If you’re ready to expand into new markets, or just want to see where you could take your business in the future, you’ll need to understand international marketing. In a globalised world, even small businesses can become multinational nowadays, my own included!
Thanks to the internet, our content creation services started out in a cosy office in London but have since expanded to Colorado in the US! Our use of international marketing strategies, including international SEO (which we’ll get into later), allowed us to adapt our content and marketing efforts to successfully connect with new clients in the States. And it was this global marketing move that quite literally opened up a new world of opportunities for my brand!
So, back to my point, it’s not just the huge conglomerates and companies selling the latest viral products that can effectively sell overseas. Businesses of any size can utilise the internet and clever international marketing strategies to reach customers across the globe. And when it comes to marketing your product or service to different markets, your regular strategies just won’t cut it. From language barriers to cultural differences, the ways human beings think, communicate and live vary hugely across markets.
Whether you’ve got a certain market in mind or are at the very beginning of your international marketing journey, the strategies we’re going to look at in this blog will give you inspiration and guidance for your marketing efforts moving forward.
What is International Marketing?
As always, before diving in, I’m going to give you the basic knowledge about international marketing. This term is a little jargony in the world of marketing, and does encompass a range of different activities, but is pretty simple to get your head around once you have a good understanding of it.
International marketing refers to any business activity and marketing efforts that target consumers or clients outside of your business’s country. There are a lot of different ways that you can market your products and services, from online strategies to reach your customers to billboard campaigns in your target markets, and even storefronts. So, that means that different international marketing strategies fall somewhere on a spectrum of how tangible your marketing efforts are.
Levels of Involvement with International Marketing
The spectrum of global marketing strategies is based on how physically involved you are in your business operations in your target market. So naturally, strategies that involve the least amount of involvement fall on one end of the spectrum, and ones that require more resources fall on the other. Let’s briefly review them now.
If you want to sell to customers abroad but with the least amount of investment, you’ll likely just export your products. This strategy can be bolstered by an effective digital marketing plan to gain attention from new customers online, and all you have to do is ship your products over.
The next step up would be to sell your products and services through pre-existing stores, like how independent brands sell their products through department stores such as Selfridges or online marketplaces like ASOS. This doesn’t require you to invest in your own store, and the brand you sell under might also help you out with marketing!
For larger companies that have more resources available and demand in their target markets, they can franchise their product or service. Just like how anyone can open a KFC, you can lend your brand name and reputation to independent retailers for a decent commission.
A joint venture is a partnership between your company and a company that already operates in your target market to create something new. Their insights and expert knowledge on your target market would heavily inform your activities and would involve substantial investment in terms of budget and personnel.
Foreign Direct Investment
Lastly there’s foreign direct investment which consists of launching your brand with its own team, storefront and tangible marketing efforts in your target market.
Now that we’ve covered how much investment and resources each category of international marketing strategy requires, we can look at some practical examples of global marketing strategies and how you can use international marketing to promote your product or service and reach new customers.
International Marketing Strategies
Each of these strategies can, and should, be adapted to your budget, business sector and brand. And as we mentioned at the beginning of this post, even smaller businesses can utilise these strategies to reach new audiences overseas.
1. Partner With Local Brands
Partnering with local businesses is somewhat of a marketing cheat sheet if you ask me, because not only is your distribution covered, but the knowledge your partner will have about your market is second to none. It’s expertise that you just wouldn’t be able to have access to without doing the hard work and learning from mistakes, and with a partnership, it’s in the palm of your hand already. So this is well worth doing if you can’t take the risk of going it completely alone in a new market.
Your partnership could be as low risk as running social media campaigns with your local brand, all the way up to selling your products in their stores or even coming out with a completely new and unique product offering.
2. Localise Your Content…
I can’t stress enough how important localising your marketing efforts and content is. We’ve all seen the blunders that even huge global brands like KFC have made in the past, so it’s important to make sure that none of your content gets lost in translation. This counts for your social media efforts, marketing campaigns, slogan, website – anywhere where your new target market will consume content from you.
I’d recommend going to localisation professionals to make sure that your content doesn’t just make sense to your new customers, but achieves the goal of creating an authentic connection with them.
3. And Product
We can’t forget the product! There may be elements about your product that won’t quite translate overseas, from the name to the design. For example, colours have many different meanings across cultures, so it’s worth considering whether you might need to tweak certain elements of your product or service to adapt to the customs and values of your target market.
4. Create Regionally-Specific Social Media Accounts
If you have a larger presence on social media and it’s going to be your primary channel for reaching new customers, then it could be a good idea to create regionally-specific social media accounts. Say you’re looking to target the Italian market with your product. You can show your new audience that you value them enough to not just rely on automatically generated translations, but have a dedicated, authentic account that they can interact with. This’ll pay off in the long run and will help you to create a sense of community with your new customers.
5. Promote Universal Values
While the previous strategies have covered more of an adaptation strategy in order to connect with your target market, this isn’t the only option for companies expanding overseas. On the other side of things, you can promote universality, or standardise your marketing efforts. At the end of the day, we’re all human, and we do all have some things in common, no matter the culture. From family to football– there are so many things everyone loves!
And if you can identify universal values in your business, you can really push them to the forefront of your international marketing campaigns to create a sense of community with your new market, without having to change too much about your current efforts!
6. Use International SEO
International SEO has been the single most important tool for me in my own international marketing efforts. It’s allowed us to target users searching for our services in America and create some amazing content for them. And the great thing about this strategy is that we didn’t have to change our services or launch a whole new campaign, but just expand our current SEO efforts to a new market.
There’s a lot more to international SEO aside from targeting international keywords and making technical fixes, which I covered in my beginner’s guide to international SEO post, so be sure to check that out if this is a path you want to go down.
7. Promote Your Global Capabilities
If you have a product that can be used worldwide, like a water bottle or smartphone, or a service that is easily delivered across borders, then you could shape your international marketing strategy around the universal usability of your product. This global angle allows you to keep your marketing efforts standardised because you would quite literally be targeting everyone on the planet!
Expanding Abroad: A Whole New World
In a global world, we don’t have to only look for opportunities for growth in our immediate vicinity. International marketing strategies can really level up your business and provide so many new opportunities for businesses. Whether you find yourself in a saturated market or with an untapped skillset or selling point, global marketing can get you there.
If you want to expand your business overseas and need help with anything from international SEO to localising your content, we can help at Writefully. Check out our global marketing packages here!