15/05/2015

By Hayley Phoenix-Stones, Channel Manager at Oban Digital


Online trade is worth $30 trillion of revenue worldwide annually. Whether you are looking at countries in continental Europe, the Americas or further afield, it just needs a little bravery and some market insight to enable your business to break into new countries and make a success of growing a whole new revenue stream.

There are so many positive reasons to expand a business online to tap into these new opportunities. However, a number of myths have arisen which need to be dispelled.

Myth 1

International trade is difficult; it’s the playground of the multinationals and big corporations.

No, growth in international trade is across the board, SMEs, large businesses, medium and small all have successes and this is in every vertical. It is actually very simple to get started appealing to a worldwide audience. Just do the research and then you will build on solid international foundations.

Myth 2

You need to be multilingual; you need to be able to speak and service in the local language.

No, being culturally sensitive and having the right parts of your business talking in local language is not the same as needing full multilingual capabilities. In the Western world we are blessed as English is the international language of business. That, while a fortunate shortcut should not preclude a sensible business from marketing in local language. Do this digitally and you can explode your reach!

Myth 3

You need a physical office or presence in [insert your country of choice here]

No, we live in a digital age and technology allows us to transcend physicality. Websites and a cohesive digitally led marketing approach is all you need to be able to trade globally. The real power comes from choosing your markets wisely and focusing on developing your digital approach, get that right and like dominoes, everything else falls into place.

Large or small, niche or diverse, your business can grow at a much greater rate by stepping outside the limits of your home country and sharing your products and services with an international audience. This recent report by Mckinsey – Global Flows in a Digital Age has some eye watering figures about the immense scale of the global online economy.

Getting started – do your research

Which markets are right for you? There is a lot of information on-line about up and coming markets, everyone I know is talking about the untapped potential of China but also the struggles of dealing with its bureaucracy – Google does not prevail in China and for many baidu is a search engine shrouded in mystery. Latin America is also booming driven by a huge increase in wealth and accessibility to the internet. And, of course Russia with its nouveau riche billionaires playing in every imaginable market space cannot be discounted. So, how do you choose, and where do you start?

Choosing your markets

Do your own research if you have the time or hire experts to do that digital market research for you. Find out where your business has accidentally been successful overseas, or if not your own business, take some time to look at your competitors. We don’t need to make this hard, sales people call it “low hanging fruit”, build on your successes first. If there is a location that already shows a demand, then it would be remiss of you not to focus on serving that!

Outside of the UK (or your home country) the competition is different and 9 out of 10 times it will be less fierce. Look at how to digitally market yourself. Should you pay for visibility using something like Google Adwords or a localised paid media version of that?

Optimise your site to drive visitors

Should you get your website ready and look to optimise it (SEO) in your target markets? Some places around the world are far less advanced and to get good results and positive traffic can be much easier than in your home country. What may be mainstream here could be a lucrative niche market in the Nordics for example.

Word of mouse

Or how about getting involved in a conversation? Social media has proved its mettle in the UK and it is growing at a rapid rate all around the world. Word of mouth has become “word of mouse” and the power of brand recognition or reputation is something to never underestimate, it can also be very costs effective.

The internet has broken down many of the perceived barriers to cross border trade. Do not allow the old myths to hold you back from expanding and growing your revenue by engaging with an international audience.