While any startup company can spend years successfully building a business in one country, geographical limitations eventually limit growth. However, businesses with strong leadership anticipate that inflection point and start planning an expansion into new markets long before those limits are reached at home.
International marketing is targeting brands, products and services to potential buyers in other countries. Therefore, companies must adopt a global marketing strategy, using market research of the foreign territories' cultures and audiences. This requires intensive investigation of potential markets' need for the product and possible iterations to maximize local appeal.
Once it is determined that a brand could be successful in a new country, the focus must shift to navigating cultural, language and legal differences and localizing both products and communications to suit the new audience. Though that may seem like an insurmountable hill to climb for smaller organizations, online tools make it possible to expand operations into new, untapped markets.
Benefits of International Expansion
International marketing affords businesses nearly unlimited growth and protection from local economic cycles, improving long-term sustainability. Consider these individual benefits of international expansion for any business:
- New sources of revenue from untapped markets
- Increase in brand awareness in new and existing markets
- Improve reputation, as ubiquity speaks to trustworthiness
- Opportunity to attract talent from a global field
- Chance to improve, develop and expand product lines
- Opportunity to forge new business alliances
- Ability to withstand local economic slowdowns
Building a global presence is a worthwhile endeavor that requires considering local norms, customs, languages and laws. Here are five things companies must get right to expand into new markets successfully:
- Conduct Comprehensive Market Research Before Entry
A faux pas in one market could tarnish your company's reputation internationally, not just in one isolated country. Leadership should conduct extensive research before entering a new market considering the following factors:
- National and international laws
- Trade laws and regulations
- Industry regulations
- Political stability and relationships
- Business Costs
- Trademarks and intellectual property rights
These considerations all factor into whether a brand and products can translate from one market to another. A careful review of these factors may reveal that new iterations in a product line or complete revisions of a brand are necessary before opening a new market.
- Master Cultural Differences and Potential Misunderstandings
Languages, social norms, lifestyles, daily routines and purchasing decisions vary widely from country to country and even within national borders. Given that their environments shape people, histories and current circumstances, very little about how we express ourselves and what makes us tick are strictly universal. Even in countries that share a language, certain words have entirely different meanings. Marketers must intensively study these differences and gain insights into each market considered for expansion.
For example, translating humorous ad content from one culture to another can fall flat or prove offensive. Images of people engaged in certain behaviors and nuances in body language can have negative interpretations that can doom a brand's reputation. Behaviors of actors in television commercials or online videos must also reflect local norms. Localization experts can ease the transition into new markets and serve as a backstop when marketers want to avoid a potential faux pas.
- Choose a Localized or Global Standardization Strategy
Localization is the mastery of all of the intricacies of one culture and targeting campaigns specifically to the audience(s) within that culture. If there are few differences between how the people of a new culture would use your product compared to your own, it may be possible to adopt a global standardization strategy. This involves standardizing the methods of communication and the campaigns and messaging across markets. Leadership must do it with an understanding of what ideas they can put into practice universally.
- Get Your Website and Social Platforms Ready for International Exposure
To market products in different cultures, you must have separate language versions of your website established in each market. The next step is to invest in search engine optimization (SEO) in each market so that people searching for your product category or solution to a pain point can find your product.
There are also differences from culture to culture in the way people perceive the user experience (UX) of a website, so developers must customize the variations to reflect how people prefer to peruse the content. Websites should also use hreflang tags in the code to drive people to the right website based on location and canonical links to notify search engines that different versions of the website are not duplicates.
- Build Platforms for User-Generated Content
The most powerful voices for your brand within a new market are not your own employees nor US-based loyal fans of your products. People want to know that products are satisfying the needs of people like them, in their geographical areas and with similar lifestyles and preferences. Authentic, conversational voices must be speaking for your brand to your audiences, wherever your products are sold.
Harness the power of social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram and YouTube to showcase local user-generated content (UGC). Encourage locals to discuss the customer experience with your company, review products, showcase them visually, explain features and demonstrate use. YouTube videos, Instagram photos and blogs are all great vehicles for generating engagement.
UGC is highly effective at building brands and engagement; 90% of customers trust UGC to inform their purchasing decisions. Moreover, it is even more powerful on a social platform than on your own website, with this content reaping 5X greater click-through performance than company-generated messaging.
International marketing skills are vital to any company that has global ambitions. To that end, top MBA programs are providing comprehensive training in these skills, and graduates of specialized marketing programs like the La Salle Master of Business Administration, Marketing Specialization see high demand for their expertise.
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