7 Ways to Make & Keep International Business Connections

international feature image
Image by: Lyrik Baum
By Dexter Lunde

Networking is a critical part of business. You have to network in order to reach potential clients and business partners. You have to talk with people in order to gain new business. It is just a part of the job.

When this takes you across language barriers and borders though, it can get even more difficult. Here are my tips for you if you want to get more international business or create more international connections.

#1) Research Travelers in Your Field

Check out what the market is for international interest in your field. Also, make sure that you look into who in your field is traveling to different places. Sometimes you can work out a deal with them to partner up with sales and networks. Talk about references. Check out different markets in different countries.

Look into people that you know who have had contracts with companies and other agencies like the Peace Corps. These people might be able to give you insight on their travels to different places.

#2) Trade Shows and Conferences

This is going to be the biggest way that you can make connections in your field and profession. If you’re really looking to make international connections and not just connections with people in other parts of your country, research international conventions specifically.

#3) Talk with Colleagues and Associates for Resources

Talk with your colleagues about the market in different places. While networking with people at local trade shows, discuss international interests as well. Talk with them about their online sales to different countries. Is there a country (besides the US) which seems to be interested in your products and services as well?

#4) Keep in Touch with Your Alumni

Your graduating class (along with all of the classes around you) will have people who travel. Everyone is looking to travel after school. It’s a great way to reward yourself after completing such a great chapter in your life. Traveling allows for people to find new places, meet new people, and create new networks. Tap into those networks by talking with the people you graduated with and keeping in touch with your school.

#5) Do Some Traveling Yourself

Remember how I said that conferences and trade shows will be your big ticket to making connections? International conventions is a great way to help plan for trips. If you’re a little weary about leaving your family, make it a family vacation. Look for conventions in a place that you would like to travel with your family. Some people say that you shouldn’t mix business with pleasure and that’s mostly true.

However, if you do plan on doing both, I suggest that you make distinct lines between the two. The days before, during, and after the convention should be strictly business. Then plan for some family outings outside of those times.

#6) Have a Great Website

When it comes to international business, chatting with these clients, customers, and associates through your website and via e-mail is a great way to communicate. Make sure that your website is up to date with the latest information and products. Make sure that your online forms include the price of shipping to other countries.

Did you know that more than 65 percent of web users speak a foreign language (that’s not English)? Check out web-based language translation tools that are offered by companies like AltaVista Babelfish.

Look into creating pages that are specific to people who speak different languages. Sites like oDesk can pair you up with a freelance contractor who can do translations for your website for a small fee.

Don’t forget how important your website is for international interests. After all, websites help erase things like country boarders and international waters. Online, we can all exist together without having to travel. So make your website, international friendly and help ease the transition for them. The easier they find your website, the better chances you have that they will want to work with you.

#7) When Conducting International Business…

When you begin networking and working with people from different countries, make sure that you follow these tips in order to stay clear of any trouble:

Check the legality of business offers and transactions. Check in with the government to make sure of what you can and can’t transport over international waters and across borders. I’m not saying that you’re going to go into anything sketchy but it is best to be safe than sorry.

Leave your card. It’s hard to find markets for your products in other countries. We can follow the trends easily within our own borders but trends change quickly, drastically, and unexpectedly elsewhere. So make sure that you’re leaving your card with international businesses so that they can contact you if they have inquiries instead of going overseas and wasting time and money.

Bridge those language barriers. Make sure that you’ve got bilingual customer service representatives. I’m not just talking English and Spanish (though that is the most common of bilingual pairings). Make sure that you get a varied background of languages and cultures. Don’t forget sign language as well.

Make sure that you’re doing the math. When it comes to shipping and insurance, it’s easy to suddenly realize that you’re not making any money on these transactions. So make sure that before you agree to any contracts, you are factoring in the cost of these fees.

Now it’s your turn. What experiences have you hand with international business? Was it strictly customers that are buying your products or have you worked with business associates from across the water or border? Was it difficult to work with various transport laws and customs?