-- By Category
-- Sales and Marketing
-- Thinking International?
By Bill Dunlap
By Bill Dunlap
Here is a 5-point checklist before you launch your Website in
The Internet has made it easier than ever to market products
and services across the globe. Most companies today are so
focused on their domestic market that they do not pay any
attention to the overseas markets. Nevertheless, the
international markets represent an immense potential. (A North
American company can triple its turnover by properly addressing
the world market). Of course, one must budget sufficiently for
marketing to achieve this goal.
Things become more complicated when dealing with other
countries where English is not the official language. Our main
point here is that most everyone accesses the Internet in their
own language. If they live in a non-English country, they are
most likely not going to access the Internet in English. In
order to market to them, you have to determine where they
congregate (i.e. other language areas of the Internet) and
market to them there. A Web site needs to be able to attract
visitors from many countries without them having to wonder
whether they will understand the message once they arrive at
your Web site. This idea is equally true for translated Web
sites. No one overseas could possibly find your it (even if
translated) unless you make an effort to make it visible in the
The importance of marketing a Web site cannot be
overemphasized. Recent statistics show that large American
corporations are actually cutting their budget for Internet
business, since they did not achieve the results they expected a
year or so after they launched their Web site. The real reason
for lack of online business goes back to lack of marketing the
Web site, not lack of interest from those online. Even in
English-speaking countries, there has not been enough marketing
and promotion of the existing Websites. It is strongly
recommended to budget just as much for promoting one's Web site
as for creating it.
Here are some basic points that need to be understood and
followed to achieve success in international online marketing.
(The basics of multilingual Web site promotion are presented in
another article on this site.)
1. Whether to translate? Which languages?
2. Don't forget email marketing.
3. Make sure you have established your logistics in advance.
4. Promote and advertise your Web site abroad.
5. Other techniques.
1. Choose which countries (or languages) to target:
As you start using the Web to present your company's products
or services to the international market, your analysis needs to
keep in mind two factors:
* which countries you already sell to
* which countries are sufficiently online to attract clients
a. To translate or not to translate:
Not all Web sites have to be translated. It depends on who
your market is and what you are selling, and how much English
your target market already understands. For technical products
and services, English is commonly understood, and only a
"jumper" page needs to be translated (with links to your English
pages). A "jumper" page is a summary of your offer, translated,
so that the Web page can be registered with the local indexes of
the countries you are targeting. Typical translation costs are
$50-$100 for a short page (200-300 words).
If you choose not to translate your site, but still want to
draw visitors from Northern Europe (where English is widely
understood), at least promote your Website in these countries,
in their own language(s). They will find their way to your Web
site and usually be able to understand it adequately in English.
At the opposite extreme are products and services that are
marketed to everyone abroad: entertainment, household products,
CDs, etc. Here you need to translate as much as you can afford,
to have as much of your site as accessible as possible. You
cannot just create your Web site in English for the world market
and just assume it will be understood. (The attitude that
"visitors will have to read English or nothing".)
Most Websites, however, fall between these two extremes, where
it is good to translate part of the Web site. Not translating
will always make a portion of your audience click elsewhere,
since they cannot understand English or do not want to read it
in English at that time.
The importance of language can never be overemphasized.
Overall, only 15% of Europe's population speaks English as a
first language, and only 28% speaks English at all. A recent
major research study of almost 38,000 European Internet users
(http://www.blueskyinc.com/langues.htm) found that English is
cited as the first language by 55% of all European users (or,
not counting the U.K./Ireland, English is used by only 32% of
users, followed by German at 22% and French at 17%).
An extremely enlightening article about the international
aspect of online business is in Hambricht and Quist's online e-
zine, "I-Word", at
http://www.hamquist.com/iword/iword23/istory23.html. It is one
of the best articles on the subject, underlining the need for
American companies to seriously address international markets.
"One of the best ways for maturing U.S. businesses to maintain
or exceed their historic rates of growth is to expand
internationally by targeting under-served markets overseas. This
has been the case for myriad U.S. companies ranging from Ford
and McDonald's to US West and Walt Disney. The same now holds
true for high-growth U.S. Internet companies. While we would be
the last to suggest that growth opportunities for Internet
content and service providers in the U.S. market are anywhere
close to being fully exploited, many are now investing
significant sums of capital to extend their services into
regional markets around the globe.
"Because Internet adoption has -- as a whole -- been slower
worldwide than in the United States, a number of emerging
foreign markets represent unique opportunities for American
Internet companies to be first to market, a key competitive
advantage. Some will be able to establish their brands at even
earlier stages of market development than they were able to do
in the United States.
"The international appetite for such services is
unquestionable; today most major U.S. Internet companies report
that fully 25% to 35% of their customers access their U.S.-based
English language services from overseas. Yahoo! reports that
users from 110 different countries access its core English
language site at www.yahoo.com on a daily basis. While European
sources tell us that their markets are anywhere from 18 months
to two years behind the United States in terms of Internet
adoption, this should be viewed as an opportunity for U.S.
Internet companies looking to expand overseas. In fact, we at
Hambrecht & Quist believe it portends the type of explosive
growth in Internet use that swept the United States between 1995
and 1996, especially as telecommunications deregulation begins
to take effect in countries around the world.
"We believe prevailing market research supports our contention.
SIMBA Information, a market research firm in Wilton, Conn.,
predicts that non-North American international markets will
produce 30% of all consumer online revenue by 2000, up from just
15% in 1995. Jupiter Communications, a market research firm in
New York City, forecasts that fully 40% of the world's online
households will reside in Europe and Asia/Pacific Rim by 2000,
up from 29% today."
There is no reason for shrinking away from translating your Web
site because of expense. Instead, translate part of it at a
time, and increase the marketing efforts on the language
sections where you feel most confident, and see the results in
your sales. You can translate part of your Web site at a time,
so that you start with, say, two languages, and gradually
develop more. Remember: "You can sell in any language you want,
but you only buy in your own language."
b. Which languages?
So you're convinced to translate part of your Web pages to
attract visitors. But which languages? Make your decision
based on which countries you already sell in, as well as the
logical conclusions from the figures of how many people are
online there. If you already sell in most of these countries,
then let the online language figures guide you. Certainly you
need to provide translations of as many Web pages as you can
afford into Japanese, German and French, and if you can, at
least one page in Swedish, Finnish and Dutch (because of the
high concentration of online population in these three
countries). Next in importance come Spanish, Dutch and Chinese.
There is a growing interest in bringing Web sites not only into
European languages, but into Asian ones as well -- especially
Japanese. And don't think that these native language Web sites
are aimed at Asia. There are more Chinese online in the U.S.
than in China (one-third of the 2 million Chinese-Americans),
and there are many Japanese, Koreans and Filipinos living in the
U.S. and Europe -- all of whom prefer to access various media in
their own native language.
As of this writing (summer, 1997), there were approximately the
following major language families. These figures reflect the
number of email accounts, not those with Web access (which
generally represent one-third of these figures):
* 7.5-8 million Japanese online (Japan, U.S./Canada)
* 3 million German-speaking, French-speaking, Swedish and Finns (Norwegians and Danes can understand a Swedish presentation too)
* 2 million Dutch-speakers and Chinese-speakers (China, U.S./Canada, Europe, Australia)
* 1.5 million Spanish-speakers (U.S. Hispanic, Spain, and
* 1 million Brazilians (Portuguese language).
(The most recent figures are available on Web page
http://www.euromktg.com/globstats/.) Only some of these people
can read English, ranging from only about 0.5% (Southern Europe)
to 30% (Northern Europe).
2. Don't forget email marketing in other languages
The figures for language groups online (above) represent how
many people can receive email in each language. According to
Netscape, the number of those with Web access is generally one-
third of these figures (with certain exceptions). That means
you can target overseas markets by certain Internet environments
with far more results than using only the Web.
Two acceptable techniques for email marketing are Newsgroups
and online forums, both in the languages of your target group.
Although both areas are just developing for the first time now,
both are accessible for those people abroad who have access only
to email. You can see German Newsgroups at "de.*", French ones
at "fr.*" (or at http://www.fr.net/news-fr/liste.html), Dutch
ones at "nl.*", etc.
Lists of discussion groups can be found at:
French -- http://www.cru.fr/listes/
Other languages at the bottom of
Of course, you should always have autoresponders ready for
prospective customers who request information, and the text of
one autoresponder can refer to other documents that the prospect
can "pull" in the same way.
Whereas there are starting to be acceptable means of targeting
"opt-in" email databases, for people interested in something
quite specific, there is not yet any equivalent outside the
English language. These direct marketing lists will surely
develop, but they are not prevalent yet. This being said, it is
my experience that Europeans are far more tolerant of direct
marketing by email than Americans are, as long as the
presentation is professional.
3. Make sure you have established your logistics in advance:
Just because the Internet is global in scope does not mean that
international business is easy. Let me be quite clear of your
goal in overseas marketing: your goal is to motivate potential
buyers for your product or service... to identify themselves.
The rest is traditional international business practice, and is
quite straightforward. If you are not used to selling abroad,
you need to consider issues that have been part of international
business for centuries.
a. Corresponding with prospects in their language (if they
cannot communicate in English).
b. Payments from other countries.
d. After-sales service at a distance, in their language.
If you are already doing business overseas, you have already
encountered these issues, and should skip on to the next
section. If not, however, you need to think clearly about each
step in the sales cycle, and how your company will meet each
challenge. Do you have people who speak languages in your
company, who can translate and answer email from interested
prospects and established customers? If not, the best and most
economical solution is to use an automatic translator software,
such as Globalink (http://www.globalink.com), Transparent
Language (www.transparent.com), and Systran Software
b. Payment Mechanisms.
Once the prospect is prepared to place an order, there are
several mechanisms that exist for payment. For all amounts over
$10, it is simply necessary to take a credit card number --
either by email by using a secure form on your Web site, by fax
or by telephone. If you are not set up to accept credit cards
First Virtual (www.fv.com) can provide this service at a
reasonable charge. Be sure to have your bank references handy
if the amount is over, say, $500, in which case a wire transfer
is more appropriate.
However, many overseas people online do not have credit cards
(Germany and Switzerland in particular). Bank transfers are
more in order in these countries. If you are serious about
doing business in these countries long-term, you might consider
opening up a branch office in Holland. (The cost is less than
$100, plus $35 annual renewal). This will give you the right to
have a bank account in Europe and accept electronic transfers.
Thomas Cook just opened an online transfer procedure, "Virtual
Trading Desk", and your customers who order frequently can save
money by using their service. A draft (check) from a regular
customer will cost them only $3.
c. International delivery is probably the most difficult
problem to tackle for most products, as it needs to be
reasonable in both price and delivery time. International
delivery is quite expensive, with top services such as Federal
Express, UPS, DHL, etc. You need to research this area well for
your city and analyze what options exist. These vary from city
to city; there is no general solution. It all depends on the
size, weight and target markets (which countries) for your
product. (Services and software do not present this difficulty,
d. After-sales service usually depends on a geographically
local warehouse, where defective products can be exchanged. If
you are targeting Europe, there are countless such warehouses in
Holland who can stock replacement products in a duty-free zone
and respond to your customers in their local languages.
4. Promote and advertise your Web site abroad:
Now that you have established the beginnings of your non-
English Web pages, how do you attract visitors from other
countries to them? The techniques are similar to the way you
would promote your Web site in English-speaking countries,
except that you need to perform the actions in other languages
* Index registration
* Press releases
* Working the local Newsgroups and forums
* Strategic links
* Banner advertising
These techniques were described in detail in a white paper,
which should be read if you are not familiar with these basics
of Web site promotion.
A solid marketing plan will include elements of all of these
points. Some Webmasters only register their Web site in
overseas indexes, expecting international visitors flock to
their site. This is just as naive as putting one's address in
the phone directory and considering that enough marketing to
attract lots of business. No wonder they are disappointed and
then discredit the online market. In reality, the international
market is quite vast and needs to be budgeted for accordingly.
Registering one's Web site in international indexes, then, goes
without saying: of course it is necessary. Actively marketing
the Web site involves ongoing activity in press releases,
strategic linking and banner advertising.
A word about non-English-language banner advertising, which is
perhaps the most effective way of advertising your Web site,
since the reaction is immediate and emotional for someone online
to see your banner, click on it, and find you. Using this
technique abroad works best when the words on the banner are
translated and placed on overseas Web pages best suited for the
target market. Your click-through rate will be much higher if
it is in the local language than if it is in English. Contrary
to what you may hear, there are many people online in Europe do
not read English.
Banner ads have just started now in countries outside the
U.S./Canada. One cannot demand the sophistication of auditing
techniques and banner rotation that is common in the U.S. If
you decide to place banners abroad, consider that a banner seen
by someone overseas might even be considered unusual, since
advertising is not very pervasive outside the U.S./Canada...
which means that more people may be attracted to click on your
banner, to see what it is. (Remember your own reaction in 1994
or 1995 when you started seeing banners for the first time on
the Web. In those days, some banners resulted in nearly 80%-90%
clickthrough rate since no one understood what they were.)
5. Other techniques of promoting your Web site overseas:
Europe is considerably under-equipped in PCs in the home, and
there are hundreds of cybercafes that offer Internet
connectivity in a social setting. What better environment for
you to approach people, as they are being introduced to the
Internet in their early days online? You can put your URL on
the mousepads used at cybercafes (a mousepad is as much an
advertising space as a newspaper ad). Or you can even put your
URL on the screensavers at the cybercafes, so that when the PC
is not in use, your URL will be one of those passing across the
If you have distributors abroad, involve them in promoting your
Web site in their language at their local trade show: handouts,
product literature, or anything that people can take home and
use to find your Web site in their own language.
Magazine ads in overseas publications.
Creating community in the languages of your target market.
Email and Web-based discussion groups are now common in English.
They are still quite new abroad. If your product or service
lends itself to this form of discussion, your company can become
the online authority of the subject at hand. Of course, it will
require native speakers to lead the discussion and give it life,
but they can be found.
Examples of Successful Global Companies Using Language on their
* Hardware: Apple Computer (http://www.apple.com) (13 languages)
* Hardware: Cisco (http://www.cisco.com) (15 languages)
* Software: Gif Wizard (http://www.gifwizard.com) (4 languages)
* Software: Microsoft (http://www.microsoft.com) (50 languages)
* Software: Adobe (http://www.adobe.com) (9 languages)
* Internet: Yahoo (http://www.yahoo.com) (4 languages)
* Internet: Lycos (http://www.lycos.com) (7 languages)
* Internet: Altavista (http://www.altavista.com) (23 languages)
Marketing your Web site is like marketing anything else. You
need to keep at it. Make sure that you continue monitoring the
international index sites where you list your URL to make sure
that it is still listed. Send more press releases. Add more
online promotion work in the countries that you are targeting.
It is an excellent idea to establish a monthly budget for your
international Web site promotion, as more visitors turn into
The Internet as a marketing medium is still quite young. Even
in the U.S., there was very little marketing done on the
Internet before 1995, and in Europe and Asia the Internet is
just starting to be known as a marketing medium in 1997! (So
don't think that you have missed the boat.) However, with the
ever-rapid growth of the online population, you should not wait:
online history has proven that early entrants "lock up" key
positions in their market. The sooner you take your company
marketing international, the sooner you will move up the
learning curve and your online marketing will begin turning into
sales. Start now... before your competition does.
"Internet marketing is not static, it is an ongoing process.
Putting your site on the Web is not the end of your journey, it
is the beginning."
Bill Dunlap, an MIT graduate, has made a life of bringing high-
tech products and services to the international markets. When
the microcomputer industry was in its early stages in the early
1980s, he set up a company to export popular Apple and PC
software to top European markets. This led to a thorough
familiarity with the European PC distribution business, and
which brought him to become AST Research's European Sales
Further opportunity brought him into Compaq Computer's newly
established Paris office, where he became Compaq's first sales
manager in France. He continued with Compaq the next year at
their European Headquarters, and managed sales in Scandinavia.
Since the mid-1980s, he has developed Euro-Marketing Associates
(EMA) from Paris and San Francisco. EMA's focus was to locate
new, cutting-edge technologies in the U.S. and develop
distribution channels for them in Europe.
Since 1995, Euro-Marketing Associates has been restructured
into a virtual consultancy of top online marketers throughout
the world, to market Web sites in each country and attract more
Bill Dunlap, President
Tel/Fax: +1/415/680-2423 (USA)
Tel/Fax: +44/171/681-1027 (Europe)
URL: Euro-Marketing Associates
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Tags: Sales and Marketing