How to Win Buyers and Succeed in Overseas Markets Part IV - How to Drive Away Customers

We have discussed how badly designed websites can damage your reputation and drive away customers so easily. However, websites are by no means the only way to damage your reputation - there are other acts of commission and omission that can sufficiently upset your customer to dump you midway in a negotiation or not respond to your offer at all.

Tragedy is, many of us either do not understand the significance of such acts or are plain insensitive. Selling in international market has never been simple - with diverse language, geographical distance, cultural difference and lack of market knowledge posing real challenge to any manufacturer/exporter. The challenge becomes even more formidable when buyer and seller interact through as anonymous a medium as Internet.

This week, we take a close look at acts of commission that can spread negative image about your company:

Mass Mailing or Spam

E-mail is a wonderful medium for communication - its fast, reliable and at the same time inexpensive. No wonder, e-mail has become so popular for individuals as well as businesses in such a short time. A good e-mail marketing strategy is essential to be successful in international business.

However, indiscriminate use of e-mails can severely damage your reputation. Badly constructed, non-personalized, mass e-mails never gets you customers - only bad image. With fast e-mailing software, sending same e-mail to hundreds or thousands of customers may look cost effective monetarily - but it also gets you negative image and even blacklisting (fire walled) by ISPs.

Never fall for absolute numbers - look for quality. Every mail that you send must be personalized with not only individual name and address but in a specific context relevant to the recipient. The recipient must feel that you have addressed his/her concerns/requirements in a one-to-one basis - not a shabby janta-mail type general treatment.

Obviously - the above is impossible if you are collecting e-mails from all and sundry and sending mass mails. You must research for leads or get it from qualified sources, send individual mails to prospective customers addressing his/her requirement/concern and then follow these up with more mails, telephone calls, chats etc.

Remember - mass-mailing or spamming is not only illegal but is perceived as "poor man's marketing" and a threat to privacy.

Mind Your Language

Your sales letter to a prospective customer is a representative of your company. If it looks good, customer may perceive you as professional. If it looks bad - you may be perceived unreliable or unprofessional. Here's few tips:

  • Check your letter for spelling mistakes and silly grammatical errors. All good word processors these days have excellent tools for spelling check, grammatical error and even statistical measures for reading-ease. 
  •  Do not use abbreviations, as you would do in a telex or telegram. For example, using "pls" for please and "u" for you would not only make your letter difficult to read but may even lead the recipient to think you are lazy. You may be quite conversant with cryptic abbreviations and enjoy SMS lingo - certainly not everyone !
  • Do not use obsolete, cumbersome sentences like "Would you be so kind..." and "please find enclosed ..." Use simple, short sentences in direct conversational mode. 
  •  Never push the buyer around - he/she may not like it. Sentences like, "I am looking forward to your favorable reply" are pushy and should not be used. While communicating with buyers - avoid words like "prompt", "ASAP", "at your earliest convenience" etc. These may be perceived as rude and too forceful. Remember - your buyer responds to your mail because it's the business-like thing to do, not because you push them.

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Source: FAIDA - Newsletter on Business Opportunties from India and Abroad Vol: 3, Issue 27 October 24' 2002

Author : Dr. Amit K. Chatterjee
(Amit worked in blue-chip Indian and MNCs for 15 years in various capacities like Research and Information Analysis, Market Development, MIS, R&D Information Systems etc. before starting his e-commerce venture in 1997. The views expressed in this columns are of his own. He may be reached at )

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