Thinking About Going International? 11 Tips for Inbound Success Overseas

71261046Folks that know inbound marketing love it for many reasons - most notably the amazing lead generation capability that it provides companies. But at the end of the day nobody pays investors with leads - growth in revenue and enterprise valuation are the ultimate goal of most inbound marketing initiatives.

And to that end there’s an awesome, but often overlooked element of inbound - the global opportunity - that supplements the growth objective.

Whether you’re a HubSpot partner, an inbound marketing agency helping clients, or a company leveraging inbound marketing for growth, there’s a potentially huge growth opportunity represented by the 95% of the world’s consumers which the US Department of Commerce tells us are outside the US.

And unlike decades past during which global expansion was a tremendously daunting task, your current work - your inbound marketing - could put many opportunities within easy reach.

Really? Can it be Done? Inbound Your Way to Global Diversification?

Maybe you’re skeptical. Maybe you think you must wait until you’ve completely saturated your domestic market.  Maybe you’re overwhelmed figuring out where to start. Or maybe you’ve decided to start and want to know how to accelerate the process. Wherever you stand, you’re not alone. Global growth carries a lot of connotations for folks, and many myths prevail.

But let’s start by looking at a great example, close to home. HubSpot.

Starting with a couple friendly beta users in the greater Boston area, and great inbound marketing around their product, HubSpot quickly built a solid domestic business while accumulating a huge number of international leads. Eventually they opened offices in two “English” speaking former Commonwealth countries (Ireland and Australia).  And working with a channel partner they developed a German language blog.

But in the meantime, without substantially localising the product (the software itself remains in American english) it built business globally. HubSpot’s fastest growing Partner at INBOUND 2013 was the Japanese company MarketingEngine, and HubSpot has users in 65 countries.  As they’ve grown, HubSpot has used that growth to justify some additional, international features, but their inbound marketing, global leads and customer conversions came first.

And you have the same tools at your disposal!

How to Start

Just like inbound marketing itself there are some fundamental capabilities and steps that are important for success.

1) Patience and commitment

Like inbound, this will take time, iteration, and endurance.

2) Embrace the diversity

You must legitimately value diverse experiences and be eager to learn from them.

3) Don’t obsess over transactional details

Too many efforts are derailed by concerns about payment, currency, logistics and perceived risk.  A call to the right “tech support” resource can normally resolve these painlessly.

4) Scale

Can you handle more growth? The US government offers a number of programs to help finance companies that are growing through export - but there’s more to it than money.

5) Focus

You can’t successfully sell everywhere as you begin. = And selecting markets based on prevalent language, favorite vacation destinations, population or news headlines is rarely successful.  You may have some great clues in your current traffic and lead metrics (areas of traction) and you should undertake some analysis to determine which 3-5 markets you will enter first.

6) Perfect your domestic inbound marketing

Refine your marketing process at home first until it is effective and fluid. (And don’t just discard your international leads in the meantime!  Begin to follow up and learn from them - market pricing, objections, cultural and language speed bumps and buying cycle.)

7) Accept that other markets are fundamentally different

Even with a common language and superficially similar business culture, factors such as buying cycles, decision making process, personas, key words, problem research and negotiation will vary dramatically. Change the language and culture and the differences are magnified.

8) Start at the beginning

DON’T TRANSLATE!! You MUST start just as you would with any effort here - research and understand the personas, how/why they will buy the product, and what they’ll be searching for in the meantime.

9) Fail fast

Experiment! Create landing pages in English, on your current domain, optimized for the new persona.  Then try in the local language (with English offer content.)  But make sure that the landing page isn’t “translated,” Rather it should be “transcreated”, or written by a native speaker who understands the purpose of the content. Begin to use long tail keywords (not translated but based on the local persona research) which you know will generate results against local search engines.

10) Partners

Don’t forget a key persona - your local channel partner. Create content around finding strong local partners to provide local service and support.  Strong channel management may be the biggest factor in long-term global success!

11) Refine, localize and improve

Once you’ve reassured yourself that a target market has the potential and your product/service will succeed, then take the steps to create a local language microsite, localized offer content, etc. For an amazing dive into sophisticated global SEO check out Moz’s Aleyda Solis.

The Bottom Line

But don’t get intimidated by the detail of local hosting, subdomain vs. local .TLDs or the other minutia.  This is about building a business, challenging and frustrating at times, but fun and invigorating for sure.

Need an extra incentive?  Did you realize that you can slash your tax rate on profits earned on export sales?  Don’t worry, you’re not alone.  In fact most likely your accountant isn’t even familiar with this incredible benefit of global sales diversification.  Available for years, and made permanent with the changes to the tax code in 2013, a Domestic International Sales Corporation (DISC) is a boon for companies selling globally (even through another domestic party in many cases.)

Revenue and profit growth, reduced taxes, personal enrichment and business vitality - all benefits of international sales building on the power of inbound marketing that you already know well!

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