Editor’s Note: This post was originally published as one part of our series surrounding digital marketing for exporters when our agency attended Hannover-Messe, the world’s largest industrial trade fair, back in 2016. Since then, Justin and our team have reviewed this post frequently for relevancy and quality.
The Internet has become so integrated into our daily lives that we rarely reflect upon how drastically the world has changed. Now more than ever, brands and individuals have access to tools to achieve beyond what would have been thought possible compared to the world just two decades ago.
For exporters who take their global export marketing efforts seriously, using search engines to reach customers half-way across the world is an extremely effective strategy to use. The primary reason we’re attending Hannover-Messe 2016 is that we’ve proven how online marketing has worked for our clients and we want to share our knowledge with the world at large.
Digital Marketing For Exporters Just Works
Many know how integral digital marketing for exporters has become an overall growth strategy. The problem is that with so many different tactics to consider, it’s hard to weigh out which ones are going to provide the biggest returns while minimizing costs.
In 2001, I saw the potential for search engine marketing and used my early career successes to build Direct Online Marketing into the agency it has become today. Fast forward to 2008, Google AdWords (now known as Ads) was starting to mature and we had our first chance to get results for our new international clients.
Maybe this was more of a case of serendipity, but we began export marketing accidentally. Starting with our first foreign client from Australia, we used our experiences to eventually help clients in countries such as Costa Rica, Germany, Hong Kong, Russia, South Africa, and the United Kingdom.
Along the same line, we started helping our U.S.-based clients sell overseas to over 150 countries worldwide. Each marketplace has its own distinct challenges, but we were able to find success for clients in industries from luxury watches to higher education.
One example I often think about is what we achieved with Legacy Truck Center, a retailer specializing in heavy-duty truck parts with no prior exporting experience. In just under 5 years, Wheeling Truck Center sold truck parts in 94 different countries and was awarded the Presidential “E” Award for exporters in 2014.
Once we saw the success our clients were having, we started exploring the exporting marketing mix more seriously. We started by attending a U.S. Commercial Service (USCS) trade mission to Costa Rica and Guatemala. Since then we have attended Trade Winds, done Gold Key Services, and coordinated our own personalized country missions through the USCS.
Which brings us to today, where we’ve continued to help our clients tap into limitless markets. We know what works and we have proven time and again how exporters can use online marketing to their advantage.
4 Digital Marketing Strategies For Exporting To Unlock New Frontiers
With so many opportunities, the biggest challenge can be knowing where to start. Regardless of which path you decide to take, you need to make yourself aware of the multitude of free resources and where to find them. From there, you’ll have some data to get an idea of which foreign markets show promise.
1. Connect with Your Local USCS Office
Your first stop is checking in with the U.S. Commercial Service and finding your local office. Your rep will be a tremendous asset and can inform you of other free and low-cost resources like the Small Business Association, your state development agency, the Export-Import Bank, and your District Export Council.
2. Keyword Research in International Markets
The next thing we would recommend is looking at how much interest there is in your products or services in various country targets. The great thing about search engines is that you know the searcher’s intent. You can reach them when they’re most interested—when they’re looking for more information about what you sell. And don’t think that this only works for online retailers, because this can be a great tool for service providers, too.
To start, sign up for a free Google Ads account. You’ll need to put in a credit card, but you never need to spend any money with them. This will give you access to their Keyword Planner. Here you can enter keyword phrases or just your website to find out how often people are searching for what you’re selling in various countries and regions.
3. For Non-English Markets—Take Advantage of Professional Translation Services
For countries where English might not be the most commonly spoken language, you can use online translation tools to get a basic translation of your keywords. It’ll be in your best interests to eventually get these translated by professionals if you think a market shows enough potential.
If you are searching for a translation services provider, one of the European-based agencies my team has used recently is Lingo24. They’re based in London with sales support in the US, UK, Switzerland, and Sweden. To date, we have been very pleased with the quality of their translations.
4. Get a Country Assessment and Start a Campaign
If there’s a decent search volume, you can take the next step of sharing these results with your local USCS to get a country assessment or utilize search advertising professionals (like us?) to run a small test campaign to reach new prospects. Not only will this test campaign give you a better idea of what success you might have in a given country, but you can also apply your findings to your SEO strategy and optimize your site for organic search users.
Final Thoughts on Digital Marketing for Exporters
The fact is that most exporters don’t export to more than one country. So even if you are already conducting international business, digital marketing for exporters is a great option to tap into newer markets for the first time. All it takes is the willingness to explore your options and leaning on expert consultants to properly use these tools.
Want to learn more about international SEO and general digital marketing for exporting? Check out any one of these helpful resources written by our team below: