Companies trading internationally rely on their corporate websites as a critical marketing tool to reach potential buyers. But how do foreign buyers find those websites? Most would do an Internet search using Google, or perhaps a local search engine such as Baidu in China, which is why an effective search engine optimization strategy is so important to a company’s marketing plan.
However, relying solely on search engines can make finding specific products and services difficult. Buyers also use web-based platforms that allow much more targeted searching. Advanced search fields include industry classification (SIC or NAICS code), harmonized codes, whether the company is a producer or distributor, etc. Most of the B2B platforms allow registration at no cost. Here are a few leading platforms:
Kompass is the oldest player in the field, having published global business directories for more than 60 years. Its database includes more than 4 million companies in 66 countries. Kompass also offers some of best advanced searching capabilities. Beyond industry classifications, Kompass is the only platform that supports harmonized codes. It also classifies companies as importers, exporters, producers or distributors. Kompass has 58,000 business categories which allow companies to fine-tune their product or service offering. Registration and basic searches are free. Subscribers have access to advance searching options and are able to view all company information from a search.
Formerly known as OneSource, this database is larger than Kompass at more than 5.5 million companies outside the U.S. It allows searching by industry codes, plus conceptual text searching. Avention does an excellent job at cross-referencing company ownership, such as a parent company and all related subsidiaries. Unlike other platforms, users cannot search Avention for free. While some may see this as a competitive disadvantage, Avention views its “closed” architecture as a strength because only vetted information is attached to company profiles.
By far the new kid on block, Alibaba was previously a little known, China-based, niche B2B platform. That all changed as it soon became a huge B2B site for China, and later entered the U.S. Now, Alibaba is poised to have a significant global impact after its recent IPO, the world’s biggest, raised more than $21 billion. An example of its strength is the recent announcement that Costco will sell directly to Chinese buyers through Alibaba. Alibaba uses an open architecture in which registration and searching is free. There are also subscriber levels which offer greater exposure.
Solusource has a link to a well-known brand in B2B marketing: Thomas Register. Previously known as the ‘big green books,’ Thomas Register is no longer in print. But its B2B platform, based on Thomas Global, continues. It has significantly fewer companies than other platforms, and only about 30 countries represented. However, searching and registration are free.
TradeKorea is a relatively new site created by KITA – Korea International Trade. Following in the footsteps of Alibaba, TradeKorea started as a Korean B2B platform and has grown to a global platform with a significant number of users outside Korea.
-Jim Foley will lead a presentation at the Wisconsin International Trade conference titled, “Expanding Your Exports – Skills for Success.” Foley is the director, Turner Center Operations, Illinois SBDC International Trade Center. For more information on marketing your international business, contact Foley at (309) 677-3075 or firstname.lastname@example.org.