There are many challenges to overcome when opening up foreign markets for small businesses. Despite this, thanks to technology and the Internet, it is possible for any company to open markets abroad even if its marketing budget is modest. In fact, one of the most effective ways to cross borders is the simplest of all: The use of the company’s own website, either through eCommerce or as a lead generation platform. Randall Castillo Ortega, an entrepreneur and expert in import and export operations, offers tips to prepare a company’s website for the foreign market.

The odds of buying on the web increase if the site is in the customer’s language. Asserts Castillo, “For a small business, generating content in other languages can be particularly expensive. One way to keep these costs under control is to use English as a first language to translate and additionally translate only the languages of markets where you have more interests.” Translation companies are reacting to this need and some like Gala already offer ad-hoc web content translation services. In case the company’s site contains multimedia, we will consider the use of subtitles, at least in English.

In addition to the mere translation, it is necessary to take into account the cultural differences in each country or continent. For example, the way to build business promotional messages in Asia can be very different from European ones.

In case the budget is not enough to translate the website completely into other languages, we can handle other alternatives such as translating only landing pages that have a clear marketing objective, such as downloading a brochure or generating leads. Another option – which doesn’t have to worsen the company’s image – is to link the content to Google’s translation tool. An automatic translation does not replace the human one, but it can improve the experience of the foreign user when visiting the web.

Starting to export business brings with it new cost models that must be taken into account. The logistics and those associated with possible currency changes are the most obvious. But it will also be necessary to consider the possible customs or fiscal costs that a buyer will have to bear depending on each country. Some international logistics operators facilitate these procedures and calculations as part of their software tools that they make available to their customers.

Google maintains different sites for each geographic market. The monitoring, tracking and optimization of keywords – whether SEO (search engine optimization) or SEM (search engine marketing) – should be extended to regional portals where we have an interest. This work can be addressed by purchasing different regional domain names for each of the countries, using keywords in other languages and segmenting geographically through Google’s Webmaster tools.

To export most goods or services, you do not need any authorization, in most cases. However, there may be restrictions on the export or import of some products such as defense materials, firearms, seeds, organic products, food, etc. Once the existing restrictions are known, they should appear in some form on the company’s website; especially if we have an eCommerce system. In case it is not possible to ship to some countries or there are restrictions of some kind. “Consumer rights and obligations of a service provider may vary from country to country. International organizations such as the OECD have published some guidelines aimed at companies that operate on the Internet internationally,” adds Castillo.

In Marketing, segmenting properly always has a prize. That is why it is very advisable to complement the action on the web with segmented database marketing actions on the same markets / segments where we have oriented the web. In case the business is B2B, a source to get these records is GRS, a data segmentation and export tool offered by Informa D&B and that allows access to 220 million companies globally. In such a case, you can execute a simple and effective strategy that combines email and telemarketing prospecting. If the segmentation is adequate, the impacts of that action will cause searches in Internet search engines that will take prospects to the web that has previously been prepared for that market.

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