How to Enhance Your Online Presence to Attract International Buyers

3 SIMPLE TIPS TO HELP GLOBAL ARTISAN BUSINESSES GET NOTICED

Reaching the international market can be frustrating for artisan enterprises from around the world.  As an entrepreneur passionate about your business, you know that you have great products that are well designed and high quality. You have a great story behind those products.  Maybe it’s a story of preserving a heritage craft technique with a modern design, or maybe you use unique natural ingredients, or you have a social enterprise model that is bringing living-wage employment to a marginalized community.  You consider yourself a smart and savvy business leader, yet you struggle to reach the international buyers you want to attract.  So what’s missing?

 
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I hear this complaint a lot from artisan businesses globally, “I don’t know how to reach new buyers.”  Yet when I look them up online, oftentimes I can’t find their business or there are large gaps in their online information.  Many companies reach out to me by email at Global Girlfriend hoping to sell to us but don’t include any photos of their products, prices, or links directing me to somewhere I can find that information online. It's essential that you have an updated and easily accessible way for people to find your company online to be attractive to international business partners.

Luckily, there are free and easy ways to enhance your online presence.  Here are three ways -  good, better and best - to showcase your company online:

GOOD: Create a Free Facebook Business Page

Facebook is a simple and free platform to showcase your products, your story, your team, and new developments.  With 1.8 billion users worldwide, Facebook is the largest social media platform in the world and one of the easiest places to share your company’s information.  Many global entrepreneurs are on Facebook personally but have not created a page for their businesses.

In just a few minutes you can have an online presence and a place to point potential customers to learn more about you and what you offer.  If you don’t have a business page for your company, you can access my free step by step guide for setting up your Facebook business page here: Create Your Facebook Business Page – The Step By Step Guide.

If you do have a business page, use it.  Make sure that you are updating it regularly with photos of your new product offerings.  I recommend posting an update daily or weekly, but please post once a month at a minimum. If you don’t have a website this is a great place to store a gallery of your product photos.  You can also share news about your work and your team. Be sure to fill out the "About" tab on your business page so that buyers can find a brief description of your company, a link to your webiste (if you have one) and an email address where they can contact you.

Don’t worry about looking perfect online.  Your photos don’t need to be professional and your content can be brief but informative.  Focus on providing information and visuals that make buyers want to engage with you and your business.

BETTER: Create a Website

Your website is your home online. Think of it as the front door to your business.  It’s where you welcome customers, show them who you are, what you make, and why they should buy from you. Having a website shows that you are serious about your business and that you want to be found and contacted with new opportunities.

If you don’t have the resources to invest in hiring someone to build your website, build it yourself for free or at a very low cost. Many of today’s web platforms offer simple drag and drop templates that require no coding or web design experience. For a free website try using Wix, Weebly, Sitebuilder or Word Press. Each of these platforms offers easy to use tools, forever free plans, and clean and beautiful templates to fill in your information and photos.  With Wix and Weebly, your free domain name will include the Wix or Weebly name along with your domain but that’s okay.  If you want to upgrade any of these services to add more features or functionality to your site, the next level plans start at only $8 USD and go up to $25 USD per month so they are very affordable.

If you’d like a more advanced site that you can still easily build yourself, sign up for a free 14-Day trial of Squarespace. This is one of my favorite platforms and it is what this website is built on.  Since this post is intended for those of you who run artisan enterprises abroad (not in the US), you should also look for what is available locally from your country or region.  For example, if you are from southern Africa you can explore the South African company New Woza Online with plans starting at just 149 Rand monthly (approximately $12 USD per month). A quick Google search for "free websites" should pull up a list of international and regional providers.

Always make sure that you have a website you can control without having to pay someone else to update basic content. All too often companies pay a web developer to create their sites only to find out that they have to pay the developer every time they want to update information or add new product offerings.  If you do hire someone to create your site, make sure that you are empowered to make your own changes and updates going forward. Building a site yourself with one of the tools above means that you will always be able to control and update it.

Wondering what should be on your site?  That’s up to you, but I’d suggest that you always include these four things:

  1. A paragraph telling us about your company.
  2. A description of your products and product photos. If you can create an online catalog or gallery of product photos that is even better. You can go even deeper by showing us photos of your production process.
  3. A paragraph telling us about your artisans. Who are you and who are the people behind your products? If you can include your story as well as individual photos, stories, or quotes from your team, that will help create a human connection to your brand.
  4. Your contact information.  Have an online form that buyers can fill out to contact you, or simply a link to your email address.  Make it easy for buyers to get in touch.

BEST: Facebook + Website + Email Outreach to Prospective Customers

Now that you’ve built a home base online and a place to update your product photos in a gallery (either on Facebook or on your website), reach out to prospective customers by email to tell them about your business and direct them with links to your online presence to see your products.  Don’t send a large mass email if this is your first time contacting a customer.  Send personal emails to targeted buyers with all the information they need to start a meaningful conversation about carrying your products.

As an entrepreneur, you make opportunities come to life for your business.  Reach out and let buyers know about you and your products (here's what I shared with the Trade+Impact seller community about proposing products to buyers). Let your business be seen around the world by creating an online presence that gets you noticed.