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The Internet has made it easier than ever to market products and services across the globe. Most companies today are so focused on their domestic market that they do not pay any attention to the overseas markets. Nevertheless, the international markets represent an immense potential. (A North American company can triple its turnover by properly addressing the world market). Of course, one must budget sufficiently for marketing to achieve this goal.
Things become more complicated when dealing with other countries where English is not the official language. Our main point here is that most everyone accesses the Internet in their own language. If they live in a non-English country, they are most likely not going to access the Internet in English. In order to market to them, you have to determine where they congregate (i.e. other language areas of the Internet) and market to them there. A Web site needs to be able to attract visitors from many countries without them having to wonder whether they will understand the message once they arrive at your Web site. This idea is equally true for translated Web sites. No one overseas could possibly find your it (even if translated) unless you make an effort to make it visible in the language(s) concerned.
The importance of marketing a Web site cannot be overemphasized. Recent statistics show that large American corporations are actually cutting their budget for Internet business, since they did not achieve the results they expected a year or so after they launched their Web site. The real reason for lack of online business goes back to lack of marketing the Web site, not lack of interest from those online. Even in English-speaking countries, there has not been enough marketing and promotion of the existing Websites. It is strongly recommended to budget just as much for promoting one's Web site as for creating it.
1. Choose which countries (or languages) to target:
you start using the Web to present your company's products or services to the
international market, your analysis needs to keep in mind two factors:
To translate or not to translate:
If you choose not to translate your site, but still want to draw visitors from Northern Europe (where English is widely understood), at least promote your Website in these countries, in their own language(s). They will find their way to your Web site and usually be able to understand it adequately in English.
At the opposite extreme are products and services that are marketed to everyone abroad: entertainment, household products, CDs, etc. Here you need to translate as much as you can afford, to have as much of your site as accessible as possible. You cannot just create your Web site in English for the world market and just assume it will be understood. (The attitude that "visitors will have to read English or nothing".)
Most Websites, however, fall between these two extremes, where it is good to translate part of the Web site. Not translating will always make a portion of your audience click elsewhere, since they cannot understand English or do not want to read it in English at that time.
The importance of language can never be overemphasized. Overall, only 12% of Europe's population speaks English as a first language, and only 28% speaks English at all. A recent major research study of almost 38,000 European Internet users (http://www.blueskyinc.com/langues.htm) found that English is cited as the first language by 52% of all European users (or, not counting the U.K./Ireland, English is used by only 32% of users, followed by German at 22% and French at 17%).
An extremely enlightening article about the international aspect of online business is in Hambricht and Quist's online e-zine, "I-Word", at http://www.hamquist.com/iword/iword23/istory23.html. It is one of the best articles on the subject, underlining the need for American companies to seriously address international markets. Excerpt:
"The international appetite for such services is unquestionable; today most major U.S. Internet companies report that fully 22% to 32% of their customers access their U.S.-based English language services from overseas. Yahoo! reports that users from 110 different countries access its core English language site at www.yahoo.com on a daily basis. While European sources tell us that their markets are anywhere from 18 months to two years behind the United States in terms of Internet adoption, this should be viewed as an opportunity for U.S. Internet companies looking to expand overseas. In fact, we at Hambrecht & Quist believe it portends the type of explosive growth in Internet use that swept the United States between 1995 and 1996, especially as telecommunications deregulation begins to take effect in countries around the world.
believe prevailing market research supports our contention. SIMBA Information,
a market research firm in Wilton, Conn., predicts that non-North American international
markets will produce 30% of all consumer online revenue by 2000, up from just
12% in 1995. Jupiter Communications, a market research firm in New York City,
forecasts that fully 40% of the world's online households will reside in Europe
and Asia/Pacific Rim by 2000, up from 29% today."
There is a growing interest in bringing Web sites not only into European languages, but into Asian ones as well -- especially Japanese. And don't think that these native language Web sites are aimed at Asia. There are more Chinese online in the U.S. than in China (one-third of the 2 million Chinese-Americans), and there are many Japanese, Koreans and Filipinos living in the U.S. and Europe -- all of whom prefer to access various media in their own native language.
As of this writing (summer, 1997), there were approximately the following major language families. These figures reflect the number of email accounts, not those with Web access (which generally represent one-third of these figures):
Two acceptable techniques for email marketing are Newsgroups and online forums, both in the languages of your target group. Although both areas are just developing for the first time now, both are accessible for those people abroad who have access only to email. You can see German Newsgroups at "de.*", French ones at "fr.*" (or at http://www.fr.net/news-fr/liste.html), Dutch ones at "nl.*", etc.
of discussion groups can be found at:
Whereas there are starting to be acceptable means of targeting "opt-in" email databases, for people interested in something quite specific, there is not yet any equivalent outside the English language. These direct marketing lists will surely develop, but they are not prevalent yet. This being said, it is my experience that Europeans are far more tolerant of direct marketing by email than Americans are, as long as the presentation is professional.
3. Make sure you have established your logistics in advance:
Just because the Internet is global in scope does not mean that international business is easy. Let me be quite clear of your goal in overseas marketing: your goal is to motivate potential buyers for your product or service... to identify themselves. The rest is traditional international business practice, and is quite straightforward. If you are not used to selling abroad, you need to consider issues that have been part of international business for centuries.
d. After-sales service usually depends on a geographically local warehouse, where defective products can be exchanged. If you are targeting Europe, there are countless such warehouses in Holland who can stock replacement products in a duty-free zone and respond to your customers in their local languages.
Promote and advertise your Web site abroad:
A solid marketing plan will include elements of all of these points. Some Webmasters only register their Web site in overseas indexes, expecting international visitors flock to their site. This is just as naive as putting one's address in the phone directory and considering that enough marketing to attract lots of business. No wonder they are disappointed and then discredit the online market. In reality, the international market is quite vast and needs to be budgeted for accordingly.
Registering one's Web site in international indexes, then, goes without saying: of course it is necessary. Actively marketing the Web site involves ongoing activity in press releases, strategic linking and banner advertising.
A word about non-English-language banner advertising, which is perhaps the most effective way of advertising your Web site, since the reaction is immediate and emotional for someone online to see your banner, click on it, and find you. Using this technique abroad works best when the words on the banner are translated and placed on overseas Web pages best suited for the target market. Your click-through rate will be much higher if it is in the local language than if it is in English. Contrary to what you may hear, there are many people online in Europe do not read English.
Banner ads have just started now in countries outside the U.S./Canada. One cannot demand the sophistication of auditing techniques and banner rotation that is common in the U.S. If you decide to place banners abroad, consider that a banner seen by someone overseas might even be considered unusual, since advertising is not very pervasive outside the U.S./Canada... which means that more people may be attracted to click on your banner, to see what it is. (Remember your own reaction in 1994 or 1995 when you started seeing banners for the first time on the Web. In those days, some banners resulted in nearly 81%-90% clickthrough rate since no one understood what they were.)
5. Other techniques of promoting your Web site overseas:
Magazine ads in overseas publications.
Creating community in the languages of your target market. Email and Web-based discussion groups are now common in English. They are still quite new abroad. If your product or service lends itself to this form of discussion, your company can become the online authority of the subject at hand. Of course, it will require native speakers to lead the discussion and give it life, but they can be found.
Hardware: Apple Computer (http://www.apple.com)
Marketing your Web site is like marketing anything else. You need to keep at it. Make sure that you continue monitoring the international index sites where you list your URL to make sure that it is still listed. Send more press releases. Add more online promotion work in the countries that you are targeting. It is an excellent idea to establish a monthly budget for your international Web site promotion, as more visitors turn into sales.
The Internet as a marketing medium is still quite young. Even in the U.S., there was very little marketing done on the Internet before 1995, and in Europe and Asia the Internet is just starting to be known as a marketing medium in 1997! (So don't think that you have missed the boat.) However, with the ever-rapid growth of the online population, you should not wait: online history has proven that early entrants "lock up" key positions in their market. The sooner you take your company marketing international, the sooner you will move up the learning curve and your online marketing will begin turning into sales. Start now... before your competition does.
"Internet marketing is not static, it is an ongoing process. Putting your site on the Web is not the end of your journey, it is the beginning."
Further opportunity brought him into Compaq Computer's newly established Paris office, where he became Compaq's first sales manager in France. He continued with Compaq the next year at their European Headquarters, and managed sales in Scandinavia. Since the mid-1980s, he has developed Euro-Marketing Associates (EMA) from Paris and San Francisco. EMA's focus was to locate new, cutting-edge technologies in the U.S. and develop distribution channels for them in Europe.
Since 1995, Euro-Marketing Associates has been restructured into a virtual consultancy of top online marketers throughout the world, to market Web sites in each country and attract more online traffic.