First impressions are important
We all know how important first impressions are. Letters, brochures, emails, faxes, video-conferences, phone calls and personal meetings all have a substantial impact. Gain a competitive advantage by presenting well.
How can I make a good impression?
Pay attention to these basic factors: Be confident. Be responsive. Be professional. Be friendly. Pick up the phone. Practice your presentation.
Clients appreciate a quick and efficient reply, and want to feel that their enquiry is important to you. Even if they don’t purchase now, they are likely to remember that your company provided friendly and responsive customer service without high pressure ‘closing’ techniques.
Avoid jargon. Don’t be too familiar. Be more polite than you would perhaps normally be in Australia. Try to offer something new each time you make contact.
Set a flag on your computer’s calendar to make contact again on a particular date.
Learn the cultural factors at work in your target market. In the Middle East, for example, most emails and correspondence go unanswered, but everyone answers their mobile.
Learn what communication techniques work in the markets that interest you.
Which companies present best to you?
Observe the companies and individuals who impress you on first meeting. If it is an email or letter, what captures your attention? If it works for you, it will probably work for others. It is usually not fancy stationery but the manner in which you present yourself and your message.
Correspondence should be kept short and contain no more than three critical messages. Make it easy for your prospect to say yes to your proposal. Offer to call at a set time and check if that is convenient. Indicate that you will be following up with a phone call, sample pack or a meeting.
Email techniques are critical
Effective emails use a combination of words and layouts that convey messages quickly and stand out. Insert product photos, graphics or even video clips that define your product or service. Try to build in quick response formats that make it easier for the recipient to seek more information. Ensure your email techniques are geared to the markets you are targeting. Use other communication techniques as well, in line with local customs. Research your prospect to find out what is likely to catch their attention.
Practice meeting techniques
When you are attending a meeting or business mission (see below for further information) in a new country, seek advice on meeting etiquette. Check out the websites of Austrade or the US Department of Commerce as a starting point.
State your company’s key objectives for the meeting up front. Listen well and learn to restate your prospect’s comments to help you reach agreement on key points. Talk slowly and deliberately and keep in mind the key goals you are seeking from the meeting. Dress well and if in doubt always wear a suit, no matter what the local custom.
PowerPoint presentations should be short and include visually arresting graphics or photos of your product performing in comparable locations.
Be meticulous in follow-up. Never run out of business cards (see below for more information on ‘Business cards’).
Having a good website
A good website is your corporate brochure and prospects will usually go straight to it to check you out. The website need not be loaded with information, but be cleanly laid out with interesting graphics.
Use customer endorsements wherever possible and photographs to show your products or services being used. Make sure that contact details are easy to use and friendly – preferably a direct email with a photo of the staff member. That encourages customer response rather than an ‘enquiry.com’ address.
A well-constructed and easy-to-navigate website provides great opportunities for exporters. Maintaining an up-to-date website allows you to:
- Make contact with potential overseas customers without leaving home
- Reach overseas customers in cost-effective ways
- Project the impression of a professional organisation of substance
- Convey that your business is ‘modern’ and uses new technology
- Avoid problems with time differences by having 24-hour contact
- Introduce and promote new products
- Demonstrate products using technical data, drawings
- Sell products direct to customers
To help Australian exporters promote their products, Austrade is associated with two sorts of trade missions:
- From Australia to overseas markets (selling missions)
- From overseas markets to Australia (buying missions)
Australian missions visiting overseas markets are frequently sponsored by industry organisations and government bodies. To signal the importance Australia places on these missions, they are normally led by government ministers or recognised industry leaders.
Because of their ‘group power’ and high profile, Australian selling missions create export opportunities through:
- Wider media coverage
- Increased access to potential customers
- Direct contact with political and business decision makers
- The comfort of being part of a group when visiting a market with special features, eg. poor security or a prominent role for the State in trading
- Lower travel costs because of bulk travel, accommodation and shared promotions
- Greater visibility at overseas events, such as trade shows and exhibitions
- Effective support networks of ‘like’ exporters
- Easier access to information about potential markets, competitive products and new technologies and trends
Overseas buying missions visiting Australia also provide opportunities for you to promote your products and services. By joining a buying mission, members have already shown some commitment to purchasing from Australia. These missions give individual exporters the chance to impress a number of potential customers at the one time – for instance, by demonstrating production methods and offering on-site tours. And they save Australian exporters money as the buyers are coming to them, not vice-versa.
Business cards are part of overseas travel. You cannot afford to go overseas without them:
- Make it easy for your contacts to store or scan your card for future reference by only using the standard format (approx 9cm x 5cm).
- In non-English speaking countries it pays to print full details on the reverse side of the card in the local language. This should include the company logo in identical fashion to that on the English version.
- Provide international telephone contact details to help your overseas contact if they want to contact you, eg. +61 2 9390 2000 or +61 (02) 9390 2000. Don’t forget to put ‘Australia’ after your State.
- Carry abundant supplies of cards whenever you go overseas and carry them with you at all times.
In some countries (particularly in Asia) a business card is an important document. Some tips to keep in mind:
- Accept the card in two hands, study the name and details thoughtfully, and put it away carefully.
- Don't throw your card across a desk as this may convey disrespect.
- Avoid writing on a card when in the presence of the owner as this may also cause offence.
Some points to consider when deciding how you will use brochures in your promotions:
- In non-English speaking countries you may wish to avoid the costs of printing new brochures by extensive use of visual material or alternatively, consider a local-language insert.
- Simple low-cost flyers can meet the need for high volume distribution, supplemented by a more up-market, informative colour brochure for quality enquiries.
- Customs duties and taxes may be levied on brochures in some countries. Check with your Chamber of Commerce or Austrade before your visit.
- Having available generous numbers of brochures at trade displays and on trade missions is essential to avoid expensive emergency printings or recourse to low-quality photocopies when offshore.
- The majority of material that you need to collect or create for your brochure will also be useful when building your website.
Australian Suppliers Directory
Another way of promoting yourself overseas is by registering your company on Austrade’s Australian Suppliers Directory.
For more information, please call 13 28 78 or email email@example.com.
Customer Service Institute of Australia – www.csia.com.au
CSIA has a range of programs and publications featuring best practice in customer service.
Customer Service Manager – www.customerservicemanager.com
Check out some good articles on customer service.
Webfoot – www.webfoot.com/advice/email.top.html
This website offers a basic guide to emails.
Guides to effective emails are at www.emailreplies.com and http://home.techsoup.org/pages/default.aspx
Try also www.googobits.com/articles/356-the-essentials-of-writing-effective-emails.html
Mind Tools – www.mindtools.com/CommSkll/RunningMeetings.htm
This website provides some hints on effective meeting techniques.
Having a good website
Search Engine Watch – http://searchenginewatch.com/
This site provides useful information on web promotion and finding information on the Internet.
Smart Web Promotion – www.smart-web-promotion.com
Strategies and tips for maximising the visibility of your website.
Websites at Work – www.websitesatwork.com.au
Provides tips and examples of effective websites for small business.