Where are Your Next Customers?

globe1.jpgSmall businesses are known for their flexibility and capacity to move quickly on new opportunities. Rather than focusing on the dismal economic news we get bombarded with every day, many companies are taking advantage of the weaker US dollar and the increased buying power of international customers.
While the internet essentially puts the entire world right outside your storefront door, there are challenges to selling abroad – from shipping to understanding local customs and preferences. PayPal has put together a new resource to help small businesses sell abroad called the Global Selling Guide. It’s a website with tips on selling in 17 nations including shipping, payments, customs, tax considerations and holiday traditions. According to the company there are 165 million PayPal accounts in 190 markets around the world, with the capability to transact in 19 different currencies.
Eddie Davis, senior director of SMB Merchant Services at PayPal also offers the following tips for successful global selling:

1. Enhance your website: The Internet has no boundaries, and provides an easy and cost-effective way to reach international buyers. Make your site more appealing to foreign customers by:

  • Highlighting your willingness to accept international orders.
  • Enabling multi-language functionality on your website.
  • Listing the price of your products in local currencies.
  • Offering clear information about shipping costs, return policies and the countries you serve.

2. Do your homework: There is much to know when selling abroad. Make sure you understand international customs, taxes and regulations. Resources are available online to help businesses get informed:

  • The U.S. Commerce Department provides market research, counseling and can also facilitate introductions to qualified buyers and distributors.
  • The World Bank’s Doing Business project ranks economies on their ease of doing business.

3. Cater to local tastes: McDonald’s serves millions of hamburgers in restaurants all around the world. But it also serves specialty items like the Ayam Goreng McD (regular or spicy) in Malaysia. Understanding the tastes, preferences and customs of the markets in which you are looking to sell is essential to the success of any business.
4. Know the rules when shipping: Claiming you didn’t know just won’t cut it when it comes to shipping globally. Shipping can be complicated and making mistakes when filling out customs forms can be expensive and can cause great frustration with overseas buyers. However, many global shipping companies offer resources to help a small business ship outside the U.S. Check out the large shipping providers in the U.S. and learn about their international options. Visit the international hubs of the U.S.’s top shippers for more information:

5. Make payments fast and safe: Dealing with multiple payment forms, foreign currencies and exchange rates can be confusing. Ensuring you get paid fast is especially important when doing business in a global marketplace. In addition, many international buyers may not have visited your website before and may be less likely to trust you with their credit card number or other payment data. Services like PayPal help your business manage global payments and allow buyers to pay quickly and securely with confidence that their personal financial data is protected.
Laura Leites, Assistant Editor, Smallbiztechnology.com