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Experts: Targeted marketing required to sell overseas

Bob McInnis of the Duffy Agency, at a

Bob McInnis of the Duffy Agency, at a conference hosted at Hofstra University on Friday, May 6, 2016, said that companies that want to do business overseas need to have a strategy, which may include actually visiting the countries they're targeting. Credit: Steve Pfost

Long Island businesses seeking to sell goods and services overseas must tailor their marketing campaigns to specific countries and specific populations within those countries, a panel of experts said last week.

This task has been made easier by the rise of Internet sales, or e-commerce, because websites, email and text messages can be customized, they said.

Still, there is no substitute for visiting the nation that you want to sell to.

“You have to have a strategy and that requires actually getting on a plane,” said Bob McInnis, global account director for the Duffy Agency, an international advertising firm. “Desktop research never wins the day.”

McInnis spoke to about 35 people Friday at an event organized by the U.S. Commerce Department’s Long Island U.S. Export Assistance Center and Hofstra University’s Frank G. Zarb School of Business. The seminar is held annually to mark the department’s “World Trade Month” initiative.

McInnis, a Greenport resident, said novice exporters must do more than translate their advertising into foreign languages. Marketing campaigns need to precisely target an audience just as they do in this country, he said.

That’s how Spectronics Corp. of Westbury approaches exporting its ultraviolet lighting and fluorescent dyes to more than 100 countries.

Brian Green, the company’s marketing vice president, said on a panel at the event that e-commerce is becoming increasingly important, particularly through smartphones and other mobile devices. He said consumers in India and China are comfortable making purchases via cellphone while Europeans and Americans still prefer to buy via desktop computer.

“In the next five years, a lot of manufacturers will be selling directly online instead of attending trade shows and other traditional avenues for selling,” Green said.

U.S. companies continue to have a leg up in China because many consumers there perceive locally made products to be inferior, according to the experts.

Tao Meng, a professor at Dongbei University of Finance and Economics in Dalian, China, who is visiting Hofstra, said, “More and more Chinese people want U.S. products because they are better . . . compared with Chinese products.”

China is of great interest to Long Island exporters, according to Erin Cole, head of Global NY, the state’s international trade program.

She said recently that China was second behind Europe in the exporting plans of local companies participating in Global NY in 2014, the most recently available data.

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