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
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.
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:
- build a ‘world ready’ business organisation
- research a clearly quantifiable, profitable and reachable target market
- source adequate finance
- identify cost effective distribution channels
- recruit a reliable in-country representative
- devise a local pricing strategy
- 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?