An introduction to international marketing
International marketing uses marketing activities to meet customers' needs in other countries. Definitions may vary slightly, but essentially this is how it is defined online.
Google a little more and you will soon find a neat summary of the pros and cons of international marketing. How globalisation and the digital era opened up overseas opportunities, thereby creating an increased desire for foreign goods and services. How this de-regularisation also led to saturated markets and a decline in quality control.
It’s easy to find a list of successful b2c global brands in the high street, but there have been spectacular failures too: Tesco in the US, Starbucks in Australia and Bunnings in the UK.
In B2B – where many of our clients operate – the failures aren’t so well known, but they happened: DHL in the US and Google in China (although the latter was a big story and it is not over yet).
Is your business ready for international expansion?
The potential rewards from successful international expansion certainly make it worth pursuing if there is a market for your service.
If your business is successful in its country of origin and you are looking for new growth opportunities, expanding onto foreign soil could be the logical next step. But how can you know for sure that there is a market for your solutions in your business sector?
Do your homework before going global
Researching your international market online is a good start but, once you have read some famous case studies and best practice guidance (such as this blog), you should identify and contact appropriate enterprise support agencies such as UK DIT, AusTrade or your country’s equivalent. These advisories should be able to confirm if there is a demand for your services internationally.
Bear in mind that, even if you identify a market for your business in another country, they might place a different value on your offering (e.g. professional services are not valued in China). If what you are selling is regarded highly, it might work in your favour but, equally, you might be disappointed and decide it is not worth pursuing.
The challenges of selling across borders
Assuming you receive an affirmative response from expert advisors, you can start the real work of marketing yourself effectively to your new audience.
Knowing the benefits and the risks before you start selling into other countries is a must, just as it would be if you were launching a new business in your home market.
To help you, we have compiled a list of the main considerations:
Currency rates affect imports and exports
Sales forecasts are more complex and profit margins are harder to predict when you are dealing with fluctuations in exchange rates. There are specialist conversion services available for businesses who trade internationally.
Time zones and working pattern differences need to be planned for
Time zones certainly need to be considered when you are liaising by phone or email with colleagues and contacts who are several hours ahead or behind. Variations in opening hours, workweeks, weekends and public holidays also need to be taken into account when you are staffing your offices, calls centres or other business locations.
Cultural differences might be closer than you think
This is truly a mind field and you should seek professional advice, particularly if you are marketing into the Eastern economies. There are cultural differences within European countries that affect business dealings too.
Language nuances can catch you off-guard
It seems too obvious to mention, but many companies have fallen foul of using names and acronyms that differ in meaning between countries. This can even cause misunderstanding and embarrassment between nations that speak the same language! Enlist the help of a trustworthy local speaker.
Translation and localisation are linked, but they are not the same
Ensuring that the content you produce is relevant and appropriate to your audience is crucial. Use a business translation service and, if you are writing in English (even for another English-speaking country), use international plain English, and avoid colloquial terms and complex sentence structure. See our blog.
Regulations are still country-centric – global laws do not yet exist
Anything from not securing the right to trade and obtaining the correct work permit, to misunderstanding contractual terms, anti-corruption policies and exportation tax can bar you from selling abroad. Take advice from a local business expert to avoid any administrative traps.
Marketing regulations often go beyond legal obligations
As our advice is targeted at marketers, this requires special mention. While you will be familiar with your native organisations e.g. the Advertising Standards Authority if you are the UK, other countries will have an equivalent body which may be more or less stringent than what you are used to. Contact them for advice early on.
Facilitation payments or bribes
Although the UK’s reputation for not using corrupt business practice has improved significantly since the Bribery Act was introduced in 2010, there is still a need to be vigilant when looking to market your business internationally. Usefully there has been a move towards achieving a baseline in anti-bribery compliance, with other countries also enforcing their legal equivalents. See www.antibriberyguidance.org for further information.
Local knowledge might require local presence
Local knowledge is a lot more than knowing how to speak the language. In some cases, and if you can afford it, you might need a physical presence in the country. Face-to-face contact is desirable, even essential, when dealing with clients in some parts of the world. Enlisting the help of remote representatives (ensure you check their credentials first) can be invaluable here.
Can we help?
For a no obligation discussion about how we can help you meet your international marketing objectives call or email us. We can support you throughout Europe, MEA and APAC through our London and Melbourne offices and local teams.