On Top Of The World

The Web can bring the world to your door - but your site had better be foreign-friendly.

Armed with little more than a modem and access to the Internet, today's homebased entrepreneur can become an instant contender in the international marketplace. But it takes more than a modem and a Web site to become an instant success in that marketplace.

Pitching your products to the international community involves the same marketing issues you're concerned with domestically: What concepts, images or slogans will attract customers? What strategies will work best in this market? Unless you're at once a linguist, an anthropologist and a diplomat, you may find these questions difficult to answer. Successful international marketing demands an understanding of language as well as cultural issues, sensitivities and symbolism. Something as simple as the colors of your Web site can mean the difference between a sale and a cultural faux pas.

One solution: "Localize" your Web site and any other materials you intend to distribute to the international marketplace (including brochures, sales literature and product documentation). Localization means more than acquiring a word-for-word translation of your materials; it means developing a marketing approach that is both internationally effective and culturally correct.

Moira Allen is an author and former technical writer who lives in Olympia, Washington.

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