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How to Find New International Business Leads

Small business owners operating in local markets can find new customers through traditional methods, such as advertising, referrals and industry events. Adapting those approaches to generate leads internationally, though, requires tailoring one's strategy to foreign customers and adopting new business technology. Global marketing experts suggest the following tips to find leads in foreign countries.

Optimize Your Website

"One of the most critical parts of international expansion is to figure out your website structure (see how to develop a website for a foreign customer base )," says Kieran Flanagan, who oversees international marketing for HubSpot, a marketing software company based in Cambridge, Mass.

Foreign customers can find a business through Google most easily if the website domain is tailored to their own country, says Flanagan, who works in HubSpot's Dublin office. Websites that end in ".fr" for France and ".de" for Germany, for example, clearly cater to foreign markets.

Before jumping into a foreign market, international business owners can translate their top landing pages into another language and run a paid Internet search ad to see how many leads they attract.

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A website strategy that embraces SEO (search engine optimization) and tools as Google Webmaster Tools allows you to GEO target audiences across in various countries, including cities. Employing a website marketing strategy that leverages Organic and Paid Search, Display advertising, Social Media and a variety of other touchpoints that an omni-channel customer will land before reaching out to your business, is a foundational aspect of generating demand and growing your business into new geographic markets online.

"Paid search is a great way to start experimenting in different countries," Flanagan adds. Before jumping into a foreign market, international business owners can translate their top landing pages into another language and run a paid Internet search ad to see how many leads they attract.

To cater to foreign markets, international business owners can provide product prices in a foreign currency based on the latest dollar exchange rate by using an online foreign exchange provider's free currency converter.

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Deliver Valuable Content

When Heather Townsend, a marketing specialist and executive coach in Milton Keynes, England, launched her own company, The Efficiency Coach, in 2009, she generated 80 percent of her business from Twitter. (Townsend has since merged her firm with another coaching firm to form the Excedia Group Ltd.) Her formula was direct: Write targeted articles and blog posts, then publish them at the best times to reach new foreign customers overseas. "The best time of day to tweet is when your target audience is awake, and 'on a break', such as, the commute to work, lunchtime … and the commute home," she says.

Small business owners should establish what products and services they can offer potential clients that aren't available in foreign markets, says Townsend, author of The Financial Times Guide to Business Networking. Once business owners establish their message, they can find international business leads by tweeting content that reinforces their expertise.

Build Your Global Network

Small business owners can network in the global market; it just takes extra planning, Townsend says. She cites the example of an English commercial attorney who wants to attract business from American technology companies. He spends an hour a day on LinkedIn getting to know corporate decision-makers whom he can meet when he visits the U.S., she says.

Business owners also can pay to join an international network, a popular tactic for professionals such as lawyers and accountants, Townsend suggests. These groups help members enter new markets through contact referrals in those foreign countries.

By optimizing a business's website for the global market and creating targeted content, business owners can grow their sales abroad without stretching their internal resources thin. 

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