Posted 11th February 2015 | By Nick Evans, Chairman

You are just considering opening export markets and you're evaluating what you need to do to make an impact in your chosen country or countries? Here's a little help with 10 top tips for online marketing for any small company wanting to export.

1. Create your strategy for going into export. You'll need to consider which countries you want to address, which languages you'll need to use, which of your materials both online and offline will need translating and how you will ensure that your online presence is consistent in every country you address. The materials you use include all promotional fliers, brochures, product documentation, warranties and support information

2. If you will be actually selling online, how will you ensure that all products are available in all countries and how will you launch new products across those countries, bearing in mind the need to hold stock?

3. Make sure you have the legals sorted out for each country you address. This isn't just the VAT rate or getting your Ts and Cs in order and translated; this includes ensuring for example, that in Germany and Belgium you don't offer goods for "free" - it's illegal. You must charge something, even if it's 1¢. Local rules on warranties and support may also trip you up, if you're not careful. Get local "feet on the ground" to check up on what is needed.

4. Make sure you have your internal communications in order. If a potential customer phones from Bulgaria and they don't speak English, how will you deal with their call? Maybe consider communications by email so that you can have local agents or resellers deal with the queries

5. When you think about your online presence, consider whether you need multiple websites for each language or a multilingual website. Duplicating and translating your website for each country or language may seem like a good idea in the short term, but what happens when you add more countries, when you change the products or add a new category of products? A single multilingual site will always be up to date, even if it is not translated fully. See for example the SPiCE3 website.

6. Consider whether you lead your website by country or by language. A website in French may be readable by people in France, Belgium, West Africa and so on, but is the context correct for those countries - will the products be available or are there different pricing structures, currencies, legal requirements etc.? You may need in that circumstance to have separate countries rather than languages, as the SPiCE3 website shows.

7. For e-commerce, are you ready to address the demands of ecommerce, such as fulfillment, packaging, returns, complaints, delivery overseas, queries, damage, fraud, payments, VAT, discounts, special deals, bulk orders. Make sure you have a strategy for each country for each of these.

8. Will your website be findable in all the countries you will address? If you have only a .co.uk domain, it's unlikely that your products will appear in searches elsewhere in Europe. Consider a generic top-level domain such as .com or .eu and then ensure that geo-targeting so set up properly on specific pages so that Google understands for which country you intend the content to be targeted. If you use English in more than one country, make sure that the hreflang tag is used to tell Google where you are pointing to.

9. Collecting customer data can cause not only problems with language, but also problems with names. For example, John Smith will enter his name on a "First name", "Last name" form quite happily. However, Márta Sebestyén will actually always enter her name the other way round on a form - it's a convention. What would Muhammad ibn Saeed ibn Abd al-Aziz al-Filasteeni put in the form? And what would you call him when you sent him emails? Collect name data with a single, unrestricted length field that does not constrain character sets, then ask a separate question - "What should we call you?"

10. Find good help - it's difficult, but there are people out there who know a lot about export. Check out the UKTI website for example. Their whole effort is to get other countries buying British goods. And then there are specialists in multilingual online marketing ... and you are reading our blog at this very moment!

Nick Evans from ExtraMile

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