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What to Think About When Your Business Starts to Think Globally

January 12th, 2010 | Small Business | No Comments »

continentalEcommerce…by definition it’s easily accessible by almost anyone.  With no geographic boundaries that restrict a shopper’s interest your product or service, once you start selling online, you technically have an international business.  But what should you keep in mind when you do start actively reaching out to international customers?  First, you must be able to speak with an outrageous french accent.  No wait, that’s if you’re searching for the Holy Grail.  Here are a list of some things to think about:

1.  Will you sell to any potential buyer, no matter the destination?  Sounds like an odd question, but there are a list of countries that have a significantly higher  rate of shopper fraud.  In a not-so-recent article from PraticalEcommerce, a few online sellers were featured and they decided not to sell or ship to any orders from Venezuela, Indonesia or Nigeria due to the increased risk of fraud.  Also, if you’re a U.S. based business, don’t forget about the list of countries identified by the Treasury Department that U.S. businesses are prohibited from doing business with (e.g. Cuba and Iran).

2.  How will you deal with language issues?  I’ve heard that not everyone speaks and reads English fluently.  If this is correct, you’re likely going to have to have your marketing site (and application) translated into different languages.  In addition, if you offer customer service, you’ll need to have the ability to handl non-English support calls.

3.  Are you selling technology?  If you’re offering a service, like encryption software, and you’re a U.S. based business, you’ll also need to be aware of limitations placed on U.S. exports…as Uncle Sam doesn’t like providing certain technologies to companies or individuals outside of the U.S.  It seems like a lot of regulation, but the Small Business Administration provides many export centers to give small and medium sized businesses free counsel.  Here’s a link to find a center near you.

4.  How about your trademark and/or brand name?  What works in your home country may not work in others.  You may want to make sure that your business or product names don’t infringe someone else’s trademark in the other country(ies) that you’re focusing on.  You’ll also want to make sure your product or brand name makes sense.  A famous example of this is the Chevy Nova.  Great product name for the U.S., not so great when they marketed that car in Mexico — as “No va” means “no go” in Spanish.

Got some other advice on selling internationally?  Please feel free to share.

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