Website Databases to Promote Your Company Internationally

By James Foley, Director
Turner Center Operations, Illinois SBDC International Trade Center

Companies trading internationally rely on their corporate website as a critical marketing tool to reach potential buyers. But how do foreign buyers find those websites? Most would do an internet search using Google, or perhaps a local search engine such as Baidu in China, which is why an effective search engine optimization strategy (SEO) is so important to a company’s marketing plan.

However, relying solely on search engines can make finding specific products and services difficult. Buyers also use web-based platforms that allow much more targeted searching. Advanced search fields include industry classification (SIC or NAICS code), harmonized codes, whether the company is a producer or distributor, etc. This heavy reliance on B2B platforms means companies need to be aware of them and ensure accurate information is provided. Fortunately most of the B2B platforms allow registration at no cost. Here are a few leading platforms:

Kompass - Kompass is the oldest player in the field, having published global business directories for over 60 years. Their database includes over 4 million companies in 66 countries. Kompass also offers some of best advanced searching capabilities. Beyond industry classifications, Kompass is the only platform that supports harmonized codes. It also classifies companies as importers, exporters, producers, and distributors. Kompass has 58,000 business categories which allow companies to fine tune their product or service offering. Registration on the site is free. Basic searches are also free. Subscribers have access to advance searching options and are able to view all company information from a search.

Avention – Formerly known as OneSource, this database is larger than Kompass at over 5.5 million companies outside the U.S. It allows searching by industry codes (NAICS, SIC, and international versions) plus conceptual text searching. It does not offer harmonized code searching. Avention does an excellent job at cross-referencing company ownership, such as a parent company and all related subsidiaries. Avention also links to newsfeeds, LinkedIn, and executive names. Unlike other platforms, users cannot search Avention for free. In fact, without a subscription, a company may not view their profile. While some may see this as a competitive-disadvantage, Avention views their ‘closed’ architecture as strength because only vetted information is attached to company profiles.

Alibaba - By far the new kid on block, Alibaba was previously a little known, China-based, niche B2B platform. That all changed as it soon became a huge B2B site for China, and later entered the U.S. Now Alibaba is poised to have a significant global impact after its recent IPO, the world’s biggest, raising over $21 billion. An example of its strength is the recent announcement that Costco will sell directly to Chinese buyers through Alibaba. Alibaba uses an open architecture in which registration and searching is free. There are also subscriber levels which offer greater exposure on the platform. Alibaba does not release the size of its total company database. It is also not as global as Kompass or Avention as it currently operates in less than 25 countries. But with the IPO, Alibaba must be taken seriously and companies need to be sure they are involved.

Solusource – Solusource has a link to a well-known brand in B2B marketing: Thomas Register. Previously known as the ‘big green books’, Thomas Register is no longer in print. But their B2B platform, based on Thomas Global, continues. It has significantly fewer companies than other platforms, at around 650,000. It is also less global with about 30 countries represented. However, searching and registration is at no cost.

TradeKorea – TradeKorea is a relatively new site created by KITA – Korea International Trade. Following in the footsteps of Alibaba, TradeKorea started as a Korean B2B platform. It has grown to a global platform with significant users outside Korea. Searching is similar to other platforms. However, there is not the same level of advanced searching offered by Kompass or Avention, such as SIC, NAICS, or custom industry codes. The site does offer product groupings, which helps narrow the search. TradeKorea offers no-cost registration and searching.

The Illinois SBDC International Trade Center subscribes to all of these sites. For additional information, contact Jim Foley at (309) 677-3075 or jff@bradley.edu.