So you've got an Internet site.
It's been up and running a few months now, and you've made your share of mistakes and had more than your share of brilliant insights, and you're feeling pretty successful. You've been able to sell some stuff. A lot of stuff, actually.
You're feeling self-assured. You've figured your way around an online media plan, and know the difference between click-through and DoubleClick. You're feeling like you want to take your show on the road. Run with the big dogs.You want to attack new, foreign markets. You're convinced that there are thousands out there who can hardly wait to buy your stuff.
But then you realize the world's a pretty big place, and you've got no idea where to start.
So where do you start?
I suggest starting where the most customers can be reached for the least cost. I'm all for going after the lowest-hanging fruit, and so I always recommend to my clients that they look closest to home and/or for the largest potential universe of customers that will be profitable.
As obvious as it seems, it's worth keeping in mind that you need to go after foreign customers who will contribute the most to your profit, because it will cost extra money to find, service and support those customers. Most Internet markets outside of the U.S. are just not as large nor as efficient as the U.S. Internet market, and foreign sales can require foreign languages and other specialized knowledge that takes time or money to develop. So you've got to plan your attack in order to make it pay.
I might add that for this article, I'm using the word "foreign" to describe two different populations. The one is foreign because it speaks a language other than English. The other is foreign because it lives outside of U.S. borders. They can be one and the same, or two completely different populations.
Where to Pluck the Tastiest Morsals
That said, there are two immediate places to look for the lowest-hanging fruit - the first is in your own backyard.
If you are an American marketer, you should not overlook the large foreign-language speaking populations that live in America. Spanish-speakers are probably the largest group that is interesting to sell to, as evidenced by the flourishing existence of Spanish-language cable TV channels and successful Spanish-language magazines and marketing agencies. Translating all or part of your site into Spanish and promoting it for the Hispano-American market in your "back yard" will also let you reach consumers in Mexico, Latin and South America, and even Spain. Starting close to home like this is a good strategy if you need some experience and some practice working with foreign languages and foreign sales before going "world-wide."
The other place to look is for the largest potential market that you can reach for the least cost, which usually means without having to do much translation. The size of the market matters, because large populations with money to spend are better than small populations with money to spend.
The good news for international Internet marketers is that there seems to be a consistent correlation between high household incomes and Internet users - and this is true in every country for which I've seen research - which means that the countries with larger Internet populations will automatically have more profit potential.
The other good news for our American marketer is that there are large foreign populations of Internet users that speak English in many countries. They are foreign markets you can reach without the costs of translations. These "low-hanging" countries include Canada, of course, and England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales, plus Australia, New Zealand and South Africa, among others.
In addition, about a third of the people using the Internet in Scandinavia, Holland, Germany and elsewhere in Europe can read English, if they must, and may become good customers if treated right. (If you need tips on how to treat them right, click here.)
Once you take a look at the numbers, you should have no trouble figuring out where to find the lowest hanging (and juiciest) foreign fruit on the Internet.
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Suzan Nolan is President of bluesky international marketing, whose mission is to help companies understand and exploit the internet marketplace in Europe. Bluesky performs competitive benchmarking and analysis combined with cross-border marketing expertise to help companies determine not only what they need to do, and where they need to do it, but how they can do it better than the competition.
An American, Suzan has extensive experience in pan-European advertising, loyalty marketing and communications. She has worked between the US and Europe for more than ten years, and is dedicated to helping her clients optimize their internet investment in foreign markets.