Increasing Customer Engagement in Asia with Virtual Numbers
AVOXI knows as well as anyone that expanding your customer base into East Asia is extremely difficult if you do not have experience in those markets. Despite consistent growth in the global marketplace for years (we provide international virtual numbers), AVOXI’s growth in East Asia was virtually non-existent. However, that completely changed starting in June 2018. In less than 5 months, our monthly organic leads from East Asia increased by over 300%! On top of that, our win rate amongst opportunities from Asia has never been higher. And all it took was one new employee and a couple of virtual business numbers.
Anyone who has done business in East Asia knows that the business culture is quite different from Europe or North America. The interesting difference that is relevant here is this: In many East Asian countries, decision-makers strongly prefer to do business with those that they perceive as similar to themselves, culturally. Trust is extremely important, and there is a sense of national loyalty that puts a foreign company at a disadvantage to a domestic business when battling for sales in Asia.
There are already mountains of articles, videos, books, and more on why these differences exist. Today, we simply want to share how we adapted once we acknowledged these differences and why we think it went so well. Addressing the perception that we had little or no presence in East Asia is what allowed us to more than triple our lead flow and sales from those markets in the second half of 2018. The best part is how easy it was. Here’s how we did it.
Hiring a Native-Speaker
This is the only step that may require actual effort. But, having a member on your team that can speak a native language of your target countries is a MAJOR benefit when trying to establish relationships within the East Asia market. This is especially true if you sell info, software, or B2B products and services online.
We opened an account executive position up for applicants all over Asia. In the end, we added an experienced sales representative from Hong Kong to our team. The decision worked out well for us, and here are some key takeaways we learned:
- Having a native-speaker on your sales team does more than just help establish trust amongst potential customers in Asia – it reduces the need for creating customer-facing documentation in different languages. Our growth in Asia did not require us to create any new web pages, contracts, manuals, etc. in a new language.
- If you aren’t sure where to find talent, we suggest looking in Hong Kong and Singapore first. Both countries have very friendly business environments, a highly-skilled labor force, and are located near several other top markets in the Asia Pacific region. Best of all, English is commonly spoken in both countries, especially when doing business.
- While your new hire could technically be a native-speaker residing in your home country, there is a huge benefit if they are close enough to your target market to meet potential customers face-to-face, at least on occasion. We found that our largest customers in Asia often liked to see a member of our team in-person before buying from us. But, once that relationship was established, these customers rarely require face-to-face interactions in the future and continually add more business from us through our online shopping cart.
- Some markets in East Asia are more insulated than others. While Hong Kong and Singapore are great areas to begin expanding into East Asia as a whole, you’ll still find that countries like Japan and South Korea prefer doing business with an agent within their own country.
Getting a Virtual Phone Number in Singapore
Once our new-hire was trained and ready to speak to potential customers, we established a local presence by getting a toll free virtual number in Singapore. Then, we simply set up our call forwarding rules to route calls from Singapore straight to our new team member in Hong Kong during his available hours. After doing so, we observed two primary benefits, one of which was a very pleasant surprise.
First, the frequency with which searchers in Singapore also called increased compared to when we just advertised a local US number, which can be dialed from overseas. But, we already expected that advertising a toll free virtual number in Singapore would increase engagement in the region. What we didn’t expect was the SEO benefits of associating more international numbers with our website.
To our surprise, our Google rankings in Singapore actually increased after adding a toll free virtual number to our website! As it turns out, the same thing seems to be true for local numbers all the way down to the city-level. For example, if your website has a local virtual number in New York City, you should notice a boost in your Google rankings when the searches are coming from New York City. So not only were potential customers in Singapore more likely to call us when they came across our website, but our website appeared in front of people in Singapore searching for services like ours much more often!
Since we provide virtual business numbers around the world, of course, we can set up a local or toll free number in Singapore or anywhere else in no time. But, this is easy to do for any business. You can get an international toll free number in 120+ countries for as little as $5.
Realize It’s Working and Add a Hong Kong Virtual Number!
Needless to say, our surprising improvement in Singapore’s Google rankings along with our increased interaction-rate has us excited about applying this strategy to other markets in East Asia and around the world. We already added a virtual local number in Hong Kong to our website to make sure our results were consistent. Sure enough, just like the Singapore toll free number, our Google rankings in Hong Kong got a slight boost once we added a local virtual number to relevant web pages.
Considering that we are a global telecom service for business, we admit we should have tried this much sooner. But, our surprising improvement in Hong Kong and Singapore’s Google rankings along with our increased interaction-rate with potential customers us excited about applying this strategy in more of our target markets overseas.