The United States exported $2.35 trillion worth of goods and services in 2014 alone. – An impressive number, no doubt.
Even more impressive, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, small to medium sized businesses are some of the largest contributors to US exports.
In the age of the internet, this isn’t surprising. Online export marketing technology has impacted the ways businesses access growth opportunities in foreign markets. While a detailed market analysis is required before entering any new market, with over 3 billion people connected to the internet globally, online technology has made the export process more accessible than ever before.
Bain & Company estimates that two-thirds of all B2B buying research occurs online. Industrial businesses can use this growth in online business research to see what buyers are interested in and how they are searching for it. Using marketing tools, businesses are able to see which parts of the world buyers are visiting a website from, making it easy to discover regions that are already interested in specific products or services. Regions with high website traffic, that also align with larger market assessment strategies, are likely good export starting points.
Tools such as Google AdWords Keyword Planner and Moz are useful for understanding how customers are searching for products in different regions. Language barriers aside, it is important to realize that buyers may describe products differently abroad than in domestic markets. Keyword tools offer insights into which terms are being searched for in different markets and how many other businesses are competing to be recognized for those terms. Understanding what customers are searching for and where they are searching from is now an important part of the export process.
Search engines play an important role in an export strategy as well. According to Google, 71% of B2B researchers begin their research with a generic search about the type of product or service they need. Businesses which display higher in search results in foreign markets will gain exposure to buyers, free of charge. We’ve written about the importance of search engine optimization (SEO) before, but its role in export marketing cannot be understated. Businesses in the top 3-5 search results are deemed more credible among buyers – an important factor for any exporter entering a new market.
Paid search advertising campaigns offer an increased level of accuracy from organic SEO. Online ad campaigns display at the top of search results and allow exporters to target ads at specific geographic locations. This high level of accuracy makes it easy for businesses to gain exposure in any of the regions identified in an export assessment plan. Since ads only display to viewers who search for terms related to the products or services being promoted, businesses can be sure they are targeting the proper audiences.
It has traditionally been challenging for export marketing teams to manage leads in distant markets. Without a team on the ground, it can be difficult to stay engaged with a new lead and properly prioritize sales efforts. However, marketing technology has changed the ways sales and marketing teams handle sales leads. Marketing automation tools allow teams to set up targeted campaigns which automatically communicate with leads based on a defined set of actions. As leads indicate that they are getting closer to making a purchase, marketing teams are notified and can pass qualified leads to sales.
Marketing technology is quickly becoming an essential exporting tool. A missed opportunity can be a significant setback for success in the region. The ability to track, manage, and follow up with leads in a repeatable fashion ensures potential sales are never overlooked. For small and medium-sized businesses, this helps to minimize the risk of failed expansion and removes the immediate need for new offices and movement of staff.
Finding the proper export markets for a product or service can contribute to significant business growth and help to diversify a business’s customer base. Consider the following resources for North American businesses looking to access new markets:
The International Trade Administration helps US businesses prepare to enter the export market and provides helpful resources for businesses in all sectors. Check out the Top Markets tool, which provides detailed market assessment tools for 19 industries:
Canadian industrial exporters can find useful resources and export assistance on the Export Development Canada website:
About Fred Yee
Fred Yee is the founder and CEO of ActiveConversion, a company specializing in industrial online marketing, marketing automation, and demand generation. His work with ActiveConversion has helped hundreds of businesses succeed online and expand internationally. Fred was voted by the SLMA as one of the Top 50 Most Influential in Sales Lead Management for two consecutive years, and continues to gain recognition for his work in online marketing.