 Euro’s per year and 200 Euro’s for a brand. Compared to the cost of hiring SEO staff and the cost of your firm’s Google Adwords campaign in those 10 years that is a very reasonable price to protect those efforts.

Strategy and branding

Strategy and branding

Today, 21 november 2013, was the Digital Marketing in 1 Day Forum in Bussum, The Netherlands, where I watched a presentation by Joris Merks Benjaminsen, a Google House strategist.

Online Strategy

During the symposium I noticed Google Joris conflating strategy and branding. And this makes such good sense!

The object of a long term online strategy must always be branding. A internet driven company should always aim to strengthen its brand. The stronger the brand, the more the public knows a brand, the more the audience identifies a given market with your company, the better your company will be able to drive traffic to your branded website and the easier or cheaper it will be to sell your product or service.

Let’s analyse that.

The question is: how do branding and an Online Strategy connect?

Both we and our competitor have a budget. We spend out budget on marketing to reach our audience paying CPC for search and CPM for display, banners on websites. Both have a branding effect. The more the audience clicks on our ads and sees our offerings the more the audience becomes aware of us. As the audience becomes aware of us they will use our brand name more. The more our brand name is used by the audience the more cost effective our search campaigns will be. Yes our competitor can also bid on our brand name. But Google Adwords will give our ad more prominence for the same CPC because we our website more relevant for a searcher looking for our brand.

This way having the stronger brand gives us an impregnable fortress in search. 

There is more. Conversion is a matter of trust. Someone looking to purchase a product will buy only if he is sure that the webshop he visits will deliver his purchase. If the visitor knows our brand, knows its good reputation, he will be willing to buy our product because the visitor is sure we will give him what he has paid for.

This way having the stronger brand gives us an impregnable fortress in conversion.

Therefore branding should always be the centerpiece of a online strategy. A stronger brand means a larger cash flow. And the larger cash flow means we will be able to outbid the competition. That way our company will win.

International Online Strategy

It works like that in our home market. And it works like that in our export market. Therefore this is a international online strategy.

The difficult thing is how to brand. Branding is about focus. Focus on values, what our company is really about. We will consider this in a next post.