- Strategic importance of the financial sustainability
- Cross selling, smart packaging, advertisement programs and premium memberships as financial models
- Collaboration with financial institutions offers new opportunities
- Mapping and requirements of international donor agencies
“Why is your portal down? …Because the project ended…..”
Far too often we see Trade Intelligence Portals dying off a year or two after they are launched. Basically as a result of poor planning and inadequate commitment towards sustaining the financial resources required to keep it going. Mostly, the failure lies in the fact that the Trade Intelligence Portal is considered a stand-alone project. This is even stronger when the build or re-vamp of a Trade Intelligence viPortal is an externally financed project.
Ultimately, however, as discussed in Step 2, a Trade Intelligence Portal has to be a strategic priority for the organization. If it does not have a full backing of this kind, the first area that will suffer is the allocation of resources to it. This is not to say that a Trade Intelligence Portal should always be a financial burden. On the contrary, it can save costs and even become an income generator for the organisation.
This step looks into the topic of sustaining your Trade Intelligence Portal with particular attention to maintaining the financial means so as not to threaten the continued existence, effective operation and continuous improvement of the portal. Sources of finance or revenue need to be secured or at least carefully planned at an early stage.
At the outset it is important to clarify that TPO’s vary significantly across the world with respect to their budgets for developing and operating a Trade Intelligence Portal. Some have comfortable budgets for Trade Intelligence Portals, others need to compensate fully or partially through external means. There are various financial models for consideration this step takes a deeper look at these, highlighting best practices.
It seems like a logical approach to establish financial sustainability by selling information. However, apart from a few trade promotion organisations that are either set-up as business news agencies (i.e. this is their core area of business – like IBCE in Bolivia) or that have really tried and tested their markets well in what type of information product sells and have honed in to the preferences of their clients (like the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce in Sri Lanka) other trade support organisations in developing countries frequently struggle to generate enough income through selling information.
A frequently sited challenge is the perception of users that information should be provided for free by institutions particularly if they are public. Changing the mentality to one with an understanding that paying a price for something implies that it has quality takes quite some time to develop.
Much of the challenge has to do with the extent to which the selling of information products is professionalized and also how it is positioned in relation to other means of generating income for the organisation.
Below are some tips on how to professionalize the information for sale and strengthen the value addition:
- Careful design and choice of information products based on proper assessment of the needs in terms of type of information sought and mode of delivery
- A professional look to the information product and consistency in size, content, frequency and quality of sources (see step 3 and 7 on content quality and quality management)
- Achieving adequate scale – i.e. having a large enough, experienced enough team and a large enough portfolio of information products on offer to justify the size of the team
- Time topics to fall in line with specific events e.g. trade missions, seminars, exhibitions
- Offer part of the information for free to get maximum exposure
- Make use of social media and other alerting functionalities to draw users to the information giving particular emphasis to attractive benefits that the information products will offer
- Offer premium information packages as part of a membership program (see below under premium service)
- Consider offering information as a means to trigger interest in other paid services (see below under cross selling)
Premium membership services
A new model has caught momentum among publishers, to sell premium memberships, instead of subscriptions. Among these publishers are for example, The New York Times. It is increasingly pitching memberships as a way for readers to get their hands on exclusive content and experiences.
||Access to Reporters
||Access to Exclusive Content
|The New York Times
||10 articles per month
|The New York Times Premier
||Two free Times e-books a month
||Behind-the-scenes accounts from Times reporters
||Exclusive access to Times Talks videos
A premium membership is a model that can also work well with business support organisations to generate revenue for information services. Different levels of membership, e.g. silver, gold, platinum, give different privileges for accessing or receiving information. The higher the level of membership, the higher the fee, and the more exclusive the content or service level.
High levels can for example entitle to:
- a customized intelligence report
- early bird access (1 week or 1 month before others can access the information)
- frequent updates through alerts
Such premium membership models does not have to be exclusively for trade information. This can also be combined with for example other value added promotion services.
- Online showroom
- Preferred listings in exporter directory
- Advertisement space on the portal or in the newsletter (see also below).
Philexport Cebu and IBCE
The Philippine Exporters Confederation Philexport Cebu
introduced an online market intelligence service – iSearch – with market highlights and competitor reports for its members, and made it sustainable by adding a surcharge to the membership fee. The surcharge covers the operational costs of the service. Since the service was need driven and well received, none of the members objected to the hike in membership fee.
The Bolivian Foreign Trade Institute IBCE
, introduced a premium membership model – ‘Friends of IBCE’ – with a gold and platinum level with corresponding privileges. These included for example customized market research reports, a number of free consultations, an online showroom and advertisement space. The premium membership model was soon followed by other business support organisations in Bolivia.
Selling of information often goes better in combination with selling of other services. One of the best options is to provide the information for free and charge for the related service, or to package the information with a value added support service. The information can also serve as a filter such that services are offered to the most appropriate client. For example certain services can be tailored to certain categories of clients like beginning exporters or exporters from specific sectors. If information is also categorized accordingly, the tailored service can be offered to users channelled to this category due to their interest in information tailored to them. This concept is often referred to cross-selling of services.
In fact trade information provision and trade support services should not be seen as separate entities. If the Trade Intelligence Portal is not simply an information outlet but an integral part of the organisation and a tool for dissemination and promoting all services, which it should, then the information and non-information services should be well connected and integrated.
Examples of commercial services with a trade information component can be the following:
||Trade information component
|Customized market research
||Market intel/Market profiles/Buyer profiles
||Product trends/Market trends/ Buyer profiles
|Product Design Support
||Product trends/Market trends/Design trends
|Quality management consulting
||Market access requirement overviews
|Trade show participation
||Trade show directories/Market trends/Buyer directories
|Issuance of Certificates/documentation
||Trade facilitation information
|Training in trade related issues
||All of the above
Click to enlarge
Lima Chamber of Commerce – Information supports the commercial services
The Lima Chamber of Commerce is a good example of a business support organisation that has a thriving commercial service for the business community, which is supported by business and trade information. The service portfolio includes training through its own training center, customized research and export coaching services to prepare and support companies for export. Substantial revenue is generated through these services. Information has a supporting function.
Provided you are able to drive enough traffic to your Trade Intelligence Portal (see step 5 on Social Media and step 9 on Promotion), selling advertising space on your Trade Intelligence Portal is a natural bi-product. It is nevertheless sensible to draw up a plan early on including some of the below important considerations:
- Make sure you figure out before your Trade Intelligence Portal (re-)build which space slots you will allocate to advertising, whether you plan to use the same space for multiple ads and if premium locations (e.g. home page, sector specific) are possible. Squeezing in some slots at a later date will usually prove very challenging.
- Consider ads in your email newsletters or alerts.
- Think carefully about who you would be targeting to sell the slot too. If most of your Trade Intelligence Portal visitors are exporters (depending on your strategy – see step 2), you would be looking to target mainly companies that service exporters like banks, insurance companies, freight forwarding companies. Sometimes certain non-profit organisations may also be seeking exposure with your main client group, for example an institution or project that offers incentives to SME-exporters. Another example could be a programme that is promoting a social cause like encouraging SME exporters to adopt corporate social responsibility practices.
- Ensure that your analytics (see step 6 – Monitoring and Evaluation) are in order such that you can substantiate visitor numbers and more detailed figures on categories of users to prospective advert space customers.
- Also consider sponsorship of your Trade Intelligence Portal. This differs from seeking advertisers in that it offers exclusivity to one or two sponsors for the entire Trade Intelligence Portal and/or email newsletter. The motivation for sponsorship may also be different in that it may have more of philanthropic nature – i.e. having the purpose of communicating a message of wanting to support the business community at large.
IBCE – Selling advertisement cross media
Click to enlarge
The business model of The Bolivian Foreign Trade Institute – IBCE is for a large part based on selling advertisement. The ads are published cross media. Not only in the printed magazines, but also on the website and in the electronic newsletters. The revenue from advertisement forms a substantial part of the revenue stream because of the large and well defined audience that is reached by the trade information service, and the corresponding interest of companies to advertise in the IBCE media.
Click to enlarge
Since the email newsletters are segmented with different subjects covered by dedicated email newsletters, they offer excellent opportunities for companies to target audiences with specific interests.
An example is the IBCEm@il newsletter- dedicated to events – with banner ads in the sidebar.
Click to enlarge
Companies even have the possibility to be an exclusive sponsor for a specific email newsletter service (see also below under banks) or printed issue.
An example of a daily business news service by IBCE is the so-called Data Tr@de, with banner ads in between the news headlines.
Collaborating with Banks
A new phenomenon is arsing in various continents. Financial institutions are starting to show a strong interest in offering trade intelligence through Trade Intelligence Portals to existing and prospective SME exporter clients as a complementary service.
Examples of banks with a relevant online trade information initiative are the following:
Also, it is worthwhile to mention Visa, as a financial partner in the Connect Americas initiative.
This phenomenon is not such a surprise. Export means a significant amount of banking business (see box below) and SME exporters need trade intelligence at their fingertips. So a marriage between exporters needing market intelligence and banks seeking exporters to offer their bespoke bank products to.
In an emerging export sector much of the growth will come from SMEs. It is at this stage that capacity support and financial support is most needed. It is also at this stage that the company is exposed to the most risk if it makes uninformed decisions. At the same time a growing export sector that is boosted by the banking support is good for banking business. Hence investing in Trade Intelligence Portals from a bank’s perspective can perpetuate a series of mutually strengthening benefits (as the diagram above illustrates).
Room for added value
There appears therefore to be a great opportunity out there for BSO’s to approach banks as prospective sponsors for their Trade Intelligence Portal. Having said this, their current portals are more like databanks, which no doubt have much attractive information to offer, but fall short of being trade “intelligence” portals in that they do not offer real time customized trade support. They have therefore not yet positioned it to the full length of their potential. It is here that the real opportunity lies whereby the trade promotion organisation could seek to fill this gap.
As we have seen from all the best practices highlighted in the previous steps, Trade Intelligence Portals are enabling trade promotion organisations to become more proactive and reach out via multiple media channels to communicate recent, customized and insightful information to large groups of exporters at the same to help them make timely and well-informed decisions. Moreover, the service link with the exporting client has gone well beyond information provision and become a whole support system to strengthen and promote the exporter. The Trade Intelligence Portal is becoming the “must be with” service for an entire export community.
Banks can also be encouraged to leap on to this information highway where a large portion of the export business sector are present and offer customized banking products to customized client groups. The trade promotion organisation network of advisors and consultants can expand the reach of the bank by incorporating bank pre-requisite requirements into their advisory and training service products, for example guiding the export marketing business plans in line with prescribed bank credit provision criteria.
Export means banking business
A thriving export sector is good for banking business. Particularly for the SME sector, but also in larger firms, credit is frequently required. Think of for example:
- Pre-shipment credit – Post-shipment credit
- Export Credit Insurance
- Non-shipment/transaction based revolving credit
- Export project cash flow deficit finance (engineering type of export)
- Advance payment guarantees
- Performance guarantees
- Retention money guarantees
- Supply chain finance guarantees
- Other guarantees e.g. for customs
- Credit for product innovation or infrastructure
An important aspect to figure out prior to approaching banks to propose a partnership is what mode of partnership would be best suit both parties best. There are multiple modes in which banks can get associated with Trade Intelligence Portals. The diagram below illustrates a range of various possibilities.
Banks are becoming more and more active in the domain of international trade information portals. This is an excellent means for them to be visible amongst a selected audience of exporters and importers and serve them with the information required to internationalise.
– Gaspard Delassus, Head of Customer Relations, Export Enterprises, France
Acquiring Donor Agency Support
International development agencies often have private sector development programmes or projects that have similar objectives to your Trade Intelligence Portal hence offering scope for working together following aligned objectives. It is important however, as mentioned previously, to not treat the collaboration simply as a project that ends, but instead to build in mechanisms to make the Trade Intelligence Portal self-sustaining thereafter.
A key step in securing donor support for your Trade Intelligence Portal is to conduct a donor-mapping exercise. Such an exercise entails mapping through web research and personal interviews with donor agencies themselves, or their local partners, which organisation has a private sector or trade development program that could possibly support the development of a trade intelligence portal.
Using the outcome of the Mapping Exercise enables you to put together a well-fitting proposal:
- to the right agency
- in line with their respective broad in-country/region programmes
- in line with specific projects geared towards the same/ similar target audiences
- in line with the objectives and targets of the respective projects and matching sub components
- in line with the appropriate budget for the aligning sub-component
- highlighting the ways in which your Trade Intelligence Portal can complement the respective project and contribute to reaching the overarching goals.
- Your Trade Intelligence Portal is of strategic importance. Make sure you take care of the sustainability accordingly
- Selling of information is not easy. Look for financial models whereby you can commercialize information by packaging it with other services
- Consider advertisement and premium membership models with exclusive trade information content or an early bird or alerting service as one of the privileges
- Look for collaboration with donor agencies and financial institutions that show an increasing interest in supporting trade portals to reach out to exporters as prospects for their financials services
Want to know more about this step or how ITC can support you with your trade intelligence portal?
- Key success factors for effective promotion of your portal.
- The secrets of Search Engine Optimisation.
- The benefits of blogging and other social media for promotion.
- Customized alerts and e-newsletters.
- Cross-media integration and linking of your services.
“Our new portal has been launched. What’s next?”
Developing, populating and launching your Trade Intelligence Portal is one thing. Making it well known to the right visitors in order to achieve your objectives is another thing. This Step proposes you some angles for effective promotion for your Trade Intelligence Portal. A critical step, since too often promotion turns out to be neglected.
“Promotion is a crucial part and almost everyone forgets to include it in their budget planning. We recommend a different team altogether to take over when it is time for Marketing”.
– Etienne Vauchez, President – Export Enterprises
Critical success factors
Below you find a number of critical success factors for effective promotion. In line with the nature of the service, the focus is on on-line promotion and cross-media linkages.
1. Promotion follows your strategy
Earlier in the process, you have defined your objectives and target groups. This gives perfect guidance for developing and implementing a promotion plan. Your focus and scope are already set. Then, you set your objectives as specific and measurable as possible. They are related to your performance indicators as discussed in Step 8.
2. Portal complete? Promotion starts!
A common mistake is to consider the portal development a project that is finished the moment you launch it. Well, to be honest: it only starts here! Now is the time to attract the right visitors, from the right target market to you portal. Today, tomorrow, next week, next month, on the long run. This is where promotion kicks in. The on-going process of communication and referring to the portal. Promotional tools to use include search engine optimisation and search engine advertisement, social media channels, email marketing and cross media integrated traditional offline tools. And, make sure you allocate sufficient resources. Read about it below!
3. Your portal as the backbone
It is critical to connect your portal to every service that you offer to your clients and that you interlink trade information with trade support services. The portal as the backbone and the virtual one-stop-shop of your organization. Some tips on how to do it:
- Connect your trade information services to trainings, seminars or strategy sessions with exporters or other clients. Create the bridge from information (market opportunities) to action (market entry strategies).
- If you offer export coaching services, offer an assessment or export audit toolkit online. Offer your clients a log-in to see the results and to monitor their progress, and link the export readiness status to useful trade information corresponding to that status.
- Apply cross media integration and refer your clients from other (printed) media to find more information on the portal, to download, or register for online for training or events.
- Use the portal as a lead generator, consider asking visitors to leave their names and email addresses before downloading documents. This allows you to contact potential buyers or investors.
4. Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) and Advertising (SEA)
One of the most important and logical tools to use is search engine marketing. In particular with search engine Google. Nowadays, Google processes over 40,000 search queries every second or over 3.5 billion searches per day (Google, June 2014).
Critical for success is to be listed high in the search engine result pages. More than 90% of the clicks in the search engine result pages goes to the top 10 results in Google, of which the overwhelming majority to the top 3 results. Hence, it is important to be there. On the first page, amongst the top 3. Below, we provide you tips to get there.
#1 Domain name and search engine friendly URLs
In most cases, your portal’s domain name will be similar to your organization’s name. For example:
However, you may want to consider a domain name that communicates what you do instead of who you are. A domain name that reflects your service and includes the most relevant keywords your target group uses to search. Example: www.mauritiustradeasy.mu.
Search engine friendly URLs
Search engines prefer easy to access domain names and URLs, including relevant keywords for each page of your portal. Most Content Management Systems (CMS) such as Joomla, Drupal or WordPress, allow for automation of this and will automatically link the title of the page to the URLs. Tip: use hyphens to separate keywords, instead of under_scores as they will be treated as a ‘space’. The length of the URL should be less than 115 characters.
Example of search engine friendly URL – Matrade Malaysia
#2 Title tag – for each individual page
This is one of the primary factors that helps to improve your search engine result ranking. Every page of your portal should contain its own unique title tag. Including your organization’s name and the most important keywords related to the page. The maximum amount of characters in a title tag is 70.
Example of Title and Description Tag – ITC Standards Map
#3 Description tag – the trigger to click
The meta description tag is written for each individual page of your portal. It contains a few sentences and appears below your title tag in search engine results. Your potential visitors read the meta description tag to judge the relevance of search results and is a ‘trigger to click’. Therefore, your meta description tag should be written to encourage visitors to click on your listing. Therefore make it relevant, but also attractive e.g. with a benefit for the user. The number of characters for the meta description tag should not exceed 170 characters.
Tip: When your Trade Intelligence Portal is available in multiple languages, make sure title and description tags for all pages are written in those languages too.
Example of unique title tags and description tags (metatags) for each individual page – Austrade
#4 Headers and keyword rich content
The ideal page is structured and formatted with recognisable headers and consistent use of keywords. The main header of the page should be formatted in bolded H1 (html) code, allowing Google to give it a higher ranking. Format all subheaders subsequently in h2, h3 format, etc. Also, include relevant keywords that apply to each page. Make sure you do this in a consistent way, so use the same keywords or combinations that you apply in the Title and Description Tag. For example, consistently use ‘export advice’ and repeat the words ‘export’ and ‘advice’ also individually throughout the content.
Example of use of Headers – Enterprise Ireland
Which keywords are my clients using….?
The one million dollar question that you may want to ask yourselves is: How do you know whether your clients prefer for instance ‘export advice’ when using Google, or ‘export coaching’? Useful tools include:
- Google Analytics (historical use of keywords for your own portal)
- Google Keyword planner (historical search behaviour, worldwide or per location)
- Qualitative feedback of users (through focus group discussions, questionnaires)
- Competitor research (which keywords do other trade promotion organizations use)
#5 Avoid duplicate content
Search engines do not like to find the same content on different URLs as they will not know what the original content is and therefore cannot decide what URL should appear in search engine results. For instance, duplicate content can occur in the case;
- A domain name or page url has changed.
- Multiple domain names are in place for one website.
- The non-www version of your portal is not redirected to the www version.
- Print friendly urls.
What to do in case of duplicated content?
- Employ a so-called ‘301 redirect’ from the non-www-version to the www-version.
- Employ the canonical link tag to prevent duplicate content.
This may sound rather technical. You may want to consult your IT department or web developer for more information. Some useful sources include:
#6 ALT tags
Search engines cannot understand images. Therefore, most Content Management Systems allow you to add so called ALT tags to an image. They are visible when a visitor moves his cursor above an image. Include relevant keywords in ALT tags of every image, so that search engines know what the image is about. Also include these keywords in the file names of the picture.
An XML (or dynamic) sitemap helps search engines find and index your portal’s pages easily. It should contain less than 75-100 links, otherwise it may be considered as spam. You can submit your XML sitemap to Google via Google Webmaster Tools.
#8 Register your portal with other sites
Inbound links from popular (high pagerank) websites such as business directories are quite helpful to increase your visibility and search engine ranking. These could be links from local business directories, trade associations, chambers of commerce, marketplaces or open directory projects like DMOZ.
#9 Keyword advertisements
You can also decide to advertise your portal, through targeted advertisements in the search engines. Meaning such advertisements will be shown to only those persons that actually look for a keyword that you indicate to be relevant. For instance, if someone in Germany searches for ‘sourcing chocolate Ecuador’ then your ad can be displayed to this user. Google names this service Adwords.
The benefits of search engine advertisement:
- Geo targeting to focus on a specific geographical target market, like a country, city or even as focused as an area within a city
- Pay per click, so you only pay if a visit to the website is realized
- Complete campaign control, with the ability to set and adjust the banner ad text, the maximum budget, the keyword appearance etc. any time through a self management module
- Excellent monitoring and evaluation, with insights and possibility to compare popularity of your ads, number of displays, number and percentage of clicks, user background etc.
- Compared to advertisement in printed press or promotion at trade shows, it is a relatively cheap lead generator, and easy to measure
Points of attention
In all fairness, notwithstanding the benefits of search engine advertisement, it is fair to say that, organic search, the non-paid listings, are more popular than the paid listings through Adwords. The non-paid listings attract more clicks.
Also, the effectiveness of banner ads depend a lot on the creation of good landing pages where the visitor will be directed to when he clicks on the banner. For example, in case of the banner for ‘sourcing chocolate from Ecuador’, the visitor should not be directed to the homepage of the trade promotion organisation, but directly to the page with the information about sourcing opportunities for chocolate.
#10 Use web analytics
Make sure you apply a monitoring and evaluation plan (Step 8). You will read here that Google Analytics is one of the most effective solutions to analyse visitor traffic, their behaviour as well as to monitor advertising campaigns.
5. Alerts and email marketing
Customised e-mail newsletters
E-mail newsletters allow for personalised and customised communication with your stakeholders. In practice, good newsletters are a major driver of (returning) traffic to your portal.
Some success factors include:
- Use an html newsletter format, in line with your corporate style. Open source solutions like MailChimp or ALO EasyMail can be helpful tools for that matter.
- Apply a regular frequency.
- Customise the newsletter profile based, offer different categories or subjects of interest (by sector, type of publications, news categories, etc).
- Have a self-management module on your portal (with a log-in), allowing your users to administer their settings and preferences themselves.
- Connect the newsletter to a database with e-mail addresses and preferences.
IBCE in Bolivia offers an effective e-newsletter service to its users, with customised options and self-management of user settings.
Example e-newsletter subscription IBCE, Boliva
When sending emails, always refer to your portal. You can automate this by applying a standardized tagline and add it to each outgoing email of you and all your staff.
Example email signature line Vietcraft, Vietnam
The importance of blogging to a high search engine ranking has increased significantly lately. Some examples of trade promotion organizations with effective blogs include UKTI, NZTE and USDA.
Example NZTE blog
Reasons to blog
Why should you blog?
- To drive traffic to your website.
- To create authority, be seen as the expert, the knowledge resource in your area.
- To trigger interaction and generate user feedback and discussion.
- To contribute to high search engine ranking.
Determine objective and target group first
When blogging, first of all take into the account the objective. What is your objective, which client, what is the call to action that you aim to achieve? Objectives may be e.g. to increase number of trade information downloads, more enquiries for business matching submitted, increase online subscription to events, etc.
Blogging success factors
Some success factors include:
- Focus on one topic only.
- Attractive title (create curiosity, use words such as tips, checklist, secrets, reasons for success, forecasts, and promise a story)
- 400-800 words.
- Include images, or even video.
- Include at least one call to action.
- Use subheadings and bolding.
- Use bullets or numberings.
- Promote new blog entries through your social media channels by offering direct links to the blog post.
- Blog on your own domain (create ‘blog’ section in your navigation menu).
For effective blogging and consistency reasons, it is advised to develop an editorial calendar. It is basically the blog plan for the next weeks or months ahead. A sample is provided below.
Example editorial calendar for blogging
||Call to action
Date: Nov 21
|5 secrets of the ultimate trade fair booth
||Importance of a well designed and impactful trade fair booth. Careful preparation, stand behaviour, effective follow-up
||Booth design, booth lay-out, promotion, trade fair behaviour
||Do the online self-assessment Download guide for trade fair preparation. Ask for custom support.
Date: Nov 28
Date: Dec 5
7. Social media
Social media have become a great ally for each trade promotion organization. Certainly for marketing purposes, they offer a wealth of opportunities. Please read more about social media integration in Step 5.
8. Offline and other channels
Make sure you combine online and offline instruments in a so-called cross-media promotion of your portal. Offline, traditional, instruments include a reference to the portal through inclusion in official letters, printed promotion materials, business cards, trade fair booth, etc.
Also you could make use of advertising agencies or other promotion partners, as well your country’s network of Foreign Trade Representatives.
- Your promotion follows your strategy and supports achieving your objectives.
- Your promotion is a continuous process and starts when the development finishes.
- The portal is the backbone of the services that you offer, it is never an isolated tool.
- Integrate offline and online promotion efforts through a cross-media concept.
- Online promotion instruments like Search Engine Optimisation and Search Engine Advertisement, email newsletters and social media are very powerful.
- Blogging offers major opportunities.
Want to know more about this step or how ITC can support you with your trade intelligence portal?
- Different methods and tools to measure the success of your portal.
- Added value of measuring conversion vis-a-vis visitor statistics.
- Relationship of the monitoring and evaluation plan with your portal strategy, incl objectives and priority client groups.
- Importance of key performance indicators.
- Practical tips to make effective of Google Analytics and focus groups.
- Integration of monitoring and evluation of your portal with related marketing efforts.
“We attract 20 thousands visitors per month. Our website is a big success!”
Many trade promotion organizations make such (or similar) statements, regardless the geographical origin of the visitor, background, objectives and behaviour on the portal. Obviously there are more effective ways to measure the success of your portal. This Step guides you in compiling an effective Monitoring and Evaluation Plan for your Trade Intelligence Portal.
Trade Intelligence Portal monitoring and evaluation
Off course it is nice to know how many visitors your portal attracts. However, in theory, a visitor may visit your homepage and leave it within 1 second. Not really a qualified visitor, is it?
It is all about conversion…
The profile of your visitors and their completed actions on the portal are more important than their numbers. For example, ten international buyers who visit your portal to get in direct contact with your exporters, are likely to have a bigger impact on trade enhancement than 500 students looking for information. So, on your portal you want your visitors to complete a certain action. It is all about conversion, for instance:
- Contact us
- Download report
- Register for newsletter
- Apply for event
- Complete assessment checker
Please refer to Step 4 for more details about calls to action and conversion of visitors.
CBI – Monitoring and evaluation
CBI provides you with useful insights into its Monitoring & Evaluation strategy. You will learn that CBI uses a range of different of monitoring and evaluation methods to assess the effectiveness of the portal, such as Google Analytics, online questionnaires, interviews and eye-tracking.
– Janneke Vereijken, CBI, the Netherlands
related to your strategy…
In addition, it is interesting to know how visitors relate to your strategy and objectives (see Step 2). If your portal targets, for instance, importers of fruits in the UK, The Netherlands and Sweden, it is interesting to analyse to what extent your visitors are indeed from these countries, and how they perform compared to your objectives.
“We prioritise for our online portal based on usage, webstats, customer empathy sessions, enquiries and search data. Using these data we continually look to improve and refine our performance against all audiences”
– Tim Parkman, Director Channels, New Zealand Trade and Enterprise
and your objectives…
Your portal plan includes specific objectives, in line with your strategy (see Step 2). Such as e.g. enhancing the member base, increasing the number of online applications or downloads and to obtain an even more positive qualitative opinion from your clients.
This is exactly what you will monitor in your Monitoring & Evaluation plan! The level of achievement of these objectives tells you the success ratio of your portal.
Key Performance Indicators
So called ‘Key Performance Indicators’ are directly related to your portal’s objectives. If possible, make them as specific and measurable as possible. Some guidelines for effective performance indicators:
- Direct: measure closely the result it is intended to.
- Objective: no ambiguity and one-dimensional.
- Adequate: avoid using too many indicators.
- Quantitative: numerical indicators preferably.
- Disaggregated: e.g. by gender, industry sector, location.
- Practical: data obtained in a timely way/reasonable cost.
- Reliable: quality data for confident decision making.
Applied to your Trade Intelligence Portal, some examples of indicators can be:
- Enhancing member base to xx thousand by the end of 20xx
- Increase the number of online applications for events and seminars to xxx thousand per year
- Have at least xx thousands of downloads by the end of the year
- Grow the number of subscriptions to e-newsletters to xx thousand by August 20xx
- Obtain at least 25 online enquiries from Germany by April 20xx
- Increased customer satisfaction rate about our online performance by at least 5% per year.
- Increase in the time spent on the portal by 10% in one year
- At least 10% of website traffic is generated by Twitter by December 20xx
- Uptime of the portal at least 99.x%
- Responsiveness of the portal to mobile devices achieved by December 20xx
“We’re trialling a Google Analytics evaluation model where we give content a value and therefore we can get a $$$ for each user based on the amount of interaction and content reviewed”.
– Tim Parkman, Director Channels, New Zealand Trade and Enterprise
CBI – Indicators & Targets
CBI uses indicators and targets for its Monitoring and Evaluation policy. Also, the video shows that user feedback has resulted in concrete usability improvements for CBI’s portal.
– Janneke Vereijken, CBI, the Netherlands
How to measure?
Two must-have tools to evaluate your portal’s success include Google Analytics and focus groups.
Optimizing online analytics
Google Analytics is a free tool that allows for full web analytics:
- Number of visitors and their origin (country, city).
- Keyword analysis (allowing for optimization of your SEO strategy).
- Visitor flow (popular and exit pages).
- Technology (usage of browsers, mobile, screen width).
- Traffic sources (traffic from search engines, inbound links or direct traffic).
- Social reports (traffic from your social channels).
Getting started with Google Analytics
For an introduction to Google Analytics, to understand the various functionalities and metrics, watch the video introduction ‘Getting started with Google Analytics’.
Google Analytics also offers quite interesting advanced features such as:
- Content experiments (usability testing)
- Tailored reporting
- Linkages to Adwords campaigns
- Heat maps of pages
- And much more.
Google Analytics offers a range of video’s and tutorials to get you started and to make you full aware of all the insights. See below for related resources and links.
IBCE, Bolivia: Increased success rate e-subscriptions through Funnels
With the help of Google Analytics the Bolivian Foreign Trade Institute (IBCE) dramatically increased the success rate of its subscription forms to its e-newsletter. Through the so called ‘IBCE mail’, IBCE offers its clients a bi-weekly e-mail newsletter service with alerts to events, publications, market studies and more. Since it is one of their core services, it has optimized the registration procedure that consists off four steps:
- Visit Publications page
- Go to registration link
- Submit e-mail address
- Complete form and
Through Google Funnels, a conversion functionality in Google Analytics’, IBCE learned that more than half of the visitors did not complete the procedure, and quit the 5 steps too early. Through the Funnel analysis, IBCE learned that almost all of the early-leavers did so in step 1. They changed the lay-out of this page and re-designed the call to action ‘subscribe’. The position and the colour of the button were changed, to get more attention. It was a success, since the conversion went up significantly after the change.
Optimizing focus groups
Focus groups allow for qualitative feedback to your portal. Focus groups provide you with opinions, browse behaviour and suggestions for improvement that plain statistics cannot give you. You are advised to apply focus group research (opinions) in combination with Analytics. Together, such quantitative and qualitative analysis provide very instrumental feedback.
Some suggestions when organizing focus groups:
- Composition of focus groups should be in line with your strategy.
- Have separate sessions for each target group since objectives are fully different (separate exporters from buyers for instance).
- Guideline: five to eight persons in one focus group.
- Apply a blend of methods (online assignments and tasks, individual and plenary discussions, open questions and suggestions)
- Use measurable indicators for measurement of opinions (1 – 5 scale for instance)
- Have a professional moderator who is trusted
- Anonymous answers can sometimes increase response quality.
- Reward focus group members (financially, or through other ways) in order to secure their cooperation for the longer run.
- Recruit candidates who have a ‘positive critic’ attitude towards your organization. They should be willing to share their honest opinions.
- Half a day length is more than enough.
Other evaluation options
In addition, you may want to consider the following evaluation tools:
- Usability testing (see Step 1).
- Individual interviews or usability tests with representatives of your group of core clients. The focus should be here on obtaining feedback regarding completion of main website actions and objectives.
- Eye-tracking research.
- Online surveys.
- Analysis of keyword searches of your portal’s internal search engine.
- A combination of two or more methods.
Monitoring and evaluation of your social media performance
You also should monitor the success of your social media efforts. As with the number of your portal’s visitors; the number of Twitter followers or Facebook likes give only an indication of success. Some more advanced social metrics may include:
- Traffic generation: visits from your social channels to your portal (the links to your landing pages).
- Engagement; interaction following your posts. Retweets, favorites, likes, comments, shares, mentioning.
- Social status: through e.g. Klout or Sprout Social.
- Mentioning: what are they saying to and about you and the trade intelligence service? The more positive the buzz, the better.
- Customer service levels: response time to enquiries made via social media.
You are invited to read more in Step 5 about social media integration.
Evaluating your promotion efforts
In Step 9 on promotion, you find suggestions to develop and implement a promotion activities for your portal. You can evaluate your promotion efforts through the following indicators:
- SEO performance, following your objectives, target groups and keyword strategy.
- Click-to-open rate of e-newsletters.
- Advertisement return on investment.
- Link popularity.
- Increase of traffic (to specific landing pages).
- Conversion of website visitors (as discussed already).
- Generated leads / conversion vis-à-vis total cost (cost per lead).
- (Mobile) traffic conversion rates.
- Decreased bounce rate.
- Opinions of stakeholders about quality of brochures, newsletters and the like.
- It is more appropriate to monitor conversion than the number of visitors on your portal.
- Benchmark the profile of your visitors against your portal’s objectives and priority client groups.
- Use key performance indicators.
- Google Analytics is a must-have tool to measure visitor statistics and their behaviour.
- Focus groups give you in-depth qualitative feedback.
- In addition to your portal, also your social media and the other promotion instruments should be part of the monitoring and evaluation plan.
Want to know more about this step or how ITC can support you with your trade intelligence portal?
- Templates and standard operating procedures are essential.
- Decentralized content management is feasible through content management systems with a profile based workflow function.
- Human resource development and knowledge management are key to develop and maintain capabilities in the organisation.
- Performance contracts as a safeguarding mechanism to obtain content contributions.
“Our portal is not up to date. Our IT department is not uploading enough content”
Having your strategy, ideas for content, usability, social media integration and syndication options formulated, it is time to put things to practice. You will learn that a successful portal is managed by the entire organisation, and not one (IT) department only. The success is built on shared commitment and ownership, from top to bottom of the organization.
This Step entails the operational management of your Trade Intelligence Portal. It touches upon:
- Content management
- Social media management
- Quality management
- Human Resource management
- Technical management
Content management: standardised, consistent and procedure based
Systemizing content production is intertwined with the development of standardised information products, which can consistently be produced according to a set of, clearly laid out procedures. This lays the foundation for quality management, which is first and foremost about consistency and meeting the standards.
Clearly defined information products are tangible and quantifiable. Taking the time to carefully design each information product allows you thereafter to:
- Plan the process of its production.
- Define the time it takes to produce each information product.
- Implement procedures for continuous improvement.
A key aspect of the production process is designing templates that the content management team can use as a clear-cut guideline to produce the product in a consistent way. This template becomes the ‘blueprint’ of the information product and as such should be adequately detailed, covering aspects such as:
- Length of articles
- Length of paragraphs
- Number of paragraphs
- Topics per paragraph
- Editing guidelines
- Formatting guidelines
As Trade Intelligence Portals move to more social media forms of content supply, the rigidity of templates becomes less applicable. Still, it is important to establish certain policies and guidelines. Please refer to Step 3 for more details on content and formats.
Social media management
As mentioned earlier in Step 5 on social media integration, specific rules of conduct apply to social media. The high frequency and intensive engagement nature of the social media bring their own set of guidelines, style, work processes and required skills. In many organisations, the team responsible for social media is usually located in the communication department.
“This year, our content team, which is extended over different departments in the organisation, will undergo blogging training because blogging requires a different style of writing.”
– Tim Parkman, Director Channels, New Zealand Trade and Enterprise, on social media management skill training
The responsibilities, targets and procedures for the social media management have to be specified in the operational plan.
For most people, quality management relates to ISO 9000 certification. Many trade promotion organizations have certified the quality of their organisation’s service delivery with ISO 9000. Often this also encompasses their Trade Intelligence Portal. The most important aspect of quality management of a Trade Intelligence Portal is working towards consistency. The earlier described method of establishing information products and following rigidly made templates take us in the same direction.
Other aspects of quality include:
- Content relevance
- Content accuracy
- Content actuality (a good practice is an alerting option in the CMS such that the content team receives cues when certain content needs to be updated)
- Usability and conversion
- Technical performance (up-time, speed)
- Response time commitments to the client
As part of quality management, work processes and procedures need to be spelled out, documented and linked to indicators. Also checks need to be put in place to ensure that the procedures and consistency rules are followed.
“Advantage Austria has structured its Trade Intelligence Portal in such a way that each country office has its own customized page. The team in that respective country is responsible for most of the content relevant to that country. Their country specific page is an extension of their visiting card and their image. They can therefore not afford to have out-dated content. The country pages are fully brought to the forefront by a functionality that determines the country of origin of the portal’s visitor. As such the content is not hidden deep in a sea of content, all the more extending the accountability of the country content team”.
– Cosima Steiner – Advantage Austria, on roles and responsibilities
Human resource management
In relation to the work processes and procedures, it is essential to define who is involved in the information processes, what are the respective roles and responsibilities, to organize workflow and workload, and to manage required knowledge and skills. Performance contracts can be a solution to safeguard commitment.
Workflow and workload
In many cases, it is one single department within a trade promotion organization that manages the Trade Intelligence Portal. In the ideal scenario, there should be multiple departments involved, ranging from market intel, to training, trade fairs and events, marketing and communication. Also overseas foreign trade representatives should contribute by sharing the latest trends from their markets. Sometimes other stakeholders contribute, through a syndication or collaboration agreement (also see Step 6). This makes the processes challenging.
The workflow needs to be well defined and managed. Who will do what in which phase of the process? This will be specified in the operational plan. There can be for instance:
- Editors and contributors
- Social media moderators
- Chief editors, with different authorities to create, edit, moderate and publish information.
There can also be teams working together on specific information product, with a specific division of tasks. For example in the case of Foreign Trade Representatives co-creating information products with trade information specialists (by means of field research on-site in target markets) this needs to be specified in a workflow. On the other hand, the workload needs to be defined and managed: How much time will be allocated to the different functions and information products and activities? Again, this should be specified in an operational plan.
When inputs for the Trade Intelligence Portal come from other divisions and Foreign Trade Representatives, the process becomes more challenging to manage. As was highlighted in Step 2 on the strategy, this is particularly an area where trade promotion organizations struggle. There will always be competition with other duties and tasks that need to be completed. For example, when staff from the promotion department is requested to contribute to Trade Intelligence Portal content. Since that is not the core function of the promotion staff, this may become a challenge. Managing this challenge requires clear communication, guidance and commitment from top management, as well as performance contracts that include tangible indicators related to the portal’s responsibilities. These indicators should be included in an operational plan.
Knowledge management and skill training
Content management, usability, online interaction and social media management are areas of expertise that require specific skills. As such, human resource development in these areas with specific attention on knowledge and skill training is relevant for those involved.
Moreover, procedures need to be put in place to manage knowledge in such a way that it does not disappear when a staff member leaves. Efforts need to be made to manage, document and share knowledge. An important part of this is simply through proper standardisation of procedures and good documentation. Development of user manuals and video screen recordings to run new staff members through the steps of the procedures takes them a long way. Working in teams and regular knowledge sharing sessions are instrumental.
Affiliation and syndication management
In case of syndication or affiliation with other parties (see Step 6), it is advised to enter into a kind of formal agreement by means of a contract or Memorandum of Understanding. In case of an intensive collaboration with other agencies a steering committee with representatives of the other institutions is recommended. The steering committee should agree on the fundamental principles of content production and sharing mechanisms but also formalize the commitment and the roles and responsibilities. In an operational plan, the coordination meetings or steering committee meetings, with the agreed procedures can be included.
This may sound like a simple matter of agreeing to a system of collaboration between the agencies. However, in many countries, this free flow of information may be constrained by bureaucratic impediments. There may actually be laws that prevent exchange of information between agencies.
When it comes to technical management, several issues need to be taken into consideration in relation to the infrastructure, the hardware and the software.
Hosting and performance
For operational management, it is very relevant to decide on the hosting arrangement. You can opt for in-house hosting, but also for outsourced hosting. The advantage of in-house hosting is that you are in complete control of the infrastructure and service of the portal. However, there are considerable requirements that come with it:
- Hardware for the hosting server and routers and the necessary telecommunications bandwidth will have to be purchased or leased.
- Adequate and secure premises must be provided.
- Operational availability of the portal has to be guaranteed.
- Security precautions (e.g. firewalls) have to be put in place and kept up-to-date, to protect it from unauthorized access.
- Back-up procedures and sufficient redundancy (e.g. standby servers) to provide for disaster recovery.
You should therefore consider whether the present level of ICT competency and staff availability is such that the above requirements can be satisfactorily accommodated or whether additional competent staff needs to be recruited.
The cost implications of this option should also be carefully considered not only in terms of the initial capital investment but also in terms of the on-going operational costs, maintenance and support costs and likelihood of expansion. The Total Cost of Ownership is likely to be substantially higher when compared to outsourced hosting.
In case of outsourced hosting, a service level agreement will specify the infrastructure, server specifications, and performance in terms of stability, security and speed. All taken care of by the hosting provider. In terms of operational management, the outsourced option has many advantages. A perceived disadvantage is the issue of confidentially, with data outside the immediate control. However, in-house hosting often provides a false sense of security. Where professional hosting providers generally provide state-of-the art security, in many trade promotion organizations it is a challenge to keep the servers protected from unauthorized access.
Either way, procedures to safeguard and monitor the performance should be specified in an operational plan.
Content management and system integration
It is important to acknowledge that for the management of a Trade Intelligence Portal, one should not rely on the webmaster or IT department for uploading of content. Those days have gone by. Nowadays the approach to content management should be decentralized, whereby members of the team (authors or editors), regardless of whether they are working in the head office or in branches or overseas offices, are able to create and edit content in the system. One or more managers (chief editors) in the head office will have publication rights.
These Content Management Systems (CMS) are user-friendly and do not require a technical background with html or programming skills from the editors or chief editors. Moreover, they include workflow management based on profile based authorisation levels, alerting functions (when content is due for review, approval, update), and schedulers (for publication at specific times).
So content management in particular and portal management in general should be placed with one of the executive departments like trade information or market intelligence, while technical management (safeguarding performance, integration of systems and maintenance of the infrastructure) can be put under the IT department.
There are several solutions when it comes to content management systems. A valid option is to use an open source CMS. There are various products available with rich libraries of plugins and ready-made functions that allow relatively easy assembly and customization of a Trade Intelligence Portal. Popular open source CMS are WordPress, Joomla and Drupal.
Another option is to use a combination of off-the-shelf software components and custom code to build a bespoke system. The major software platform vendors, such as Microsoft or Oracle, provide a variety of products that can be used to build web applications. However, these involve purchasing a license and paying an on-going license fee.
The choice of technology approach should be determined by a combination of factors, including:
- The level of complexity in the portal’s functionality, determined by the content and database integration features.
- Existing infrastructure and software applications running in the organization.
- The degree of familiarity of the developers and of the personnel assigned to future maintenance with specific tools available in the market.
- Total Cost of Ownership and budgetary constraints.
Consider that the design –and maintenance- of the database and the functionalities built around it will require specialist information systems design and engineering skills. Such as integration with statistical databases, company directories or CRM systems. CMS management, maintenance services, software updates and monitoring of system integration need to be specified in an operational plan.
- Develop clear guidelines, templates, standard operating procedures and documented work processes as the foundation for content management, social media management and quality management.
- Define the workflow and the workload among the content management functions, including overseas officers.
- Invest in human resource development and knowledge management to develop and maintain capabilities in the organisation.
- Consider performance contracts and adjustments of job descriptions to obtain contributions from staff that has no portal related work as part of their core function.
- Formalize agreements with syndication partners through Memorandums of Understanding or contracts.
- Implement decentralized content management through content management systems with a workflow function, profile based authorisation levels, alerting functions and schedulers.
- Consider Total Cost of Ownership when deciding for hosting and Content Management System solutions.
- Include specifications of roles, responsibilities and procedures of the above in an operational plan.
Want to know more about this step or how ITC can support you with your trade intelligence portal?
- Focus on core competence and value addition.
- Determine syndication and affiliation content areas.
- Identify domestic and international syndication and affiliation partners, both for receiving and for disseminating content.
- Benefit from syndication options in the area of tutorials, country guides, statistical databases, market reports, business directories, market places.
- Insight into turn-key solutions for trade intelligence portals.
The information overload era; avoid duplication, add value
We live in an information era. Stronger even, an information overload era. More than ever, it makes sense to make use of what is already available instead of duplicating what is already out there. Third parties may be well positioned to provide relevant trade information on certain topics. This Step suggests you to pursue strategic options; focus on value addition in specific areas, and content syndication and affiliation in other more generic areas.
Characteristics of syndication and affiliation
Content syndication is the process of sharing content with third-party websites. The idea is to drive more engagement with such content by wiring it into related digital contexts, to boost traffic or to get exposure for a brand, product or services.
Syndication refers to:
- Websites providing information.
- Websites displaying it through publishing and aggregating so-called web feeds (RSS feeds).
- Parties offering an affiliate program to share database applications to search and find trade statistics, regulations, business directories and alike.
So what are the benefits…? For the receiving website, content syndication is an effective way of adding greater depth and immediacy of information to its pages. This makes it more attractive to users. For the transmitting site, syndication drives exposure across numerous online platforms. This generates new traffic, making syndication an easy and relatively cheap form of advertisement. Content syndication has also become an important subject for Search Engine Optimization contributing to link building.
Syndication and affiliation arrangements can be commercial against a fee as well as free of charge. It depends on the syndication and affiliation program and partner.
Setting up your syndication and affiliation strategy
As a trade promotion organisation, it is wise to concentrate on your core competence and determine where to add value (see Step 2). Therefore, planning ahead for syndication makes sense. During a redesign or site launch, or when setting up your content strategy, content structure, and content management systems, think about how you can auto-generate feeds in a flexible fashion without a lot of manual work.
The first step of syndication and affiliation is to establish goals that match your business model. For example, you can use syndication and affiliation for your own marketing, sharing content and databases to third parties. On the other hand, you can use syndication and affiliation by tapping into relevant content and databases of other trade information providers and share that on your website. There is a lot of good quality generic international trade information provided by third parties that may be used efficiently.
- Country profiles
- International commodity prices
- Trade statistics
- Trade facilitation
- Business directories
- Trade leads
- Export readiness and doing business tutorials
Below, we provide some examples and good practices of syndication and affiliation on these subjects.
Selecting syndication and affiliation partners
Once you set your goals:
- Think about the kind of information you have and where you want to send it.
- Think about the information you want to use from other parties.
- Map out content distribution partners, their requirements, and your content and infrastructure capability. Many syndication partners require custom RSS feeds, thumbnail images, snippets, titles, or paragraph excerpts.
Syndication and affiliation partners can be:
- Business or sector associations in your country.
- Educational centers in your own country.
- International providers of country guides, business directories, electronic market places and business news and price information.
- International trade support organizations.
- ITC, through its market analysis tools like Trade Map, Market Access Map, Standards Map.
“We are open to publish information about initiatives from stakeholders, at the same time they have the possibility to subscribe to our RSS feeds. This way, they can provide us a multiplier effect.”
– Stéphane Decoster, Communication Manager, Brussels Invest Export, Belgium
Syndication and affiliation options
Below, we highlight some practical syndication options.
Online tutorials to support companies to improve their knowledge and skills in international trade offer interesting syndication opportunities with education centres or other service providers. Think of online courses in international trade, export readiness assessment tools and alike.
Uk Department for International Trade – Open To Export
UKDepartment for International Trade collaborates with the Institute of Export in their joint platform on “Open To Export“. It provides a good case of syndication of video tutorials on overseas sales and marketing.
In many cases, price information is provided through sector associations. In such case, syndication with sector associations or third party service providers is recommended. Reuters is a good example of a source that provides syndication opportunities. Reuters offers RSS feeds on a wide range of business news and commodity subjects.
Syndication of trade statistics may exist with the Customs in your country, or for example the United Nations Commodity Trade Statistics Database (UN Comtrade). Also, ITC can provide effective solutions to cater to these statistics need through the TradeMap solution.
Mauritius Trade Easy – Trade statistics
A good practice of syndication and affiliation in many ways, and also in trade statistics, is provided by Mauritius Trade Easy. Watch the instruction video to find out how third party statistics and related functionalities are embedded in the trade portal.
Finding business partners
Syndication possibilities also exist in the area of tapping into business directories and databases of online market places and trade leads. A good practice is provided by Mauritius Trade Easy, see below.
Mauritius Trade Easy – Finding business partners
The trade information portal of Mauritius Trade Easy provides a good practice of syndication and affiliation to find business partners. Watch the video to find out how third party databases are integrated in the website.
Country reports and market reports
There are multiple opportunities to tap into syndication in the area of country reports and market reports. Both public and private sector institutions provide quite a range of online publications on these subjects that can be syndicated.
Examples of syndication in this area can be found at:
Below, we highlight 2 good practices:
- UK Department for International Trade and its Open to Export platform with several partners.
- CBI, the Centre for the Promotion of Imports from developing countries, in the Netherlands.
Open To Export – Country guides
UK Department for International Trade provides a wide range of country guides, in collaboration with several third party providers, including the British Chambers of Commerce, but also financial and logistics service providers like Western Union and DHL. They do so on the joint platform of Open To Export.
CBI – Affiliate market intelligence database
A good practice of an affiliate market intelligence database is provided by CBI. It offers its database in full, or segmented by sector, to partner business support organisations. The affiliate database is then accessible from the website of the partner organization. In this case: the Sri Lankan export development board (EDB).
Turn-key solutions, an opportunity…?
Over the last few years, we have seen a rise in integrated Trade Intelligence Portal solutions that are built around a syndication and affiliation concept. These include information on trade facilitation and market intelligence whereby the content and data are syndicated from third parties like United Nations, trade show organizers, business directories, online marketplaces.
These turn-key solutions are provided against a development and service fee and have been purchased by governments as well as private sector parties like banks.
Some good practices of turn-key syndication and affiliation solutions can be found at:
- Focus on your core competence and added value.
- Avoid duplication of efforts.
- Define which content you want to share and which content and tools you would like to use from third parties.
- Identify syndication and affiliation partners per subject area.
- Reach a formal agreement with your affiliation partner (to the extent required by them)
- There are good syndication options in the area of tutorials, country guides, statistical databases, market reports, business directories, market places.
- In case of limited capacity, consider a turn-key solution
Want to know more about this step or how ITC can support you with your trade intelligence portal?
- Impact of social media to a trade promotion organization.
- How to connect social media to the expectations of your target groups.
- Key success factors for a social media strategy.
- Learn from the best to set-up and manage your social channels effectively.
- Importance of and guidelines for blogging
The question is not WHETHER, but HOW to use social media
Social media have created a shift in the way we communicate. And they will continue to do so. Your stakeholders expect you to respond and to adapt your trade intelligence service because B2B professionals nowadays use social media to:
- Find market opportunities, new technologies, new products.
- Connect to buyers and suppliers.
- Communicate with stakeholders.
- Promote and market their services.
- Do research.
In this Step you will learn how to integrate social media to enhance the effectiveness of your Trade Intelligence Portal.
Social media: the extension of your Trade Intelligence Portal
The motto is: Be where your customers are! Instead of waiting for your target group to visit your Trade Intelligence Portal, social media offer you the possibility to connect to your target groups in their preferred social media environments.
In other words, social media can be considered the front-end of your Trade Intelligence Portal. Reaching out to customers, attracting the attention, engaging with them, developing an interest and pulling them to the Trade Intelligence Portal for the actual conversion. It is a functional part of the AIDAS principle as described in Step 4 on usability and functionalities.
“In our ambition to find the simplest and most agile way of distributing contents, we emphasize the use of social media to distribute portal contents via the most influential networks with a potentially high user impact. We integrate latest posts from Twitter and Facebook in a live zone in the portal, integrate video’s from our YouTube channel and stimulate social sharing by our users to their networks”
– Victoria Vera – ICEX, Spain, on social media integration
Keys to success
In order to use social media effectively as an extension of your Trade Intelligence Portal, there are a few critical success factors:
1. Always link to the portal
A critical rule! Your portal is for conversion, social media are first and foremost to connect and engage. So when you post in social media, always include a link directly to a news item or any other content on your portal.
2. Establish authority
Through frequent social media posting and presentation of opinions by means of experts you establish your organisation as an authority in the area, building credibility, tempting users to click for more information on the portal.
3. Original, creative content is queen
Focus on attractive content, with the right tone of voice. You should provide easily digestible teaser content, including benefits that make users respond to the call to action leading to the portal.
4. Visual content is king
Include visuals in your social media posts to attract the attention. People process pictures much faster than text and visuals (pictures, video, infographics) are driving social media communications.
Social media policy and strategy
Before jumping on the bandwagon of social media, it is important to agree on a policy and strategy. The use of social media should be incorporated in a broader strategic framework including online trade promotion and communication at large. Managers and employees should be clear about the purpose, selection of channels, governing rules and the resource implications that maintaining and monitoring the effort would entail.
“Social media are often considered something that you can do on the side. But it is a real job! You need experts that know how to do this…”
– Natalia Peces, ICEX, Spain, on social media management
Defining your social media strategy, as a trade promotion organization, means:
- Identify your key clients.
- Define your social media objectives.
- Make a resource plan.
- Measure the success / monitor and evaluate.
- Decide on useful tools for social media management.
- Develop a social media policy for your staff.
Entirely Social Media…. or integrated Social Media?
With the increasing usage of social media, the question may arise why not focus entirely on just social media and have no portal at all. At this stage, however, most trade promotion organizations would opt for an integration of social media with the portal.
Going one step further, the InterAmerican Development Bank has taken a visionary step forward to develop an online platform dedicated to international trade and development. It is in fact an online community. The Connect Americas initiative is set up as a social media platform, through which SME can:
- Connect with other businesses, learn about their business profile and reputation, write and share reviews about them.
- Learn about the export process and how to enter foreign markets, read about the latest trend and explore a database of international trade data.
- Finance the export process by obtaining information about financial products and services approaching available banks by filling out one single easy-to-use form.
Connect Americas as a social media platform
In this video, Francisco Estrazulas de Souza explains how Connect Americas is set-up. Not as a regular trade promotion and investment website, but with the key characteristics of a social media platform.
– Francisco Estrazulas de Souza,
InterAmerican Development Bank
The right Social Media channels
What are the best social media channels to integrate with your Trade Intelligence Portal? There is an overwhelming number of social media with characteristics fit for different purposes. For trade promotion organizations the following four stand out.
LinkedIn is the online network for professionals. How to use it for your trade intelligence service?
Make use of groups
With LinkedIn you can connect to experts, buyers, consultants and other resource persons, for instance to conduct market research or share your insights. In particular, penetrating in so-called ‘groups’, communities of interest, is very valuable. Not only for listening and engaging, but also for sharing information and starting discussions.
Build reputation – be visible
Join or initiate discussions in groups, respond to questions and show your expertise on certain sectors, topics or markets. Furthermore, share regular updates on your LinkedIn company page and start engaging with individuals that share updates. This is similar to ‘like’ or ‘share’ in Facebook.
Connect to foreign buyers, suppliers, experts and investors
LinkedIn is also a perfect platform to identify and connect to exporters, foreign buyers, investors and experts. Certainly if your target groups are in Western Europe or in the USA, LinkedIn is certainly recommended. Encourage your key staff to have a personal LinkedIn profile, and use it on behalf of your organisation. That way, their individual network becomes part of the institutional network.
Facilitate social sharing from your portal
A LinkedIn share button on your Trade Intelligence Portal is also a good way to encourage social sharing. Followers are key to driving word of mouth, recommendations, and referrals. The more quality followers you have, the easier it becomes to get viral reach and engagement.
|Total number of LinkedIn groups are 2.1 million
|58% users access LinkedIn using their mobile
|65% of LinkedIn users have their Bachelor’s or Graduate degree
|On average LinkedIn users join 7 groups
|8,000 new groups are created weekly
|4 million LinkedIn Company Pages
|10 billion LinkedIn endorsements
|81% of B2B marketers that use LinkedIn for new product launches
|88% of B2B marketers use LinkedIn
Source:http://expandedramblings.com (November 2016)
Click to enlarge
LinkedIn page Germany Trade and Invest (GTAI)
GTAI provides a good practice of active usage of LinkedIn. It publishes regular (almost daily) updates about trade developments, developments in key sectors, opportunities, events.
The GTAI LinkedIn page has more than 32,000 followers and more than 300 employees have their personal profile on LinkedIn.
More information on using LinkedIn effectively:
Twitter is a form of microblogging. It lets users post entries up to 140 characters long. It has become the most popular platform for instant, real-time, news updates. It has even become a source of reference for many reputable news agencies.
Like many trade promotion organisations, you can actively use Twitter as a channel for:
- Sharing updates, always with a link to your portal.
- Providing relevant and up-to-date information to international buyers and domestic exporters.
- Conducting research and listening to what goes on.
- Marketing your services.
- Customer service – responding to inquiries.
There are over 317 million monthly active users
|82% or Twitter users access it from mobile
|Over 500 million tweets per day
|307 is the average number of tweets per account
74% of people who follow SMEs on Twitter to product updates
|52% of Twitter users say they have purchased a product they first heard of on Twitter
|47%of people who followed a brand on Twitter are more likely to visit the company’s website
Source:http://expandedramblings.com (November 2016)
|Critical success factors Twitter
||Consider creating different Twitter accounts for different types of information you want to share and different target markets and target groups you want to serve. A good practice can be found at the UK Department for International Trade. It manages multiple Twitter accounts to serve multiple markets (e.g. @tradegovuk, @tradegovukIND etc.). When targeting markets in different time zones, consider the time difference…. Tweet at the right time!
||For immediate attention, and to be found in the Twitter search engine, use #hashtags with relevant keywords on which users will search. For example, #foodtrends, or #ambiente for people searching on food trends or the Ambiente trade show. The use of #hashtags will increase the chances of your tweets being seen and acted upon.
||Mentioning relevant parties in your tweet (e.g. @ITCnews), means your post will be seen by the party you mention as well as by the followers of that party. Your posts will attract the attention of a wider audience, among which there are potentially new followers.
|Grow your network
||Follow relevant parties (influencers, bloggers, associations, trade fair organisers, market leaders, etc.), as well as their followers. Chances are high that they will start to follow you and become part of your network.
||Visual content is king. The posts that include pictures or video receive much more interaction. Retweeting or favoriting is also a way to interact.
|Link to the portal using a ‘link shrink’
||Since you may use only 140 characters, you have to be short and still include to your portal. To save characters, use a ‘link shrink’ to shorten the URL you want to link to. A popular link shrink service is offered through bitly.
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Twitter page ICEX
ICEX, the Spanish institute for foreign trade, offers a good practice in Twitter. It has a good number of followers, posts frequently and multiple times per day, uses snappy and visual content, hashtags and mentioning of relevant parties as well as the shortened url, linking to the portal for conversion.
YouTube is one of the most important social media channels in the world, and the usage thereof will continue to increase. It is currently the second largest search engine after Google, and the statistics are mind boggling:
|Nr of users (October 2016)
|Percentage of YouTube traffic from mobile
|Average nr of mobile video views per day (2013)
|Advertisement spent on You Tube (2013)
|Percentage of Google’s overall sales that You Tube contributed to in 2014
|Amount that advertisers spent on YouTube in 2013
Source: http://expandedramblings.com (November 2016)
As confirmed by the overwhelming majority of the ITC expert panel, video is an effective communication tool for reaching your target groups and will become even more important in the near future. YouTube offers an interesting platform for sharing your videos. Not only because it is one of the most visited places on the Internet where your target group can find the videos, but also because it let’s you embed the code of the video’s to show it in your Trade Intelligence Portal. So, hosting on the YouTube server and showing on your portal. That’s a proposition you can’t refuse!
|Critical success factors YouTube
|Create and customize your own channel
||Create your own channel in YouTube and upload the videos here. Give the channel your corporate identity through the use of the artwork in the channel banner and the use of your logo and corporate pay-off. In the description (“About us”), present the core competences of the organisation and link to the portal.
|Keep it short
||Do not make your video’s longer than 2 minutes. It is better to make a series of short videos than to make a long one. The attention span given by the users will seldom go beyond 2 minutes. Focus on the core issues!
|Use the right keywords
||To be found in Google and the YouTube search engine, use the relevant keywords on which users will search. Include these in the title of the video, and the description.
|Create play lists
||Organize your video’s in YouTube in relevant play lists, by topic, sector or market regions.
||Host your videos on the YouTube server, and embed to them to your portal.
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YouTube channel NZTE
NZTE has a rich YouTube channel, with playlists featuring video’s highlighting opportunities in international markets for various sectors and video’s on how to succeed in different international markets. Most of the videos are less than 3 minutes.
Being the largest social network with over 1 billion users, no doubt Facebook is relevant. It is an ideal environment for engagement with your target groups, providing trade intelligence updates and inviting interaction.
|1.66 billion mobile monthly active users
|There are over 10 million Facebook apps so far
|56% of facebook users check their account multiple times per day
|400 million photos are uploaded every day
|75% of possible engagement a post gets is in its first 5 hours
|2 billion is the number of daily searches on Facebook.
92% of social marketers use Facebook advertising
Source:http://expandedramblings.com (November 2016)
Critical success factors
- Facebook is for engagement, the portal for conversion. Therefore, always link to the portal.
- Use Facebook applications for an enhanced engagement experience and immediate actions. For example Twitter and YouTube apps provide for a one-stop-social media environment.
- Embrace images and videos in your posts.
- Keep your post short and to the point.
- Use an attractive cover photo and add your value proposition.
- Use milestones as bragging points / story telling.
- Ask questions / for opinions / for likes / polls.
- Use action-oriented words: like, share, tell us.
- Interact promptly.
- Make use of contests.
Good Practices by HKTDC and APEX Brasil
The Hong Kong Trade and Development Council is very active on its Facebook page with daily updates and more than 60,000 likers.
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Apex Brasil, with more than 56,000 likers, has nicely integrated Twitter and YouTube, to create a one-stop social media environment. It has also included a number of videos to focus the visitor’s attention on its programs to support companies to export and innovate and to draw the attention to the market reports APEX has available.
There are various solutions to manage social media efficiently through dashboards, to help you:
- Send posts to multiple channels at the same time.
- Monitor what goes on (listening to ‘mentions’).
- Analyze your social media metrics, what happens with your posts?
- Schedule updates.
- Include automatic ‘link shrink’.
Some examples of useful tools include: Hootsuite, Coosto, SproutSocial, Socialoomph.
And finally…. Have a blog!
In addition to all these social channels, trade promotion organizations should definitely consider blogging on their own portal. This is to create fresh content regularly and establish authority on different trade related subjects.
Benefits of blogging
Blogging will become a very important tool for driving key clients to your portal. Besides, blogging with regular fresh content with the right keywords will:
- help you to establish your authority as the expert in the field.
- allow your key clients to engage in conversations with you and other key clients.
- lead to high ranking in search engine result pages.
Blogs can be about new developments, opportunities, events, and experiences. Blogs by experts, guest bloggers or interviews with experts are also highly valued. Blogs are also very suitable for story telling, that can have a strong impact to convince your key client.
More about persuasion and the power of storytelling can be found in this video.
Success factors for blogging
- Use an attractive blog title that creates curiosity, promise a story.
- Use a list: ‘5 secrets of …’ ‘10 tips for…’.
- Use visuals, pictures or video in the postings.
- One topic per blog post.
- Consider the target audience, calls to action and keywords.
- Blog regularly.
- Offer a rating for the posts (*****).
- Invite guest bloggers, refer to NZTE for example.
- Keep the posts short (400-800 words).
- Allow comments, but pre-publication moderation (approval) may be recommended.
- Provide a set of commenting rules and a ‘click to accept’.
- Provide a username /password login and/or social login for identification.
- Use a ‘captcha’ (a challenge-response test) to avoid automated spamming in the comment zone.
Third party channels
There are many third party channels in the form of communities, blogs, catering to specific segments of users, with an interest in a specific sector or subject. These are very relevant to use for listening, sharing and engaging. Examples can be found in every sector ranging from fashion and home decoration (for example design blogs) to food (for example food safety blogs) and everything in between.
- Be where your target groups are; definitely offer a social media service.
- Use social media to do research, promote and market your services, attract attention, enhance relevancy and drive traffic to the portal.
- Have a social media strategy, and integrate it with your portal strategy.
- LinkedIn, Twitter, Youtube and Facebook are among the key social platforms for you.
- Blogging is another key success factor, and increasingly applied by trade promotion organizations.
Want to know more about this step or how ITC can support you with your trade intelligence portal?