You can get started selling internationally on a shoestring. It won’t cost you a fortune to find, acquire, serve, and get paid by overseas customers. Over time, as you ad capabilities and services for your customers, you will spend more, but just getting started doesn’t have to consume your entire investment in your business.
Your company can acquire new customers overseas at a very modest cost. Online research tools, affordable international toll free numbers, and cloud tools make it possible for you to expand your sales to include customers in customers abroad.
Finding Your Market
There’s nothing easier or less expensive than doing your initial research to find your market and the market conversation abroad.
You can first use Google Analytics to examine the international keywords used to reach your website, and to see which convert to sales.
For example, if your company in Toronto provides Oracle database development services that are done remotely, you can check keywords used to reach your site for relevant geo terms like “chicago database development companies” or “Los Angeles Oracle developers” to pinpoint demand that your company could fulfill.
You can also look at the customer demographics in Google Analytics to understand where your overseas customers reside. You can use this additional information to again help you select your next country or metro area to serve more directly.
You can do your online customer and competitor research with a browser and search engine of your choice. Note that you can include a geo-location (like Windsor England or Mumbai India) in your search to find competitors and customers in your market.
All you need to do is search for your service or product terms using other locations as a search target.
An example is shown in the graphic here.
Once you’ve identified some locations to try, you can to test advertising with PPC ads. PPC will help you learn more about which keywords are used, and which are not, in your target market. By reviewing the responses you get, you’ll know if there will some demand your products or services.
Recommended Resources include these:
Reach Customers with International Toll Free Numbers
International toll free numbers are one of the most powerful tools for acquiring new international customers.
DID Numbers let you set up a local phone number in any of hundreds of major cities of the world.
Vanity Toll Free Numbers let you reflect your product or service branding in an easy to remember phone number.
Recommended resources include these:
- AVOXI – International Toll Free Numbers
- AVOXI DID Local Numbers Around the World
- US and Canada Toll Free Numbers
- Toll Free Vanity Numbers
Delivering to Customers
If you are providing professional services and have only to deliver soft copy reports and spreadsheets, for example, you can use a cloud service for delivery, or use a team project management tool with cloud space for documents. Popular and effective tools include these:
Note that Basecamp.com and Box.com provide much more than just document storage with cloud access. These have messaging, comments, and other useful features.
If you are shipping a deliverable product, there are experienced international shippers in your neighborhood, such as FedX and UPS, who can walk you through the process of getting your packages or cargo to your customers. Recommended vendors include
- USPS Global Shipping
- DHL International Shipping
- FedEx International Shipping
- UPS International Shipping
Laurie Kulikowski, writing for TheStreet.com, shows an infographic in her article How to Sell Overseas, No Matter Company Size. The infographic points out 5 key points, one of which is “Make sure you are able to get paid”.
Paypal is one of the most popular low-cost approaches used by startups for receiving international payments. Although PayPal is not the least expensive service, it does have global reach.
Duties and Taxes
Duties and taxes vary by country, so your plan to reach international customers will require research. Duties and taxes will vary depending on the classification of the goods delivered, their value, and whether or not the goods are for resale or personal use. Several online guide provide an overview of duties and taxes, including these:
- PayPal Guide to Selling Overseas
- How to Sell Overseas, No Matter Company Size
- Four Mistakes When Doing Business Overseas
- 3 Rules for Doing Business Overseas
- Small Business Administration – Resources for Doing Business Abroad
- How to Sell Overseas
- CloudFlare – Case Study in Selling Abroad