Tweak Your Biz » Global » Going Global: Is an Online Strategy Enough?

Going Global: Is an Online Strategy Enough?



Has recession in your home market hit the bottom line?

Never fear, salvation is at hand.

All you need to do is translate your web site into the appropriate language to tap into those lucrative foreign markets.

In the ‘flat world’ of the internet, if you build a local presence overseas, they will come.

Worried about telephone enquiries in a foreign language?  Just get your local call centre to manage those for you.   Email enquiries?  Google Translate can take care of those.

Just sit back and watch your profits grow.  It’s that simple.

Or is it?

Don’t Forget your Offline Strategy

Fish Market Viet Nam

Lucas Jons (CC) www.flickr.com

The internet appears to have lowered barriers to entry into foreign markets. But has it really meant easier access to overseas customers once the ‘inconveniences’ of language and culture have been overcome by the marketeer?

The OECD Survey (2009) “Top Barriers and Drivers to SME Internationalisation” outlines some of the reasons why your international website might not make you a multi-millionaire overnight.  Especially if you haven’t thought in detail about the offline bits of your international marketing mix before taking the online leap.

SMEs in advanced economies faced the following challenges when going global, according to the OECD survey:

  • Shortage of working capital to finance exports
  • Problems identifying foreign business opportunities
  • Limited information to analyse/locate markets
  • Inability to contact overseas customers
  • Obtaining reliable foreign representation
  • Lack of managerial time to deal with internationalisation
  • Lack of staff training for or experience of internationalisation
  • Difficulty in matching international competitors prices
  • Lack of home government assistance/incentives
  • Excessive transport costs
  • Failure to develop new products for foreign markets
  • Unfamiliar exporting procedures/paperwork
  • Failure to meet export quality standards or specifications

Despite the advent of international eCommerce, small business is still facing the same diseconomies of scale and high transaction costs that it has always endured.  We can’t all be Amazon.

But how can nimble SMEs and microenterprises overcome these offline challenges to their online business plans?

Seven ‘Offline’ Tips for Online Success

It may seem obvious but you need to consider how your international marketing mix addresses each of these offline challenges before you design that shiny new overseas web presence. You’d be surprised how many firms fail to do this.

Vietnamese Dong

by Amasc (CC) www.flickr.com

Like the firm who spent thousands of euros on a web site, trade shows and print to promote a complex B2B product in Japan but had no Japanese speaking engineers to convert the leads.

Of course, localising your web presence is an important, final step in any international business strategy.  But it is surprising how many firms rush into an online strategy without thinking through a detailed marketing mix.

This can have unintended, expensive and unpleasant consequences –not least of which is ballooning web development costs as your website gets reworked when these unaddressed challenges emerge after the site launch.

Remember, you will need to think about how you will:

  1. build  a ‘world ready’ business organisation
  2. research a clearly quantifiable, profitable  and reachable target market
  3. source  adequate finance
  4. identify cost effective distribution channels
  5. recruit a reliable in-country representative
  6. devise a local pricing strategy
  7. develop relevant products or services that meet local quality standards and local needs.

And you should probably do this before you telephone your web developer.

Now that shouldn’t be too hard now, should it?



The Author:

I am an experienced international marketing and product localisation specialist with more than 20 years experience in European, Latin American and East Asian markets. Wide functional experience in international software program management and product planning, intranet and internet project management, international product planning and marketing management, training course development and delivery – as well as localisation project management. With 15 years spent working at Visio Corporation and Microsoft in Office, Exchange, HRD and Business Solutions divisions as an international program manager– I have also worked as a consultant with a leading online marketing communications firm and in the aviation training and third level sector.

Add Your Comment

  • http://www.channelship.ie/blog/ Fred

    Nice post Dermot. Welcome to Bloggertone!
    I guess it wouldn’t happen that often but you wouldn’t believe the amount of businesses that also forget about their offline strategies locally.
    It doesn’t matter what business you’re in, there’s always going to be an opportunity to mix offline moves or even better to enhance online tactics with offline ones and vice-versa.
    For example: Aweber.com is a comprehensive email marketing tool. Their business model is 100% online. When we signed up last year, we received a professional welcome letter in the post. Of course, we were not expecting that. It felt really good.

  • DermotQ

    Thanks for the warm welcome Fred. Offline is always going to be a key part of the mix for any business – it can differentiate your business from the herd. In the recession, my experience is that many traditional ‘online’ businesses are now going upstream to get their customers using tried and tested ‘offline’ strategies. Upstream strategies are more expensive but the quality of lead is better. It’s all part of the mix. Worthy of another discussion, I think!

  • Anonymous

    Great post Dermot, I wholeheartedly agree with you. The web is a great tool but often I think people forget that it is just that, a tool. Like anything in business we need to get the basics right first. In my opinion the issue is basic planning-fail to plan and all that malarkey! Thanks for the post, enjoyed it.

  • http://www.btbtraining.com/blog Niall Devitt

    Hi Dermot, Welcome to Bloggertone! Great reminders to us all. It worth noting that many Irish companies for instance are almost born international – so the points that you highlight need to be absolutely considered from the get-go. Researching a clearly quantifiable, profitable & reachable target market” is a place where the net can assist, the key is to use it as a support rather than a lead tool. Many of your 7 points, while critical to success are difficult to get right. Underestimating what’s required could spell big trouble down the line. Thanks for sharing, Niall

  • http://cindyking.biz/ Cindy King

    Dermot, it’s great to read your words of caution about jumping in head first with website localization. This is something I constantly have to address. People often don’t realize they can and should do a lot of ground work with their current marketing (in English) before thinking of looking up translation companies.

    I wanted to give this article a link and with a shout out to you on Twitter & Facebook – it’s a pity your Twitter account is on the private setting and I couldn’t find you on FB. Please send me a message on Twitter (@CindyKing) and Facebook (cindyking.biz) if you get them up soon. Would love to help you spread the word.

  • http://www.seefincoaching.com/blog Elaine Rogers

    Good sound advice Dermot,
    Localising a foreign market strategy requires a lot more than a translated website.
    I would encourage business people who have been mainly on-line to be vigilant about maintaining off-line communications and strategies.
    I feel it’s very easy to forget or even ignore one (on-line or off-line), when predominantly involved with the other.
    Just my observation, as I am still very localised here in Ireland, but use both. I hear every word you are saying in this post. Thanks for sharing.

  • http://www.cgonlinemarketing.com/ Christina Giliberti

    Hi Dermot,

    There does appear to be this utter dependancy on a website. Its cost-effective, granted, but it isn’t a miracle cure or separate business model. To set a global strategy is much more complex – as you so rightly point out. It takes planning, country-knowledge and experienced personnel.
    Even the differences between Ireland and the UK are vast.

    You need to tailor your approach and carefully plan. Translation is key, and not just the main content, but all feeding streams aswell.

  • http://www.star-ts.com STAR Translation Services

    Hi Dermot,
    nice article. You should also always tie your online and offline strategies together.

    Just a point, but you need to have your website professionally translated – to ensure your message is getting across in the right way to the target language. Translation is more about marketing than anything else. Google just does not do the job.

    Offline – always make sure everything has your website address on it. Someone might see your prpdocut and wonder – where do I get one of those. If you have no site address on the product – the customer is lost.

    I was on the plane last week and saw an unusual carry bag. Its was designed for specific type of product. I got talking to the person carrying it and they happened to be the marketing manager for it. It had the company logo but no website address. So if I hadn’t met them I would have been able top find out more details.

    Your website address should be on everything newletters, biz cards, pens – anything. We even do bookmarks for clients!. Remember you can’t be always physically present to sell. We have postcards printed with our translation services information as well and we leave them everywhere we go. Everyone needs postcards. They get picked up and sent to other people and turn up in the most unusual places. Some of which turns into new business for us.

    Cheers
    Damian Scattergood
    STAR Translation Services:
    http://www.star-ts.com
    Confidence in a Translated World.

  • http://www.encouragingexcellence.ie/ Mairu00e9ad Kelly

    Nice post Sian. In a previous life I was a bookkeeper and the simple task of having everything in orderly piles/folders make so much sense. Of my specialities was to go in to a sole trader’s office and set up all the systems so that they could easily be followed after I left. A mechanic rarely forgets to check the oil and water on a car and good habits like the ones recommended above DO make everyone’s life so much easier.

  • http://www.sianphillips.ie Sian Phillips

    Thanks Mairead. I know it’s a real chore to get accounts in order – hate doing my own – but I hope this post helps make life a bit easier for some. I had a carpenter friend once and his idea of getting his accounts ready for the accountant was to get a box and empty his van out of all paperwork into the box

  • http://www.ivanwalsh.com Ivan Walsh

    One of the biggest mistakes I made (or things I would change) was not getting an Accountant sooner.nnIt freed me up to do other things and he found ways to claw back over payments :)

  • http://www.sianphillips.ie Sian Phillips

    Thanks for the comment Ivan. We do train for many years to know the trade and I always think it’s best to delegate to someone else what they are good at and then you can concentrate on your expertise.

  • http://www.sianphillips.ie Sian Phillips

    Thanks for the comment Conor. Unfortunately speaking from an accountants point of view the tradesmen should raise invoices. Maybe use a bookkeeper if they can’t do invoices themselves. They’ll then find payments easier to get in and will easily cover the cost of delegating the work to a bookkeeper

  • http://www.sianphillips.ie Sian Phillips

    Thanks for the comment Angela. You’ve made some great points about ensuring an agreement is in place before the work is done too. And not to make it personal.

  • http://www.sianphillips.ie Sian Phillips

    Thanks Ivan. Yes reminders and statements work well too. However I’ve always found the phone call works the best of the lot – and keep the calls going regularly so they know you mean business. It does help being able to call from different numbers sometimes too :)

  • http://www.encouragingexcellence.ie/ Mairu00e9ad Kelly

    I remember watching someone in credit control while on work experience and then getting a similar type job in a much smaller company a few months later. I got their debtor days down from 180 days to 40, mostly becasue I followed the type of advise you outlined above. I would also get the financial controller to go and let the company know that he was on his way to collect the promised cheque (or somethimes bank draft). Someone that important was rarely refused. Great practical advise Sian, staying calm and polite makes a HUGE difference.

  • http://websitesgiveback.com/blog/ Elena Patrice

    I wholeheartedly agree with this article Adam! I’ve never heard the word “ambassador” used before in reference to a small business owner, yet this is the absolute best word to use! Thank you! When I think about it, I am always representing my company 24/7 and that’s what an ambassador does indeed. This is valuable information that any small business owner should take a moment and reflect on (even if it stings a bit). ;)n nMuch kindness,n nElena

  • http://www.academicallstartutoring.com Molly Perry

    As a new business owner, it is always good to get good information. We do wear many hats at many different times, but need to remember we are our business!

  • http://frugalentrepreneur.com/ Adam Gottlieb

    Hi Elena,nnSmall business owners have this added title because very often their company is built around their own talents, skills, expertice, etc; they are like a walking advertisement/representation even when they are not officially at work.nnThanks for the comment.nnAdam

  • http://frugalentrepreneur.com/ Adam Gottlieb

    Hi Molly,nn”[We] need to remember we are our business!” nnYeah, that’s my point.nnAdam

  • http://www.seefincoaching.com/blog Elaine Rogers

    If a SBO looks on themselves as an Ambassador, then they won’t fear the “Sales” aspect of their business. Sales is almost a dirty word for many business owners, yet if you ask them casually about their business, and they are passionate (a pre-requisite) they could talk all day. nnnSo in order for sales to succeed, a change in mindset is often needed. Ambassador is such a sweet tasting word compared to salesperson. nnnThe biggest challenge for some of my clients is not so much the passion, but the self-belief. I think we first must convince ourselves that the business is viable (and valuable to others) before we go outside. Also, being passionate about what we do does not guarantee transference onto others.nnnGreat points Adam! n@seefincoaching:twittern n

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