“SmartCodeSoftware” Company was like many other firms that evolved into international markets. They started with a few international clients that found the company through industry trade shows and online. Then international representatives offered their services to the company. The company created a distributor network. When the company started to uncover its international market potential, they started opening up foreign sales offices and operations.
So how does the company’s website keep up with this evolving international expansion?
My Advice: Match Website Approach to Your International Strategy
You’d be surprised how often website development is relegated to either IT or Marketing without thought to the company’s overall business strategy. Here are some strategic considerations:
Level of Localization – If you sell scientific equipment there is minimal localization. Marketing can even be similar, using the same online sales process, same type of decision makers, one call to action, coordinating with the same set of marketing channels.
But certain business process automation products can be radically different from market to market. Ask yourself: how different are the buying processes between our markets? Would a separate country-specific website help you to tailor to separate sales processes and other market-specific traits?
Country of Origin Effects – How is your home country perceived in your industry? For instance, if “SmartCodeSoftware” Company is based in Silicon Valley, there is a perceived advantage in innovation and industry connections. But what happens when the company is based in a small city in Bolivia? The location of a company’s headquarters can be an advantage or disadvantage. This can be played up or downplayed online depending on whether location helps.
Market Entry Mode – Entry mode is key to international strategy and your website should reflect the mode you’ve chosen. Entry modes vary from indirect exporting such as using representatives to wholly-owned subsidiaries. Other entry modes include: direct exporting, licensing, franchising, local sales offices, joint ventures, foreign mergers and acquisitions.
On the low risk side, there is a laser engraving company based in Colorado that has a highly developed network of 60+ local distributors. They have built their entire company around optimizing this network. Their website reflects that approach by supporting that network and quickly referring clients on to the local reps.
Near the other end of the Entry Mode spectrum of options is Mergers and Acquisitions. After acquiring a local competitor, it may make sense to keep the new subsidiary’s website. Locally they understand the buying process, language, etc. It helps to reevaluate branding and core messaging. Changes can enhance what is already on the site rather than automatically replacing it.
Risk Tolerance – Managing multiple websites in various languages represents additional risks. Additional resources are spent to figure what is needed to serve new markets. Then company staff must maintain or pay for others to maintain the localized structure and content. The company leaders must reconcile:
- What happens if we make mistakes?
- Are we staying consistent to our strategy and branding?
Company leaders need to ask themselves about their company’s cultural comfort with getting into overseas markets. Oftentimes the best-laid plans are undermined by those in the company tasked with implementing changes to the company’s website(s) for international markets.
Website redesigns take significant effort. It’s so important to start first with strategy and then decide on website structural, content and design choices that will optimize the company’s results in all markets!
Onward & upward