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How Can You Attract More International Customers as a Small Business?

If you have a product or service that isn’t just targeted at locals, you have the opportunity to expand your customer base and increase your income and reputation. Taking your business global is a big step, and marks your growth as a company. You’re showing your customers and yourself that you have what it takes to expand without compromising your core business values.

Therefore, it’s important to get the process right, so that you don’t make mistakes that cost you time, money and custom. Whilst there are always things that are out of your control, attracting and keeping international clients is often dependent on reliability and transparency of communication, especially when shipping fees make physical products more expensive. 

But the first step is getting those customers to find and be interested in your offerings in the first place. In this post, we explore how you can make your business more attractive to international clients.

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Make sure you have a good website

First and foremost, having a clear, helpful website that is optimized for great user experience is a good starting point. This is helpful for all customers, but particularly international ones, who won’t be able to visit your physical shop if you have one, or potentially even speak to you on the phone due to the time difference. 

When you’re setting up your website, think about what your customers will want to know, and make your contact details clear. Include answers to some common questions, and make sure you update this section regularly to avoid misunderstandings. Including testimonials can also increase trust and reassure potential customers that they’re making the right decision.

Getting a website built can feel like a big investment for a small business, but it’s well worth the time and money. Remember that happy customers may also direct others to your site, so it acts as the first point of contact for any new leads. If your budget allows it, you may also want to work with a search engine optimization (SEO) expert, who can advise on targeting your site to your audience.

If you have a blog on your site, remember to make sure the content is aimed at international visitors too. If you just have a lot of content that is specific to one country, readers may be put off if they feel like they don’t fit your chosen audience, even if this is subconsciously.

Increase your response hours

When customers are searching online, they may have questions about your products, or availability if you offer a service. Whilst no one relies on phone calls these days, there’s still an expectation when it comes to response times for digital communication. If timezones mean that they’re waiting for a few days for a response to a question, and then again to a follow-up query, they may easily get frustrated and go elsewhere. 

Whilst that’s not a reason for you to be available 24/7 – time away from work is important for every business owner – you may want to consider how you could increase your contact hours for basic queries. This might mean an extensive FAQ section on your website, investing in an AI chatbot that can handle returns and order queries, or outsourcing via a call-handling service that can answer questions and take messages. This increased responsiveness will show your international customers that you’ve considered their needs.

Engage on social media

Even when you’re not working, your social media sites are doing the work for you. Industry insights show that:

  • 94% of business leaders think social media has an impact on brand reputation
  • 92% of business leaders say that good social media gives a competitive advantage
  • 68% of customers follow brands on social media to inform purchasing decisions

On top of this, social media can give you key insights into where your top-interacting followers are based, and allow you to target your marketing strategy towards that audience. 

As a small business owner, it can feel daunting to acknowledge the amount you need to be posting on social media in order to stay relevant and gain traction. However, there are plenty of apps out there that allow you to schedule your content so that you don’t even have to be awake when it goes live, or remember to post it. Creating a consistent posting schedule and working ahead of time with a content calendar and batch preparation will allow you to interact with all your potential customers.

If you find that you get a lot of queries via direct messages on social platforms, then it can be worth utilizing a freelance social media assistant to help you respond a few hours per week. Again, this means that your international customers aren’t waiting a long time for a response.

Think about multi-currency payments

One of the pain points of being an international customer is trying to work out how much you’ll actually pay in your home currency. You can see what seems like a great deal online, only to convert it and find out it’s more than you realized. Experts suggest that having prices displayed in a foreign currency is one of the key factors in cart abandonment for customers.

Businesses can help ease this frustration by introducing multi-currency displays on their website, both before and after checkout. Ideally, you would also set things up so that international customers can pay in their own currency as well, to avoid costly conversion fees. Whilst many banks no longer charge these fees, it’s better to remove the risk of an unhappy customer altogether. 

Get your shipping options sorted

One of the key parts of buying an item from another country is how it will get to the delivery destination. With quick shipping as standard for many businesses, waiting a long time for international delivery can feel like an extra step for many customers. While you can’t make the item arrive as quickly as it would if the customer was local, you can make sure you work with reputable shipping companies who provide clear updates along the way. 

No one wants to pay a lot of money for shipping on an item, let alone if it gets lost or they don’t know when it will arrive. Choose your shipping partners carefully to ensure that your international customers know they’ll be taken care of if they choose to purchase.

Consider your customers

At the heart of it, attracting international customers is all about making sure they feel considered, and not an afterthought. Whilst your resources may be limited as a small business owner, try to do as much as you can to ensure the customer journey is smooth, and you’ll be rewarded with those all-important recommendations.

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About the author

Kathleen White

Kathleen White works as an independent business analyst for several small businesses. She completed her degree in Business and Management at the University of Bristol, achieving a First-Class Honours. She enjoys writing in her spare time to share what she has learned, in hopes of benefiting other businesses.

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