It’s unsettling to follow business news these days. Media outlets and Web sites pile on with unrelenting coverage that incestuously amplifies the bad news. Their focus on troubled market sectors reinforces the conviction it’s time to batten down the hatches and prepare for even tougher times. For some firms, it’s all about survival.
However, some companies tell our analysts they’re using the current climate to rethink their business plans, develop new products, and prepare to enter new markets around the planet. Ideally, some are strategizing improvements to their international position coming out of the recession.
Based on these conversations and our global research experience, here are five tactical and strategic ideas for sales and marketing executives responsible for growing their businesses during a recession:
- Think globally, interact locally. Don’t retreat from international initiatives. Our research has shown that borders have become much more porous since the last major recession. The bad news is that financial trauma transcends national borders. The good news is that information, investment, industry, individuals, and the Internet lower the barriers to going global. Companies such as Caterpillar, Dupont, IBM and McDonald’s rely on capturing a healthy chunk of their revenue from their international customers.
- Globalize where the return is greatest. Focus on the countries with economically active populations most likely to buy your goods or services (see “All Commerce Is Local, But Some Locales Matter More than Others“). We worked with one software vendor that localized its Web site into four languages and reached a bigger audience than its nearest competitor–whose site was in seven languages. Assess the suitability of your products against worldwide markets – benchmark your company’s Web site reach at our beta Availability Quotient calculator. Don’t forget about domestic cohorts that speak other languages such as Spanish or Vietnamese; they buy goods and services in your home market, but need special attention.
- Increase global sell-through. Convert international browsers to buyers. Improved geolocation can position more people to buy your products and services. Optimizing your company’s global gateway can increase the chances of making a sale. Every country has a variety of payment mechanisms that its residents prefer — your challenge is to support the most frequently used ones (see “Language and Payment Support Translates into Global Sales“).
- Take care of your best employees. Don’t jettison talent you will regret losing once the downturn is over. Rank your talent. Keep key contributors informed about what’s going on. Cut extraneous expenses before considering layoffs. Network with the top talent in your industry and start talking to them. Invest in training your current staff for when good times return.
- Translate. People won’t buy what they don’t understand (see “Translation as a Competitive Advantage“). Give priority to marketing materials, content to propel visitors through the sales process, and frequently referenced support materials. Consider machine translation for translating content that might make more information available for customer service, but would otherwise be unavailable. For example, instead of paying a service provider to translate incoming e-mails, run that content through a machine translation engine instead.
If you think globally, your international initiatives have the potential to help you outperform rivals stuck in a single market, both during a recession and during better economic times.
Don DePalma (email@example.com) is the founder and chief research officer of the research and consulting firm Common Sense Advisory.