Whenever a new business starts, it tries to consolidate by focusing on its native region, a market it is familiar with. It is a natural instinct to make the most of one’s home advantage. But sooner or later a moment comes when we realize that there is a need to move out of one’s comfort zone and explore other territories in search of growth. While it is a delicate task and the specifics will vary from case to case, let us list out a few basic strategies that should help you get started.
Build a diverse team
In order to crack a foreign market any organization must have in-house experts who are knowledgeable about that market. This may require people who are native of that market or at least has the experience of living and working there. So, the recruitment process will have to be readjusted to encourage cross-cultural teams. At the same time the organizational culture must evolve to make the most of such diversity instead of getting alarmed by it, which is not unusual when such a change takes place suddenly.
Learn local symbolisms and color connotations
Every culture has different symbolisms and connotations associated with them. For instance the color red might indicate danger somewhere or it might indicate virility in some other culture. Similarly showing the thumb might be considered disrespectful in some cultures. When an organization enters a new market dominated by a completely different culture, the first thing it must do is to familiarize itself with the local culture and redesign its marketing communication accordingly.
Before you please, learn not to offend
Drawing further from the previous point, it is important not to offend anyone even more than pleasing the new audience, especially when you are just establishing yourself. For instance, if you are entering the US market but all you know about it is from the pop culture references, you are likely to get into trouble. Every culture has its sensitive spots and also there are subcultures within every culture. You must dedicate enough resources to know your target audience and their culture.
International SEO is a different ballgame
The SEO game also changes completely the moment you enter international markets. Generally websites are optimized to work inside a particular market. So, internationalization will require websites with preferably top level domains of those new markets. They will have to be further localized by inserting local content such as local addresses, numbers and currency to inform the search engines that you are targeting a certain market.
You can also exercise geo-targeting using Google Webmaster Tools but for this purpose you will have to create country specific subdomains for every market you are trying to enter. There are other specific measures such as including country and language codes in meta-data, creating Hreflang XML Site Maps and opting for local hosting. Also you need to focus on a different set of keywords for new markets and must try to get backlinks from local websites.
… And so is international social networking
Similarly, social media marketing also becomes more complex with international markets. For instance, you might be doing well with your Facebook fan page and Twitter handle. You could manage with the same when you entered the Indian market as they are popular there too. But what happens when you enter China? They have their own versions of these popular networks and so all your existing channels are of no use out there! Ever heard of Renren and Weibo?
So, you may have to adopt different channels in different markets for social networking. Also, watch out for localization features provided by every network and source content from local providers to publish. But no matter what you do, these thrusts must be driven by a coherent strategy at the top and targeted at achieving predefined goals. Also, you must link to every social channel from your about page so as not to confuse the search engines.
Provide easy translation
Despite the pre-eminence of English, a huge majority of people are still not familiar with this language. Especially in countries such as Korea, China and Japan, where the native technology sector is well developed, even standard devices and websites use local language. So, you must not rely only on English and offer an option to easily translate the content of your site for the international audience. While Google Translator can be used, it is often too mechanical and even inaccurate sometimes. There are other professional translation services, such as Milengo and Lingo24 which can be considered here.
While international markets provide a lot of opportunities, it turns the marketing process completely on its head by introducing a diverse set of target audiences. In order to succeed, organizations must be able to fine-tune their strategies for each and every market separately. However, with a systematic and careful approach, it can be implemented effectively.
Have you had success launching your business overseas? What stategies do you believe are important? Share your tips in the comments section below.