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Alabama Commerce Department providing new tools for exporters

The goal of the new program is to give companies new internet marketing tools to elevate their profiles and win business in foreign markets.

Aerial image of the Port of Mobile.

The Alabama Department of Commerce’s Office of International Trade will unveil new online tools to give Alabama companies that depend on exports new marketing options. The Commerce Department is working with its partners to help export-minded companies across the state maintain their global focus and create new trade relationships overseas.

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

Alabama Commerce Secretary Greg Canfield said the commerce team and the international trade group received financial resources from the U.S. Small Business Administration’s State Trade Expansion Program, or STEP, to launch the Alabama Online Global Program.

Economic developer Nicole Jones said: “Alabama has to be creative to stay competitive amidst uncertain times. Aimed to do just that, the program will allow companies in Alabama to continue dialogue with current international partners during the global pandemic. Online conversations and a focus on digital marketing also provide businesses an opportunity to gain new customers and, in the COVID-19 environment, is the next best alternative to in-person meetings. We look forward to the presentation of the new Alabama Online Global Program business development tools this Wednesday.”

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

“A strong online presence for companies has never been so important as it is now,” Canfield said. “It is critical that we help them adapt as much as possible to these new conditions to avoid losing current customers and to quickly return to pre-quarantine levels of activity.”

Hilda Lockhart, the director of Commerce’s Office of International Trade, said that the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted the plans of many Alabama firms to expand their business internationally. The Alabama Department of Commerce was forced to cancel 2020 trade missions planned for Vietnam, Hong Kong, the Caribbean and Russia.

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Alabama companies who had planned to travel to foreign trade shows had those events also canceled.

“We know this has been extremely challenging during this year with COVID 19 impacting travel, supply chains, causing shutdowns/closures and causing a lot of uncertainty for everyone,” Lockhart said. “Because of COVID-19, we began looking for innovative ways to help companies across Alabama reach out to potential buyers and partners throughout the world,” she added.

IBT Online has created programs for other states. They can help companies with website localization strategies that make their brands easy to find in target countries and facilitate business connections.

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

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

“Sometimes we tend to look at the world through the lens of our own culture, experience and/or preconceptions, so they have helped us take a more local, customer-focused approach,” Hood said. “Their professionalism and politeness impress me, but I genuinely value their approach that is based more on systems and processes than more touchy-feely marketing approaches.”

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

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“The STEP grant program been a vital part of our global export growth strategy,” Wilder said. “We have used it for everything from market research, to trade mission prospecting. Currently we are working with the program to further develop our international digital marketing assets. The STEP grant program is an excellent value.”

Brandon Moseley is a former reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter.

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