Global Marketing On The Internet

Friday, May 2, 2008 by Mistlee

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Global Marketing On The Internet

By Mike Moran

I had the chance to speak to 150 folks belonging to the World Trade Center (yes, it's an organization) yesterday in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania on the subject of marketing your business globally.

I've appeared there twice before and am always struck by the mix of local businesses (large and small) and foreign embassies promoting trade with their countries. You can download my slides on Internet Marketing Trends, but I wanted to talk a bit about what I heard there and what I told the audience.

Rick Andrews, head of international marketing at Hershey, the candy company, gave a great opening keynote on how Hershey has expanded internationally. His talk was full of good advice for how to reach emerging markets in traditional ways. Clearly, Hershey can't market chocolate bars to Chinese and Indian consumers unless they engage the local distribution channels and mass media. Rick explained to the audience how they selected their markets to focus on the growing South American and Asian markets, avoiding the saturated European market that has little growth and entrenched competitors.

After listening to Rick, it was clear to me that Hershey knows what it's doing. It was also clear to me that most businesses, especially smaller businesses, have no hope of emulating Hershey. Not because Rick's advice was wrong-it was spot on-but because most small businesses can't afford the market research, the distribution, the local feet on the street, and the advertising required to expand internationally the traditional way. The traditional way still works, of course, but there are new ways that are accessible to more businesses.

In my closing keynote for the conference, that's what I talked about. The Internet allows many small businesses to expand internationally because most of what you do is free. It takes time, creativity, and energy, but not much money, which puts it within reach of many businesses.

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Now, not every business is primed to expand using the Internet. As I've written before, small businesses must specialize to succeed on the Web, and international success is no different. In fact, the broader the appeal you want geographically, the more narrow your niche must be.

You must also ensure that your customers are online. It's more than looking at each country's Internet penetration statistics-your customers might be online when most of the country isn't. (This is true for many B2B opportunities.) Or you might reach customers through mobile even though they have no computers at home. Research your specific target market in the country that you are considering.

But don't stop your research at Internet access. Use the Internet to understand what your customers' problems are in your new targeted market. Because you can't afford expensive focus groups and traditional market research techniques, use Web 2.0 conversations to see what customers are talking about. What complaints do they post on message boards? Who are the bloggers for that industry in that country? What ratings and reviews do existing competitors get? This customer feedback is all available for free and will help you learn how to position your product to meet needs your competitors don't. That helps you specialize even more.

You also need to have a business that can handle being marketed from a remote country. Your Web site must be your marketing and sales vehicle to do things really cheaply. If not, you are back into the more expensive sales rep/distribution network models that have been out of reach for many businesses.

If your business fits the above criteria, then the hard work begins. You must craft a Web site that can sell in the target language and currency. You must ship direct. You must have customer service to handle problems. And, most of all, you must make your site persuasive and trustworthy.

If you can do all of that, you have a chance to expand overseas for very little money. Try it in one country and see how it works. You might find your way to new markets that fatten your bottom line.


About the Author:
Copyright Mike Moran

Mike Moran is an IBM Distinguished Engineer, expert on Internet marketing, and the author of Search Engine Marketing, Inc., the best-selling book on search marketing. Mike also writes the popular Biznology newsletter and blog.
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