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Word-of-mouth has taken on a whole new meaning with the growth of the blogosphere, opening doors to both international and local markets. Blogs forge a personal connection with readers, adding local perspectives vital for successful international marketing. "Blogs talk with customers, not at them," says Chris Alden, CEO of Six Apart, an international developer of blogging tools. International companies therefore need in-country experts, or at least bloggers with significant experience there, to connect to local markets. For example, a U.S.-based law firm with offices in Germany should have a link to its blog on its main website, with one of its German attorneys blogging about new regulations and court decisions. The blog itself should have links to relevant German articles. And companies in many countries should have region-specific blogs. An American winery that exports internationally, for instance, can have links to local sites discussing restaurants, food and wine pairings, and other related topics. Links drive traffic to your blog, Alden says, so "post as frequently as you have something new and useful to contribute."
It's not just the CEO or head of marketing who knows how to articulate a company's vision, Alden points out. "Find a voice to match the enterprise," he says. Companies in multiple countries may have blog postings from multiple authors in those countries. Tampa, Florida-based Joffrey's Coffee & Tea Co., which had revenue of $10.7 million last year, found many voices to articulate its message. It persuaded its Technorati target market to blog about it by launching a "Java Beta Test" of one of its popular flavors. President and CEO Ted Abrams, 46, hoped to boost Joffrey's internet sales tenfold with the strategy. One week after the announcement on social networking sites, more than a thousand bloggers worldwide had agreed to test the popular "Jamaican Me Crazy" flavor. As a direct result of the test, Joffrey's shipped coffee to 25 countries during the first month. Web hits increased 256 percent, and online sales shot up 50 percent. The buzz wasn't just about the coffee: Bloggers applauded Joffrey's marketing savvy as well. "The Java Beta Test is a great idea," Alden says. "[Now Joffrey's] ought to be blogging about what the blogs are saying."
Gail Dutton is a freelance writer in Montesano, Washington, specializing in business and technology.