Alabama Online Global Program gives new marketing tools to exporters

Alabama Online Global Program gives new marketing tools to exporters
A new program aims to help Alabama companies elevate their profiles and win business in foreign markets. (contributed)

The Alabama Department of Commerce Office of International Trade is working with its partners to help export-minded companies across the state maintain their global focus and create trade relationships overseas.

The department’s trade team, in collaboration with the Export Alabama Alliance, is aligning with IBT Online to form the Alabama Online Global Program. The goal: to give Alabama companies new internet marketing tools to elevate their profiles and win business in foreign markets.

A presentation on the online business development tools offered through the program is scheduled for 11 a.m. Wednesday, Nov. 18. Register here.

“A strong online presence for companies has never been so important as it is now,” said Greg Canfield, secretary of the Alabama Department of Commerce.

“It is critical that we help them adapt as much as possible to these new conditions to avoid losing current customers and to quickly return to pre-quarantine levels of activity,” he said.

Website strategies

Hilda Lockhart, director of the Office of International Trade, said the pandemic has disrupted plans of many Alabama firms to expand business internationally.

A ship takes on cargo at the Port of Mobile, a key cog in Alabama’s export machine. Alabama’s exports topped $20 billion in 2019, but the pandemic has presented challenges for some export-minded companies. (contributed)

The Commerce Department was forced to cancel 2020 trade missions planned for Vietnam, Hong Kong, the Caribbean and Russia. It had geared up to help Alabama companies traveling to trade shows in foreign markets, but those events were also canceled.

“We know this has been extremely challenging during this year with COVID-19 impacting travel, supply chains, causing shutdowns, closures and causing a lot of uncertainty for everyone,” Lockhart said.

“Because of COVID-19, we began looking for innovative ways to help companies across Alabama reach out to potential buyers and partners throughout the world,” she added.

IBT Online, which has created programs for other states, can help companies with website localization strategies that make their brands easy to find in target countries and facilitate business connections. (Click here to watch a video.)

“This seemed like the optimum time to partner with IBT and bring this expertise and opportunity to Alabama companies,” Lockhart said. “Because of COVID-19, it’s now even more crucial for businesses to make their websites an effective global business tool.”

Help for businesses

Davies Hood, president of Birmingham-based Induron Protective Coatings, said his company has been working with IBT Online and is seeing benefits from its “internationalization through localization” approach to marketing.

“Sometimes we tend to look at the world through the lens of our own culture, experience and/or preconceptions, so they have helped us take a more local, customer-focused approach,” Hood said.

“Their professionalism and politeness impress me, but I genuinely value their approach that is based more on systems and processes than more touchy-feely marketing approaches.”

Canfield said the Commerce team and the international trade group received financial resources from the U.S. Small Business Administration State Trade Expansion Program (STEP) to launch the Alabama Online Global Program.

Chris Wilder of SEPCO, an Alabaster-based maker of fluid-sealing products, said STEP has benefited his company.

“The STEP grant program been a vital part of our global export growth strategy. We have used it for everything from market research to trade mission prospecting,” Wilder said.

“Currently, we are working with the program to further develop our international digital marketing assets. The STEP grant program is an excellent value,” he said.

This story originally appeared on the Alabama Department of Commerce’s Made in Alabama website.

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