The internet has made it easier for businesses to expand and sell internationally; however, communicating with customers across different time zones can be challenging.
Without streamlining your business’ marketing, communication and customer service within all operational countries, you run the risk of leaving costumers dissatisfied, developing a tarnished reputation and, ultimately, your overseas expansion failing. Want to guarantee your business is just as successful internationally? Here are five tips to help your customers communicate with your business, regardless of the time zone they are in.
Schedule Social Media Posts
Social media advertising has become fundamental for marketing with 60 million businesses and organisations now owning a branded Facebook page. However, if you’re advertising internationally across your social media platforms, then time differences need to be taken into consideration; especially if you’re investing a substantial proportion of your marketing budget into this. Remember – not everyone around the world will be around to view your post the second it goes live and there’s no point investing in advertising that only a small proportion of your audience is going to see.
If you want a single advert to work across multiple time zones, considering the global time range it’ll cover instead of just the time it goes up in your own time zone is essential. For example, although 80% of the US runs on Central and Eastern time zones, you need to determine what time posts will go live in relation to other time zones – posting at 9am might be good for Central and Eastern time, but it’s unlikely a 6am post in Pacific time is going to generate much engagement. It would be more advantageous to schedule this post for when people in Pacific time are awake.
Determining the most active times of day for social media interaction to schedule your posts will ensure that they have a higher chance of being noticed. According to CoSchedule, the best times to upload to Facebook are:
• 12-1pm Saturday and Sunday
• 1-4pm Thursday and Friday
• 3pm Wednesday
On the other hand, the best times to upload to Instagram are:
• Monday and Thursday any other time than 3-4pm
• 9pm-8am for videos any day
• Monday between 8-9am to correlate with the first morning commute of the week
Thinking and planning for these windows across all the time zones you have to cover will streamline your targeting by posting when your audience is more likely to be browsing. For example, if your business deals mostly with London and New York (a five-hour time difference), then a targeted post for commuters after work in GMT would coincide with lunchtime in New York. You can use a time zone converter to calculate the time zones within different countries.
Segment Email Audience Geographically
Email newsletters are used by approximately 80% of content marketers making it one of the most popular methods. Despite this, a huge 43% of marketers do not send targeted emails, and considering segmented emails achieve 100.95% higher clicks than non-segmented campaigns, failing to segment your email campaigns could be significantly reducing your click through rate, engagement and ultimately – sales.
Segmenting your emails geographically is extremely effective for speaking directly to a particular group of your customers. This strategy works especially well when location is a significant influencer in the purchasing decision process.
Having knowledge of where your contacts are located is seriously powerful information, but knowing how to use this data is more beneficial. For example, there’s no point in segmenting your email audience by post/zip code and including areas where your business isn’t operating yet.
Some ways that companies can use geographic data for segmented email listings include:
• Advertising regional promotions – Send focused emails to those with stores nearby
• Time-based emails – Organise your emails by sending them at appropriate times to those in different time zones
• Map directions – Personalise directions to a store or an event based on the recipient’s location
• Event invitations – Keep customers aware of upcoming events for their specific location
• Location-specific content – Use a location in your subject line, headline or content to become relatable and offer a personalised experience
• Store-targeted offers – Send out offers specific to the physical stores that buyers frequently visit
Email creative platform provider Litmus, used geo-location targeting to send out targeted emails for their Design Conference in San Francisco, London and Boston, which featured useful details for each location. As a result of their geo-location targeting, Litmus’ email open rate increased to 68%, compared to a mere 22% for general conference announcements.
Apply International Tracked Phone Numbers
If you have expanded into the global market, then tracking where your enquiries are coming from is essential for measuring success and identifying areas for improvement. Nowadays, the majority of businesses measure their success through digital analytics, such as conversions, click through rate and purchases; this doesn’t mean they aren’t relying on phone calls to generate business.
Considering that 75% of consumers believe a phone call is the quickest way to receive a response disregarding the importance of these phone calls will be costing you valuable insights into your customers’ sales journey. Furthermore, when evaluating the success of your marketing campaigns within individual countries, having no data on where your leads originated from can become frustrating. Improper tracking can cause international leads to become mixed with UK data, leaving you in the dark over your global potential. If you have multiple touchpoints for a customer to contact your brand before, during or after they make a purchase, how can you produce a customer journey map to guarantee they are satisfied every step of the way?
International tracked phone numbers, provided by call tracking software companies like Mediahawk, complete the loop between digital advertising spend and sales calls within specific countries. A unique telephone number is assigned to each visitor to your site – for example, if you wanted to track calls in the US, visitors from this location would see a US local or toll-free telephone number which would encourage the customer to make the call. With international tracked telephone numbers you can view your entire marketing response in one location, whether it’s through pay-per-click (PPC) campaigns, offline advertising, email marketing or retargeting ads, so you can easily compare which of these channels generated the greatest volume of inbound calls from all over the world.
Outsource to Where Your Customers Are
When expanding internationally, most companies resolve time zone issues by outsourcing to countries around the world – call centres, manufacturing, general administrative tasks and software development can happen anywhere now. According to a study conducted by KMPG, 48% of UK companies outsource to improve their customer service, remember – happy, satisfied customers are the centre of any business.
Outsourcing provides a consistent service, enabling you to become available 24/7 for your customers at any time, day or night which is something not all businesses will be able to afford or manage in-house. You can gain a wider access to high quality staff that are specifically trained to meet the needs of your business. Naturally, the idea of outsourcing your customer service can seem worrying; meaning it’s a decision not to be taken lightly. However, outsourcing your business to where your customers are located can provide you with access to a global pool of talent, allowing you to expand your business further.
Be Contactable and Respond
Operating overseas inevitably means having to build a positive reputation in countries where you might not have the same levels of credibility and trust compared to selling nationally. Although building up trust and reputation within your target market might be a long-term goal, you can encourage this in the short-term by simply being contactable and responding to your customers in a timely manner.
Keeping contact information updated on your offline and online marketing methods is crucial: failure to guarantee your business is contactable and responsive will result in dissatisfied customers and gaining a poor reputation. List all phone numbers and email addresses that are geographically specific to prevent customers from different locations contacting the wrong department.
If you have offices overseas, you could also identify any potential staffing gaps, for example, employing linguists to help maintain your customer relationship management (CRM) through responding to emails, answering phone calls, etc. could be required to manage enquiries. This will also be beneficial for covering different time zones.
About the Author
Natalia Selby is the Marketing coordinator at Mediahawk, with over 10 years’ experience in analytics, content management and eCommerce.