Just a few years ago, solo business owners took advantage of the fact that they could market their goods and services online all across the continent.
They lauded the fact that a small time business owner could now effectively compete with other businesses around the country because the Internet removed their geographic boundaries.
But in today’s economy, such thinking limits the opportunities you have coming at you from all around the world. Internet business is still in its infancy, in my opinion, it’s not too late to at least start thinking about gearing up for global business, even if you’re just a solo entrepreneur working from home and making a small monthly income.
Researchers tell us that from 2000 to 2006, the pool of online buyers (those that had made previous purchases) increased from 106 million to 464 million. That’s a 337% increase in a mere six years!
But to me, the interesting demographic about online buyers is that they are increasingly coming from outside the United States. (As an aside, I’ve noticed a lot of spam coming out of Asia and Europe lately – stuff that’s sometimes unreadable because of the language barrier. I never used to get spam in a language other than English.)
Within a couple of years, it’s predicted that only 20% of online buyers will reside in the United States. It stands to reason that you will be missing out on a great opportunity to sell to lots of new and anxious buyers if you don’t prepare for that shift in the marketplace.
Of course, there are issues with taking your business global. Here are a few things you’ll want to think about in your business as you contemplate the coming years and the non-U.S. marketplace.
1. Can I prepare my products and services to be helpful and of value to users outside the United States? Do I deal in a niche that has worldwide potential for sales?
If your business is constrained by geography, for instance, you sell a guide to the top 100 dog groomers in southern California, you obviously may not have much potential for global sales.
2. Is it cost effective to translate my information products and web site narrative into languages other than English? I did a little research into English speaking countries worldwide and it seems there are only seven countries that use English as the native language – although there are a lot of places where the majority of residents speak English as a second language.
Yes, people in many countries can read and sometimes speak English; however, they nearly always surf the Internet in their native tongue because that is the browser language that’s provided to them by their local Internet carriers.
English sites won’t be found online when non-English speaking surfers browse through their chosen subjects unless they specifically type your exact URL into their Internet browser.
Translation of English into foreign languages is certainly possible, but you have to decide which languages you want to focus on and you will have to make some hard decisions about who you trust as an interpreter or if you will employ an outside company to translate.
We will continue this discussion in our next post. But for the time being, do some pondering as a small business owner and think about both the advantages and the disadvantages (costs and effort) of preparing your web site and business products for introduction into non-English speaking regions of the world. Your decisions should be based on your own business and where you want to take it in the years to come … not on what others are doing in their business.
Every business is different. Every marketplace is different. Your decision about your future can not be based on the thought that “if it works for others it will work for me.”
To your online business success!