A few months (or years) ago, strengthened by your success on your domestic market, you decided it was time to aim bigger and considered extending your success abroad. You selected a market where demand seemed to be present, set export targets that seemed realistic, and set up a team that would manage this new project. But since then, your figures are far from reaching your initial goals, and you’ve been wondering if your product is really suitable for foreign markets.
Before putting an end to this export adventure, take a step back and ask yourself whether your marketing / communication strategy is to the point. Because the recipes that work on your home market may be irrelevant in another country. And unless you’ve created the new Google, no one is waiting for you with arms wide open. To help you think things out, here are precisely in my opinion the 4 mistakes NOT TO MAKE, which would risk jeopardizing your international adventure.
1. An invisible and / or inadequate brand image
Being known and recognized on its local market is great. Developing this image on foreign markets is a completely different challenge. Unless you are Coca-Cola or Nike, it is essential to think about locating your brand according to the expectations and desires of local consumers. Did you ask yourself if your logo was suitable for this new market? Does your brand name work in the foreign language? Perhaps you should think of adding a baseline translated into the local language so that people understand your product or service at a glance? Look, even McDo has moved from a red background to a green background on the French market, to give a more « eco-friendly » image.
2. A minimalist online presence
At the strict minimum, you incorporated on your corporate site a tab translated into the language of your export market. Did you at least make sure the quality of this translation was good? Because it is useless to have an excellent product if the potential customers abroad cannot understand its description online. Remember: you get what you pay for. So if Google Translation is free, it is definitely NOT your best option. And if you want to be found by your customers on search engines, you will also need to work on your online visibility on this foreign market. Have you considered buying a domain name with the specific extension to the target country? Have you created a dedicated Facebook page in the foreign language? Have your considered a local Adwords campaign?
3. Customer service unadapted to local expectations
If you are aiming at convincing foreign customers to choose YOU over a local service provider, you have to give them a good reason. And an attractive price is not always enough. Clients must have access to at least the same quality of information and services as what is available locally, if not more. If not, what would be their interest in choosing a foreigner? Have you made sure that your sales documents use the correct local units of measure or currency? Can customers easily ask questions and get answers in their own language from your customer service? If you operate a phone hotline, can they call during usual business hours (taking time difference into account)? Are conditions, deadlines, and delivery rates clear? The easier you take into account the needs of foreign customers, the better your sales will be. It is up to you to adapt to local needs, to reassure and convince. Not the other way around.
4. A lack of curiosity about the country you are targeting
How many times have you visited the country in which your are trying to get contracts for your business? Do you know the language, the circles of influence, the trends of the local market? Do you have any idea of the cultural differences between your country and the export market that might explain why your figures are not what you had expected? If this is not the case, you or someone in your export team should quickly become familiar with the country and its culture, to avoid cultural misunderstandings that can sometimes greatly slow down your implementation. Whether in B2B or B2C, you must keep an open mind and stay curious of your potential costumer. This will get you a long way.
If you really want your export project to work, you need to spend time in planning it out. Target the right countries, show them that you care about them and strive to develop your company’s brand image with influential circles and direct customers. And if you feel overwhelmed, call on an expert in your market to help you. My French communication agency (www.my-french-communication-agency.com) is an expert in communication and marketing in France, helping foreign companies establish on this complicated market: communication strategy, sales documents, online presence, intercultural training …. Give us a call and we will see how to help you reach your export goals.