In todayâs marketplace, even small businesses can have a global reach. If you think your product or service would be a hit overseas, you arenât alone. In 2008, small businesses accounted for about 30 percent of U.S. exports, according to Bloomberg Business week magazine. And, with the proliferation of social media, the ability to bring globalization to a small scale is even easier. Letâs look at some ways to optimize your business for foreign customers.
Small businesses that want to do business across national borders need to investigate two key areas, which are payment and shipping options. Luckily, there are many cost-effective ways that you can make sure that your product or service reaches your customer safely while, at the same time, their payment reaches you without too many fees or delays.
Companies offering global postal solutions can help you and your staff estimate taxes and postal fees, and provide you and your customers with easy-to-use customs forms to make sure your goods get through international inspection quickly and easily.
Streamlined Payment and Shipping
Payment options for small businesses are also streamlined, with plenty of third-party apps and systems available to use, depending on your businessâs size. Chances are that some of the same payment mechanisms you use for your personal online shopping domestically are ones you could use for overseas customers. Services such as PayPal allow for multiple currencies, so your customers can pay you in dollars with little hassle.
Flexibility will earn you points from overseas customers as well, so be willing to listen if someone contacts you with another idea for shipping, providing service and even payment. However, a word of caution for new business owners or for very small enterprises - there are still instances of online fraud connected with payments from other countries, so be sure to investigate any customerâs alternative payment plan carefully before accepting.
Before you can even think about shipping and payments, youâll need to get your product or service in front of potential customers. With social media, itâs easier than ever to communicate with clients far and wide. You can give potential clients who are thousands of miles away virtual tours and question-and-answer sessions without leaving your office. If yours is the kind of business that sells best with face-to-face interactions, then social media can also help you network with on-the-ground sales associates, translators and even investors.
Once you begin to notice a bit of overseas interest for your products or services, you might think about optimizing your website or social media feeds for other languages. Though blogging in another language might be tricky, you can always ask your Web designer about helping you put together a summary products page available in key target languages. This will take a little extra investment, but will be worth it in the long run if it allows you to make a better first impression on overseas buyers. It may also be worthwhile to have a professional writer or business consultant go over the text of your website and product brochures to make sure that they are written clearly and concisely enough that they will be easy for a non-native speaker of English to understand.
Even if the writing is clear, if youâll be having a lot of overseas traffic on your website, you should ask a consultant to double-check your product or service descriptions translate clearly into the languages most often spoken in your target areas. What sounds brilliant in English might just sound a bit funny in German, for example, or scandalous in Spanish. As an example of what can get lost in translation, website BusinessInsider.com offers Jolly Green Giant, the maker of frozen vegetables. While in English, Jolly Green Giant sounds like something out of a warm and cozy childrenâs story, in Arabic the name came out Intimidating Green Monster- not quite something you want to take home and invite to dinner. For these kinds of translations questions, it may be tempting to check your siteâs accuracy with an online translator, but youâd be best off getting a professional human to do it, as he or she will be able to consider nuance and slang speech as well as the dictionary definitions.
Once youâve taken care of these key areas, youâll be on your way to growing your business in markets most businesspeople only dream of. Good luck!
Image by pixagraphic from Flickrâs Creative Commons
About the Author: Rian Lobkowitz is a small-business investor and marketing manager.
This blog is listed under E-Commerce Community