Sunday, March 17, 2013

Oops you've got foreign customers. Now what?

McDonald's fare across the world recognizes local tastes

With the Internet, nothing is local. Everything is global.

Startups in America are often slow to come to this realization until their first overseas customers pop up. Chaos ensue. Nobody is prepared for this.

But you should.

International customers are often more intent on buying. They've done their research and decided that the goods and services they want are not available in their market. You're providing what they want, and they can't wait to open their wallets.

Help make their experience better -- and the buying process easier -- by thinking international. Not everything we do in America is understood or an established practice in the rest of the world.

Some points to consider when dealing with overseas customers:

Postal systems can be pretty bad
Let's say you're making electronic gadgets and think international delivery is a breeze. You just pop it into a mailbox, you know?

In some countries the mail arrives three months later or not at all. Sometimes parcels need to be ransomed by paying a customs fee. Sometimes you have to pay the postman to deliver the mail untouched.

Never assume that mailing overseas is a straightforward affair. Always offer FedEx or other international tracking services. Consider customs, duties and delivery times when quoting prices.

They don't talk American
By American I mean terms or situations that are unique to America mostly or alone, and unintelligible to the rest of the world.

Time zones like EST, CST and PST make no sense to anyone outside the US, barring expatriates. Adding clever phone numbers like 1-800-LETTERS, amounts to gibberish. And not everyone measures in inches or weighs stuff in pounds.

Perhaps the most overlooked are the fields in online forms. Not every country has a state, a zip code and a three-digit area code. Don't make these mandatory fields to fill. It drives foreign buyers nuts.

Think through your international payment system
Foreign exchange fluctuations are a fact of life. $5 to us is $5. To international buyers it depends on when they have to pay.

Do you sell subscriptions? To overseas customers it could mean their subscription can lurch from $5 per month in local currency to $10 if their currency is weak. Investigate the option of offering a locked-in price for a year with a substantial discount to allay their fears.

And then there's the matter of paying itself. Even if it's a one-time purchase, be aware that the rest of the world don't have PayPal. Not everyone can, or wants to wire money because of the bank charges involved. Besides, you'll need a US dollar account to send US dollars.

These are just three situations that can make a huge difference in going global. You can't cover everything but you can a) determine where your biggest international markets are and b) study up on arrangements that make sense to them.

Be knowledgeable about the barriers to buying from you. Do your best to address, if not eliminate, them.

Calibrating your communications and systems for international customers demonstrates a global perspective, and may even lead to revenue streams that you never knew existed.

photo credit: ekkun via photopin cc

No comments:

Post a Comment