Ever thought about obtaining more business from overseas? Many countries outside the EU have trade restrictions or tariffs, as well as the challenges of language and differences in culture to consider, but what if you could break all that down and trade your UK exports freely, obtaining new customers overseas?

There is no doubt that Brexit is on its way, for the majority of businesses it may not change anything, life will continue as normal. For others, they may take the opportunity to look to new horizons… one way or another the UK is going to go through a period of transition from much of our trade done within Europe, to going global. Whether you are a Remainer or a Brexiteer, businesses have to make the best of what they have, and most likely if you run your own business you are an optimist, which means most business owners will be looking for every opportunity to drive more leads and sales. But what has all this got to with digital?

What can I gain?

The UK digital economy is booming, and creating record numbers of jobs. The digital economy grew 32pc faster than the rest of the economy between 2011 and 2014, and is creating new jobs at an unprecedented rate. The sector accounts for 1.56m jobs across the UK, with this workforce growing by more than 10pc over the three-year period – three times faster than the wider UK job market. Web app development and software development is the fastest-growing niche in the digital economy, growing by 17pc overall in 2015. So that tells you digital is leading the way and if you are not already digitally aware, its time to get acquainted.

We already know talks are being held with Japan, United States and China, the three largest economies in the world, as well as many other countries. If you have a business with an online presence or are thinking about it, then you need to be digitally prepared for Brexit. If you are targeting a new country you have to think about the culture, even in an English-speaking country such as New Zealand, business is done differently than in the UK or US, it’s much more laid back, but at the same time they don’t like businesses that are pushy or show off their products. In Spain, it’s very much about making friends and socialising before making a deal. In Japan, the whole process is different, even how you present the product in the first place as they are very conservative. In China they love British products, but they want it cheap and communication can be difficult. So in the first place there is a learning curve on how to present your product to each market.

Next you will need to get your business seen by that market, and this can be done in a number of different ways through digital marketing, however the best solution is do all strategies in a well-balanced manner. This means getting seen in the search engines, social media, email marketing, and news articles for that country as well as offline tactics to compliment your digital. Further to this, it is about understanding different search engine algorithms, social media platforms that are used in those markets (not everyone uses western social media), and writing localised articles from writers located in that country, whilst also building up interest from local users. One of the best solutions of all is to set up a registered address in the capital of the country, this gives search engines and potential customers the feeling your business is more local.

Is has been stated time and again that over 65% of consumers will only buy products and services in their own language. They will look for recommendations on various forms of social media and will be expecting to be able to read it, building trust in the company whom they are looking to purchase goods and services. Would you buy goods from a website in another language that you can’t understand? Of course not, you would just find a website that does speak your language and understands your culture.

So other than language and culture, what does digitally prepared mean? In the digital age, it is easier and cheaper than ever to take your business to anywhere in the world, now with the majority of the population of the world having access to a mobile with wi-fi, it means your products and services can be in the faces of over 7 billion people, just think about that for a minute. Many of these are untapped markets waiting for you to directly target your products and services.

What sort of market am I looking at?

Ok, so how do we get that? Well let’s be realistic, you are not going to target seven billion people, although with the technology we have today we can demographically target your specific audience, and this could be a game changer for small businesses who want to jump ahead of the big corporates. For example, if you are selling a material for a specific industry, we can find businesses who use that type of material, or users who work in that industry. Perhaps you want to sell luxury boats, so you will target a certain age, possible gender, interest in boats, fishing scuba diving etc, and if you want specific geographical areas, that’s even easier. Gone are the days of putting an ad in a newspaper or looking at an online directory. Today we can put your message in front of the user before they have even thought about searching for it! The possibilities are endless, but you need to make the effort now to reap the rewards of Brexit when it arrives.

Let’s go back to New Zealand for a moment; this is a modern western country, English speaking, similar cultures with a 10% growth in digital YoY, but hardly any of their websites are mobile friendly. You may not think that as important, but considering over 60% of people use a mobile to shop online, then that fact alone does present an extremely exciting opportunity for someone with a product they want to market in New Zealand, and they are found easier just because the website is mobile friendly! Could it be as easy as that? Imagine finding a niche in New Zealand that is untapped only because the online presence of the local supplier was dismal, but you have untapped 60% of the market of mobile users? You may think, yes but what about shipping. Think again, a full 40ft shipping container only costs £1300 from the UK to New Zealand. Now start thinking about your products in many other countries using the same tactics, excited yet? Yes, and there are loads more opportunities too.

If you are not going to take advantage of this to expand on your UK exports, your competitors certainly will, so it’s important if you are thinking about going international, or improving your business on the international stage, to do it right.

A few pointers;

Let’s now understand a few reasons why you might not be currently getting business from overseas. One of the leading reasons is your domain might be a UK domain which means your website won’t be found in other local search engines, i.e google.co.nz for New Zealand etc. You will most likely have to register the .com or get the country specific one.

Maybe your website is not set up for multiple locations, or your website is not in other languages. You will need to use ISO country codes and ISO Language tags on your website. You will also need to write content specific for that region. If you have an e-commerce site, your descriptions will need to be targeted. Don’t duplicate content, it is by far the worst thing you can do when it comes to Google.

The way you design your website for different cultures is hugely important, and of course, the way it is translated cannot be done by Google translate, it must resonate with the user from that country. Even when targeting an English speaking country they have certain ways of saying things for different cultures, or the way of reading an article can make or break a deal. Japanese web pages to us in the UK look a bit like cartoons, but for them it is the way it is done, probably why Yahoo! didn’t do too well in the western market, but still thrives in Japan.

Don’t just think about targeting a new market overseas for your UK exports, think about users in new markets fishing for you here in the UK too, they might want to take advantage of the pound or Brexit. Statistics show these users are already looking to buy British products and services, the whole world knows about Brexit and they see it as an opportunity to explore. You might find they are right on your door step, but they cant find you.

When Britain Brexit’s, you want to be ahead of the game to target new markets and be in front of your competitors, then you will need to be prepared, and you will need to start now.

As the saying goes, “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail”, don’t be one of them.

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