If you’re in business in 2020, you’ll know that COVID-19 has created huge disruption in some industries and opened up massive opportunities in others. For many companies, there’s never been a better time to ‘go global’, but to do so, you’ll need a tailored international marketing strategy.
How to get your message across in a new country is a big hurdle, and one that often trips up businesses looking to expand internationally. Too many founders and CEOs assume that they can take their tried and tested domestic marketing strategy and “copy, paste” it into an overseas market… with the same great results.
Unfortunately, that’s not how it works!
Each new market is unique, not just geographically and structurally, but also linguistically and culturally. Even in countries that appear superficially similar (like Australian and New Zealand, the United States and Canada, the UAE and Saudi Arabia or Hong Kong and China) there can be stark differences in social cues, the way that people communicate with each other, what kind of media they consume and how they prefer to buy. And that means that for each new country that you plan to sell to, you’ll need a tailored marketing strategy.
In international markets, settling for generic marketing means settling for mediocre sales, or sometimes no sales at all!
How do I tailor an international marketing strategy?
Creating a great international marketing strategy that connects with your ideal clients in a new market can feel overwhelming, but like most things, when you break it down systematically, it’s achievable. There are three key steps to getting your message across and making sales in a new country, and I’ll share those with you in just a moment.
Before we get to those steps, let me emphasise that it’s crucial that you have a crystal clear, detailed understanding of who your ideal client is in any given market, before you start designing your marketing. Without this piece of the puzzle, any marketing strategy that you create is basically a shot in the dark. You can read more about defining your ideal international client here.
1. Understand the cultural context of a new country
The first step in creating a tailored international marketing strategy is to understand the business and cultural context of the country you’re selling to.
In my experience, companies coming from a home market often don’t have a good understanding of the context that they’re selling into. Where a business has been successful at home, it’s easy to believe that there’s no need to do the work to understand the ins and outs of how marketing works abroad. I’ve heard people say things like:
“We don’t need to do a lot of market research… we’ve been very successful in our home market and we have a great product. We can just keep on doing what we have done well”.
The reality is that when you cross national borders you cross cultural borders as well. In some cases you might find that you’re not even competing in the category you were competing in in your home market. Your competition set could be broader and might be speaking to a different kind of user base. For instance, at home you might be targeting the mass market, whereas crossing borders you might be addressing a different consumer market which is more likely to use your product.
Without a good understanding of the business and cultural context, it’s hard to craft a strategy to market products and brands in a way that makes a connection with the customer, makes the product interesting and really satisfies a need, because these elements are often culturally determined.
So, before you decide how many Instagram ads you’re going to run, take the time to really understand the environment you’ll be marketing in.
2. Choose marketing channels that work overseas
Once you’re clear on the context and customer expectations, it’s time to choose marketing channels that will be effective.
Once again, you can’t just assume that what works at home will work overseas. A classic example is where a company sells successfully in the US and Australian markets via Facebook and decides, as it enters the China market, that it will continue using this channel there.
If you know anything about China, you’ll know that Facebook is banned, so using it as a marketing channel is out of the question. If you want to go down the social digital marketing route for China, you’ll need to investigate platforms like WeChat Groups, live-streaming and TikTok (‘Douyin’ in China).
As with the cultural context, it’s important to choose a channel that will actually be effective in your new market, rather than just going with what you know and hoping for the best.
3. Reverse engineer your international marketing strategy for real results
Finally, you’ll get the best results if you make the effort to reverse engineer your marketing plan, so that you base your marketing efforts on the amount of sales you plan to make, rather than doing what so many companies do … ‘pay, spray and pray’, in other words arbitrarily spend money on marketing in the hope of sales, but without a clearly defined goal in mind.
There’s a lot to this topic, but when you boil it down, the key here is to set targets and then work backwards to understand what kind of lead volumes will be required to meet those targets and what kind of campaigns are likely to drive those volumes of leads.