Even as web-based marketing tools make it easier to reach potential customers around the globe, it’s important not to be blinkered by Google-colored glasses. While the Internet behemoth offers a slew of free tools ranging from YouTube to its Global Market Finder service, the service should be a first step, not the last, in an international marketing campaign.
Photo: Atomic Imagery
“Google isn’t necessarily No. 1 in every market. If you look at Russia, it’s Yandex. If you look at China, it’s Baidu. It’s about understanding which areas you’re in and which media are most prominent in that space,” says Amanda Steeves, vice-president of marketing for Toronto-based research, management consulting and B2B marketing consulting firm The Mezzanine Group.
That’s an important factor in search-engine optimization (SEO), where companies load their sites with popular words and phrases in order to boost their unpaid ranking in search-engine results. While simple translations can provide basic equivalents, they often don’t reflect nuances built into the algorithms of local search engine—or the local culture itself. For example, says Steeves, a direct translation of “retractable roof” wouldn’t do much for SEO in Russia—the phrase isn’t used there. “For that initiative, we had to reach out to local contacts and identify key words that were more relevant to that market. You have to use the right terminology.” In North America, for example, construction projects built to more environmental friendly standards usually seek LEED certification, but other countries and regions have their own green certification systems; potential customers wouldn’t automatically understand the concept of LEED.
Garrett Wasny, a web consultant and author of How to Conquer the World, isn’t a big fan of SEO, especially as the web becomes more personalized and localized, and as search engines constantly change their algorithms to prevent companies from gaming the system. He’d rather see companies focus on strong, frequently updated website content that speaks directly to the markets they’re targeting. That includes case studies with international examples and lots of references to target markets, if not country-specific websites. And he’d rather see a rudimentary translation than no translation at all. “I’m sure there are some translation purists who would freak out, but a lot of companies are taking baby steps into the global market and something like Google Translate is a simple tool that can help companies no matter where they are on the export continuum.”
As a Mezzanine Group blog entry points out, video is an increasingly cheap and easy way to communicate ideas across cultural and linguistic barriers. A video of a company leader talking about the company’s mission, for example, puts a face to a name, while a video of how a product works can communicate with images rather than words. Video can be distributed on the company’s website, on a DVD and, of course, on Google’s YouTube.com, which provides a way to subtitle videos. “There is instant credibility in a video,” says Wasny. “You could write a 200-page white paper and not have the effect of a 30-second video. Images are just so compelling and they show you’re a real person.”
Just because video has become easy to do doesn’t mean there aren’t pitfalls. “You really have to consider the region,” says Tania Fioretti, The Mezzanine Group’s marketing director. “If you’re entering the Middle Eastern market, for example, you have to consider the types of people you’re putting in your videos, what they’re wearing, what they’re drinking. The rule is to stick to the product. And you should always check it with people in that specific market before you launch it.”
The number of web-based services aimed at lead-nurturing has also grown exponentially. Steeves cites Eloqua, Marketo, Silverpop, LeadLander and Pardot as ways to keep on top of who’s downloaded a white paper, who’s looking for pricing information and who wants an occasional eblast newsletter. (Speaking of videos that explain products, Pardot has a good one.) Buying journeys can differ from country to country, says Steeves. “If you take North America, for example, there’s more of an aptitude for electronic communications. In other parts of the world, there’s more emphasis on face-to-face or a telephone call as a touch point.”
While lead-nurturing services vary greatly in cost, Wasny points again back to Google. Its Alerts are free, allowings users to get updates when websites, blogs and news sources use specified keywords — for example, offering an early warning that a company is starting on a new project for which they’ll need a supplier. So is Google’s Global Market Finder, which allows you to search for common searches in specified international markets in order to buy search ads against them.
“All these little value-added steps will drastically improve your profile over time,” says Wasny.
Though web-based tools can save time and automate many processes, they’re not a substitute for on-the-ground contact.
“No matter what market you’re entering, you’re going to need some kind of local support. Whether that means setting up your own office there with local staff or working with a partner,” says Steeves.
And remember to check out Business without Borders’ own Global Opportunity Tool. It should be your first stop in determining which countries are most disposed to buying your product or service. The tool lets you explore different international markets based on data from your own industry. The tool covers 55 countries which U.S. companies are most likely to trade with or expand into. The tool provides users with data on as many as 385 products or services. Using the Global Opportunity Tool is completely free for Business without Borders members.