180 Markets - only 2000 hoursOne of the intimidating aspects of global sales is the sheer volume. The globe represents approximately 180 different national markets (the commonly accepted 196 after accounting for embargoed and restricted) to a potential US exporter. And the poor international sales coordinator can therefore only bring to bear 11 work hours/year/market.
Talk about overwhelming!!
Reality checkOK. I know. You have distributors in some markets and you have agents in others. You may have an international office or two of your own and if you're really cooking with gas you may have acquired a local company or structured a couple JVs. So through those efforts we have probably whittled the list of 180 down to.....150? 120? But those remaining may be low-volume or otherwise undesirable. So it's good to skip them anyway...or is it simply too hard to cover them? (Out of curiosity, if you left 120 key target accounts uncovered, how would that play?)
And more importantly, in those markets where you have committed resources and planted your company flag, you have lengthy and comprehensive distribution contracts which stipulate that the local distributor is responsible for lead generation and marketing in their territory. And that's consistently effective, right?
Perfect. Everything's taken care of. Leads come pouring in and sales growth is linear in the worst case.
But, before you stop reading convinced that I'm clueless let me confess - I'm also a wiseass. I have been on all sides of international channel management. I know the answer....
So what's the solution?Simply put - you have to do it yourself, and you have to find a way to do so with limited resources and from your US office. Therefore you have to have a strategically conceived international marketing program which incorporates international inbound marketing built on marketing localization best practices. It's a mouthful, but it's pretty simple. Here's what I mean.
1. It's not good enough to have a static website and a periodic tweet. You know that. But I'm not talking about your .com versions. I am talking about localized content on local TLD microsites and appropriate local social media. You should have distinct SEO keyword strategies for key markets; you need to have engaging content; and you must leverage all the locally preferred tools to drive that traffic.
2. Actively engage that traffic and convert visitors to leads. Don't just refer them to a "Call our local representative - search for a contact here" page! Provide compelling content that visitors are eager to have.
3. Don't just turn your agent loose on them. Cultural distinctions aside, global buying habits are changing. It's so easy to research business solutions that companies will do so on a whim. A lead isn't automatically an "I'm ready to buy" in any market - particularly those where the sales process is less "in your face" than we are accustomed to in the US. Rather nurture the leads. Visit with them periodically (a digital visit that is) and work to build the relationship that is so important in many cultures. Establish credibility and provide ongoing teases of business value.
4. Actively tweak and manage all these activities. Make metrics based decisions to consistently modify your approach to improve traffic, leads and conversions.
The upside and the downThe bad news is you're not going to do this with your standard US website. Period. This will take some work, and cost some money. But you knew that.
But the good news is manifold:
- You will go far to overcome the natural friction in the channel relationship
- If you map it out in a practical regional manner you will cover many of those 150 extra markets naturally, even though you only have 2000 hours!
- The cost will be less than just a few typical international business trips
- You'll grow your business globally!
Interested in learning more about international marketing and localization in general? Download our free whitepaper "The Four Immutable Laws of International Marketing"