North Carolina small-business exporters seeking new ways to generate sales at a time when Covid-19 has shut down international business travel should consider acting now to localize their websites in their top priority global markets.
“A year ago, we introduced the North Carolina Online Global Program to help small businesses translate, search-engine optimize and market their websites in their top target countries so that their brand is easy to find, understand and do business with there,” said Mike Hubbard, international trade director with the Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina (EDPNC), which supports exporters on the state’s behalf.
“Other states with similar programs have found businesses that globalize their websites see their online sales go up pretty dramatically, so we started this in North Carolina.”
Because of Covid-19, it’s now even more important for businesses to make their website an effective global business tool.
“Trade shows and missions around the world have been canceled in 2020,” Hubbard said. “That’s one reason why the U.S. Small Business Administration recently doubled a grant available through our program to help small businesses globalize their website ― raising it to $6,000. That’s enough to pay for half the cost of localizing your business website in two target countries.”
The EDPNC is partnering with the Miami-based company IBT Online in the North Carolina program. IBT provides website localization and international online marketing services, including country-specific search-engine optimization and social media promotion.
“We partnered with IBT Online because it has years of experience working with economic development organizations in states such as Florida, Michigan, Missouri, California, Oregon and others,” said John Loyack, EDPNC vice president for global business services.
IBT’s basic package fully localizes a business website for two different target markets. That includes industry-specific language translation, proper domain name, local hosting, optimization keyword research, in-country regulatory compliance and much more. Higher-priced packages, for example, might add international e-commerce or website redesign, or provide a larger scope of work focusing on a single country.
Why This N.C. Manufacturer Signed On
Established in 1993, Advanced Superabrasives Inc. (ASI), based in Mars Hill, North Carolina, manufactures high-precision diamond and cubic boron nitride grinding wheels customized for clients in industries including woodworking, aerospace, aviation, automotive, and more.
ASI, which sells domestically and in 28 countries, was recently approved for a $6,000 grant to support optimizing its website in Canada and Mexico. The business of roughly 45 employees began exploring website globalization before the pandemic, but the grant and current state of the world have moved the plan forward.
The localized websites will be one of several online approaches Advanced Superabrasives is now taking to serve existing clients and seize opportunities to supply new ones.
“Different companies are opening back up at different times in different countries, and their normal supply chains are broken,” said Jonathan Szucs, president and owner of ASI. “So if you’re robust and you have a good international team and you’re still manufacturing, then this is actually a good time to be shaking those trees ― because a lot of your competitors may not be manufacturing.”
“Typically, something like 75% of our sales involve being face-to-face, on the floor in clients’ manufacturing facilities,” he added. “So not being allowed to travel or visit customers, it is totally changing the way we have to do business.”
“That’s why this website globalization is so important,” he said. “It’s also why we’re looking at platforms like GoToMeeting or Zoom, where our customers can take a tablet out to their machinery and we can work with them that way. We’re having to get innovative.”
Find Out More About Website Globalization
The EDPNC administers the SBA’s State Trade Expansion Program (STEP) grant in North Carolina, available to eligible small businesses of 500 or fewer employees. “If you want a STEP grant to help localize your website, it needs to be in place before the work begins,” Hubbard said. “So reach out to the EDPNC. We’ll walk you through the process. It’s quick and easy.”
To learn more about the North Carolina program, listen to a recent free webinar available here or register for the next webinar scheduled on May 7. Manufacturers and suppliers can also explore information and case studies available on the North Carolina Online Global Program website.