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Finding —and keeping— an international audience

Customers are looking beyond their borders for goods and services. Storytelling, thus, becomes the new localization. Closeness and trust become the new currencies in business.

I’ve been running an independent digital marketing studio for fifteen years. Back when we started we were a strange bird. We were remote from day one, working from home, and finding clients half a world away. What was a novelty back then is quickly becoming an ordinary business option.

This is not a guide on cross-border commerce, international tax management, logistics planning or similar. You can find plenty of information around those essential topics online, with a myriad of resources truly tailored to the needs of your specific vertical, product, service or niche.

Instead, I’d like to focus on a few principles I believe are truly universal, and absolutely mandatory if you want to find, charm and engage customers in foreign markets.

When in (virtual) Rome…

If your desired international market can be delimited to a country, region, or even language, do your homework. Embrace their culture and their quirks. Invest time into learning about their music, their sports teams, geography, holidays, typical food. Then use that knowledge to spice up your communications. Play with words, show respect the right way, use your notes to open up conversations, and to make your clients enjoy their interactions with your brand’s voice in their own ways.

The consequence of this ruling principle is that you shouldn’t just limit yourself to localizing, translating, or showing prices on your new audience’s currency. That’s all good stuff, but not enough. Go way beyond that. Adapt, so you can connect.

Borders and distances matter little when your clients perceive you’re actually, genuinely interested in them, their lifestyle and their uniqueness.

Tell a story

Chances are 99% of the time your future amazing international customer will find you through online channels. All of them — website, social networks, email and so on — must deliver a consistent brand experience. Tell a unified story that spans:

  • Personality. Who you are as a brand.
  • Purpose. Why you do what you do.
  • Talent. Why you’re the best choice.
  • Commitment. What you can promise.
  • Track record. What you’re capable of delivering.

These questions are often hard for all of us running small businesses, no matter if you sell local or international. But it’s essential in order to streamline a narrative that truly conveys why you’re the best match to that prospect looking at you through a shiny screen.

Emotions and first impressions trump reason easily. When you tell your story the right way you earn the attention and pave the way to trust.

And trust means everything

We live in a world where even your grandma knows what “phishing” and “hacking” is. Or at least that it’s something that sounds dangerous. Everyone is cautious online by default and it’s a challenge to overcome if you want to sell abroad. Make sure you can remove distrust and fear from the conversation soon.

Keep these principles in mind when writing your material:

  • Avoid using jargon
  • Avoid salesy pitches
  • Show your credentials, badges and expertise clearly and proudly
  • Incentivize and reward your client’s kind words through reviews, testimonials or case studies

And be drastically honest. Clients can tell the difference. Truth becomes extremely persuasive when you have a good product you believe in.

Remove blockers

As with any other thing in the life of a small business, selling internationally is all about making mistakes and learning from your customers. You’ll have rejections and you’ll have to fine-tune the strategy. As your experience with these new markets evolve, your ability to deliver a sales pitch without a flinch will, too.

In digital interactions anticipating objections is key to developing trust, understanding, opening the discussion and positioning you as a solid alternative.

Make sure your contents across all your marketing channels are consistent and can address these questions before they’re asked. Use FAQs, landing pages, demos, shipping information, size charts, anything that fits your product or service properly.

Turn the tables early

Address the fact that you’re elsewhere in the world in your favor. Make it obvious. I’ve seen countless companies hiding their location in fear of losing business. By taking the initiative and owning it you drive the conversation to a different place. It’s no longer a thing, it’s no longer a problem. The information is there in plain sight. You’ve removed the constraint by making it obvious.

Now your potential clients can focus on what makes you different. It might be your product, your skillset, your rates, your customer support that can stand any test across multiple time zones, your experience. Or simply the fact that your diversity gives you a totally different perspective and fresh ideas, and that’s a tremendous competitive edge. Wear it proudly!

Rely on technology

Platforms such as Mailchimp democratize opportunities for small businesses like ours, helping us leverage the competition field. In our case it would have been impossible to keep the business running for fifteen years without an ecosystem of apps that allow us to showcase our brand and reach out to different audiences without making crazy investments. Tips to start walking this path:

  • Create a website that conveys all these concepts we’ve discussed. There’s no need for a big investment or a design career.
  • Create contents — white papers, reports, guides, catalogs — that connect with your audience, and a landing page to offer them in exchange for an email subscription.
  • Email lists don’t grow overnight. Prepare to be patient! Connect all your forms with your favorite email marketing tool and send campaigns at regular intervals, with content you’d be thrilled to read yourself.
  • Show yourself in order to be found. Create ads online and social media posts to reach out to your new target audience. Remember to approach them in their own voice.
  • Learn how to automate your campaigns and processes. You’ll save tons of time and will keep the conversation and interest going.

It doesn’t have to be perfect. Experiment with the available tools and drive your own conclusions. Each business is different and we’re all learning by doing. If you have questions or need a push, remember you have a fantastic group of experts at your disposal, ready to help you and provide great, actionable tips.

Open the gates!

At the end of the day it’s a matter of daring. There’s a lot to win by broadening your market options, internationalizing your brand and learning how to adapt fast. It will not only increase your audience and grow your business, but it will also give you valuable lessons along the way that will positively impact your entire organization, both locally and abroad.

*DuckDuckChimp is a 100% remote digital marketing agency with extensive experience working with clients in the US, Canada, United Kingdom and Spain. Its on-demand marketing team provides ongoing campaign consulting, strategy, planning and execution to help clients from ideation to implemetation and optimization. You can find more information about at Mailchimp profile.

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