Lesson 7 – How? – #2
What is involved and what are the key considerations?
Once you have decided what you want to sell online and where you want to sell it you will want to take a look at what is involved. As mentioned in the overview at the beginning of the course there is a cycle of activity that makes up the customer experience .
This lesson takes a look at the first part of this cycle – awareness. This is all about attracting potential customers onto your sales platform. To do this you have to stand out from the crowd and be digitally visible.
Many companies invest considerable amounts in their website only for very few people actually see it – or more to the point very few of the RIGHT people to see it. Many think that if you “build it they will come” – unfortunately this is rarely the case. Tek Eye point out “With 1.8 billion websites, if you publish a website it is very unlikely to get noticed….. As pointed out by Sarah Carroll and the Grow Global team the digital world is so busy these days with so much ‘noise’ around so it is really hard to get noticed and stand out. Patrick Coghlan the CEO and Founder of Renovo International cites the following in Sarah’s book Grow Fast Grow Global “The problem is that many people still build a website and think that’s it. That’s like having a business card and never handing it out”
If your potential customers can’t see you on line they probably won’t know about you. The key thing to remember is that as a small business they may not be aware of you and hence they are not looking for YOU they are looking for WHAT YOU OFFER. If your competitors products and services are more visible than you your potential customers will find them rather than you, and if they don’t know you exist they won’t keep looking as they have their solution. Remember, in this environment you will now be competing with more companies from around the World – not only in your target overseas markets, but also in your domestic marketplace. To reinforce this point the Grow Global team point out the following points that they have gathered from various sources that highlight how ineffective the vast majority of websites are:
- Circa 170 million active sites on the web
- Less than 1 million websites (0.1%) accounted for over 50% of web traffic.
- Only 10% of websites were updated regularly
- Over 99% of websites got almost no traffic
That said there is clearly massive potential
- Amazon has over half a billion products listed worldwide
- eBay has over 1 billion products listed
- Facebook has over 2 billion users
- YouTube has over 1.5 billion users
- Instagram is approaching 1 billion users
So – how are you going to get noticed amongst all of that?
In short, you will need to invest some time effort and possibly money in digital marketing – We should point out at this stage that there are ways to do this without investing your own money and we will look at that later in the course) in digital marketing. As with all marketing activity this can be done badly or well – to do it well just involves a bit of thought.
6 key considerations when you are trying to attract valuable customers.
- You will want to be noticed by the RIGHT PEOPLE – those who will buy from you.
- Focus on the CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE – aim to make it easy and enjoyable for your potential customers to engage with you. You will want to give them value from the outset by ‘giving to receive’ you will not only endear your potential customer, you will build their confidence in your abilities and integrity
- You will want your be in the RIGHT PLACE so that your offer will be visible to those individuals.
- You will want to give them the RIGHT MESSAGES using the RIGHT MEDIA so that your customer wants to engage and that they are motivated to take action – this involves giving them an appropriate message in the best format
- You will need to CONSISTENTLY MANAGE your activity – once you know what and how you are going to get the attention of your potential customers you will need to optimise and monitor your activity – this is a skillset that can be peculiar to individual marketplaces.
- You might need to BE PATIENT – much digital marketing takes time to really bed in and take effect – this is an important consideration as many companies pull the plug on their marketing activity before it has really had a change to gain traction – doing short campaigns is often a waste of time and money.
Let’s look at these in a bit more detail.
The right people
Understanding who will most likely buy your products or services online is a very important starting point for all marketing, but it is particularly important with digital marketing as you can be so much more precise in where you place your messages.
Ideally you should profile your ideal customers. This will help you and any marketing professionals that you are working with to be most effective. As the business owners you and your team should be in the best position to carry out this exercise as you should really understand what your product or service does, and who needs or wants what you have to offer. Once you know who these individuals are you will be able to know where to find them and what to say to them that will provoke them to take action.
There are 3 main things to consider when profiling your ideal customers
A strong customer profile should consider the following:
A demographic profile (age, gender, occupation, disposable income, where they live etc)
A psychographic profile (hobbies, interests, social groups, tv shows, problems, what do they enjoy etc)
Buying habits (how do they buy, where do they buy, what role do they play in the purchase etc). This will include where they buy things – an important consideration for the next stage.
In some cases your product or service may be purchased (or at least the buying decision is made ) by a collective group of people – in this case you would want to complete a persona for each one.
You may say “everyone buys our product or service” – possibly the case (although unlikely in reality) – if you think this is the case, try to think of the best customers (those who are most likely to buy, who may pay the most, or who are the least demanding / easiest to deal with) and profile those.
To help you with this exercise there is a ‘customer profile template’ in your toolkit here on ExportSavvy. – more about this later in the lesson when we look at how you might implement this all in practice.
Consider the customer experience
The customer experience is what can set you aside from your competition – particularly if you are selling product or services that are quite commoditised and have similar features to your competitors (just check out how Amazon have grown with this consideration). Once you really understand who your customers are you can think about how you might give them a great experience. This will primarily centre around providing them with value from the outset.
The concept of “give to take” is becoming increasingly popular, and you might want to think about how you might do this. This is where you give value free of charge before you ask your customer for any payment. This might come in the form of education, the sharing of expertise, or a tool that your potential customers can use. Many digital services use the “freemium” model where a certain part of the service is free of charge and your customers can then pay to upgrade as they wish. Services can also be set up with a free diagnostic where you )or your customer) can assess (and subsequently recognise) their requirements. This is an ideal way of giving your customer the confidence to buy from you. How might you provide value before you pitch the sale? examples are:
Instructional / entertaining video.
Instructional text – or checklists.
Basic service functionality.
Associated product or service.
Some form of personalised discovery
The right place
Your customer profiles will also help you to understand where your potential customers hang out and then you can place your messages there. In short this refers to the route that your ideal customer takes when they are looking for a place to buy your type of product or service. There are of course a number of considerations (and options) for you here.
Traditional Search Engines (SEO)
Social media – personal
Social media – business
This may not only inform you of where you can promote your marketing messages, but it might also help you to shape your sales platform – more about this in the next lesson.
Remember this is INTERNATIONAL e commerce – an important consideration – think local
Once you know where your customers are you can place your messages in that place. However, there is a caveat –these “places” can vary greatly from country to country.
With social media for example there are considered to be seven major players ( Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, Twitter, Goggle +, LinkedIn and Pinterest) – and they have billions of users – each of these has a localised version – LinkedIn for example has 24 different versions. Beyond the big players however there is also whole host of popular social networking sites in individual parts of the world that you probably won’t know of unless you live or work in the country – in Europe there is XING which is a professional network like LinkedIn which is particularly popular in German speaking countries, Viadeo which is popular in French and Spanish speaking countries. In Russia there is VK – and in China where the “Great Firewall Of China” restricts the activity of many western brands they have a whole myriad of localised networks. This variation also rings true in marketplaces, and with search engines.
Just being high in the SEO rankings in your domestic marketplace does not mean that you are visible in any overseas market – indeed they may not even use the same search engine in your target market, and even if they do they will most likely use local search criteria – and local language to conduct that search. Likewise with social media, marketplaces, peer chat – You will need to work each individual marketplace if you are to be truly effective internationally. The key is localisation.
The right message in the right format
This is really important and surprisingly is often not given enough consideration. Think about what you want your potential customer to do (i.e. what action do you want them to take) and think about how you are going to motivate them to do this.
If you are present in on line marketplaces you will be in a directly competitive environment and you will need your listing to stand out. This will involve locally optimising your listings.
Likewise on Social media or in search engine listings your offer will need to stand out from the crowd – needless to say, once you are in front of your target customers you will need to get the message right, and ensure that it is in a format that is palatable to your potential customers. To be effective your communication needs to motivate your potential customer to take action.
Your initial message can be direct, or subliminal, however, it will will need to take your potential customer through the 4 stages of effective communication if it is to deliver the results that you want – this in effect is your litmus test.
Stage 1 – Attention – you will have get their attention in a very busy and noisy on line environment – how might you do this? People have short attention spans. According to Statisticbrain.com, eight seconds is the average person’s attention span and only 28 percent of words are read on an average Web page. Instead of wasting time and money creating text-only Web pages, perhaps you might reduce the text and use attention-grabbing items such as videos, images and bullet points. You have a series of options
Memes – short (preferably) moving messages
So the lead questions here are why and how will your content get their attention? Audiences in different countries like to communicate in different ways, so you will want to consider the best media for each marketplace. The key is localisation.
Stage 2 – Interest – you have done a lot of hard work (and possibly spent some money on) getting in front of your potential customer and getting their attention – now you have to maintain their interest or their attention will drift. To do this the content has to relate to your potential customer, or be something that can make a difference to them.
This is an area where marketing messages often fail – as soon as the message does not relate there is a strong chance you will lose the customer as their attention will drift elsewhere – how does the message draw them in? The message should be easy to consume – if it is hard work there is a good chance that they will lose interest. If the message is relevant and localised in the preferred format you are much more likely to maintain that interest.
Stage 3 – Desire – this is made up of 2 components:
Motivation – how will you motivate your customer to take the action that you want – what is in it for them? Why should they spend more time considering your offer?
Confidence – why will they have confidence to deal with you – how do they know that you can do what you claim? Are you making ‘fluffy’ general statements, or backing up your statements with evidence and facts? Localisation plays an important part here as well – customers tend to be more confident if they are familiar with their surroundings
Stage 4 – Action – are you clear about communicating what your potential customer should do next? – are you making it easy for them to do this? Is there a clear ‘call to action’ in your communication?
Consistently manage your activity
Once you design a new website you might initially get a small boost in sales and get complacent – you might get lucky, your message may just land in front of a potential customer just as they have decided to buy your type of product or service – but you are going to have to be pretty fortunate to achieve that. You may get international sales from time to time and then you convince yourself that your website is a shop window to the world. In reality however it is in a very quiet backstreet, and you are probably missing all of the potential customers who are close by in the main shopping centre.
To add to this you do not only need to communicate with your potential customer once to make a sale but several times. In her book “Grow Fast Grow Global” Sarah Carroll refers to the ‘Magic 7’ – she points out that analysis on Think With Google clearly shows that you need the interaction between multiple different digital marketing channels to drive traffic and online sales.
On average each customer needs 7 digital touchpoints before they make an online purchase. This is all about giving your customer the confidence to deal with you by building an ‘on-line relationship’ This might suggest that the broader your presence on line the more likely you are to attract traffic, and also that you need to be patient and consistent as it may take a while before your customer is ready to take that step of considering you for a purchase.
Remember in an international context, you are a small business that is thousands of miles away – why will they have the confidence to deal with you? Consistent communication in the right format will not only make your business appear local, but will also make them feel important – persistence with your communication is important.
If you want to optimise your opportunities therefore you will want to consistently put your messages in front of your potential customers. To do this we would suggest that you bring all of your thinking together in a communication plan – the basis of this is
What you will communicate.
Where you will communicate it.
When you will communicate.
Kickers or catalysts.
How you will monitor return on your investment?
Patience is then required – you need to give your customers the time to develop their confidence in you. Digital marketing is a building process – and it can take longer in overseas markets as an extra level of confidence from the customer is required. Many companies bail out of the investment too soon – think of it like a water pump – you will have to pump several times before the first water comes out, but then it will keep coming as long as you keep pumping – and then the faster you pump the more water will come out. It is those first pumps that can be un-nerving as you wonder if the well is dry, but there are ways of listening to see what is coming up the pipe. Generally speaking, the more focussed your marketing activity is the quicker the water should come up the pipe and the more control you will have over the future flow.
Localisation is the key consideration
You will notice a common theme running throughout this lesson – the importance of localisation – there is not a ‘one size fits all’ here and to be effective you will want to localise your digital marketing – think of each of the considerations above in a local context.
Different cultures will communicate differently and respond differently to the same messages. This starts with language – people tend to search in their own primary language so just having your site in English will limit your traffic in many countries.
To get a better understanding of the importance and value of considering individual cultures in individual marketplaces you might want to complete the short language and culture course here on ExportSavvy. We would also recommend an excellent book by Dr Erin Meyer called ‘The Culture Map ‘
As you can see there is quite a lot to think about – but it is all pretty logical. You just need to know what to consider and “what’s what” in your target markets. Let’s look at how you might approach this in practice:
Approaching this in practice – 6 simple steps
The following activity will consider all of the above and if you follow these 6 simple steps will give you the basis for your digital marketing plan – then you just have to think about how you will implement that. We would recommend that you go through this process for each of your target territories, whilst there will be some crossover, there will certainly be things that are peculiar to individual territories and they could be the difference between success and failure. A bit of time spent thinking these things through at this point will save you a whole lot of time, money and frustration in the future.
Step 1 – Profile your potential customers
Think about who might want to buy your products or services on line – (and why they will want to buy). Draw up a list of customer types or personas –The ‘customer persona ’ template will help you with this exercise.
Once you have a series of customer types you can look at each of these types or personas in a bit more detail and start to understand how they might behave in your target markets. To help you with this exercise there is a ‘customer profile’ template in your toolkit here on ExportSavvy. Important – ideally you should complete a customer profile for each customer persona in each individual marketplace, think about how they will behave in that marketplace rather than globally.
Step 2 – Research the ‘places’ in your target markets
Consider where your customers are going to be on line, and think about the local versions of this. Use the checklist below to help you with this:
Traditional Search Engines (SEO)
Social media – personal
Social media – business
Decide where you want to be, and consider what is involved for each communication channel. Do you need written material, do you need video, spoken word, pictures etc?
Step 3 – Think about how you might give value to your international customers
At this early stage – how will you make your early communication meaningful, how will you build credibility and trust with the customer?, how will you align your communication style with theirs? how will you motivate them to take action? How will you craft messages that are relevant to your audience? i.e. think about what messages you want to put across.
Step 4 – Think about how often you should communicate through each channel
Put together a communication plan for each territory. Think about the following:
The international digital communication plan template will help you to do this (insert link to toolkit – https://exportsavvy20.com/tool-kit/)
Step 5 – Summarise what is involved and who can do it.
Now that you understand what you need to do to run an effective marketing campaign in your target markets consider the following – do you have:
The necessary skills.
Understanding of the landscape.
Resources – including time
to do this in house? Might you subcontract the work? Might you get your partners to do this for you? (see the lesson later in the course concerning the use of partners in ecommerce) Revisit the flatplan mentioned in the earlier lesson and fill in the marketing section. You can find the “e-commerce flatplan” here on ExportSavvy in the toolkit
Step 6 – Consider the costs.
The most effective digital marketing campaigns tend to involve paid for activity – search engine optimisation, pay per click, social media advertising, paid bloggers, there is a whole myriad of ways that you could spend your money. Think about whether you can afford to do this – if not is this something that an overseas partner might do for you?
To get a more in-depth insight into how to communicate with your overseas customers we would recommend that you read ‘Grow Fast Grow Global’ by Sarah Carroll. The Grow Global team also offer a range of services that will evaluate your current international e-commerce operation and help you to implement each of the highlighted steps to accelerate the growth of your international e-commerce business.
You might want to go to the Action Zone and complete a digital marketing plan
Once you have traffic onto an online sales platform you have to convert it into sales. How do you create an excellent customer experience at the purchase stage? The lesson that follows considers what is involved in doing that.
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