Your Ideal International Client: Market Research

In my previous post, I talked about the four levels of market segmentation when it comes to international marketing, and how they can be applied in different contexts. Now let’s talk about your ideal client and how you can conduct market research to understand their needs and challenges better. Your ideal international client is the person offshore who sees your product and says “yes, this solves my problem … I’ll buy it”. Understanding who your IIC is is extremely important. If your solution and marketing aren’t aligned with what the IIC wants and the problems they want you to solve, they won’t buy from you. It’s vital to have an exact target, so that prospects can find you and you can find them. There are two common problems here. Some companies have only a vague idea of a fictional client who they want to work with. If (as is often the case) the client doesn’t exist, selling to them is virtually impossible. Secondly, companies often define their ideal client too broadly, or assume that international clients want the same thing as clients at home, which is often not the case. In both instances, the underlying problem is lack of research. To create solutions and marketing that reach your IIC and solve the problems they want solved, you have to find out what their problems really are … not what you imagine them to be

How do we align what people want and what we’re offering?

A great way of aligning your offering with what clients want is to build an ideal international client profile, based on a single segment. This profile delves into the client’s goals, challenges and desires, to help us get clear on what clients are trying to do, what problems they are facing and what outcomes they want. This information helps us to understand what sorts of products and services we should be offering to clients. 



Goals are the things that your clients are trying to get done in their work or their life. A client goal could be:

When you’re thinking about goals, make sure that you take the client’s perspective – what you think of as important might not be a goal for your client.



Challenges are anything that annoys your clients before, during and after trying to achieve a goal, or anything that prevents them from reaching their goal.They can also be risks or potentially negative outcomes, related to not achieving a goal.

Desires are the outcomes and benefits that your customers want. Some of these things are required, expected or desired by clients and some would surprise them. Desires can include functional utility, social gains, positive emotions, and cost savings.


Goals, challenges and desires can all vary in their importance, severity and relevance. While your clients may have a variety of goals, challenges and desires and although individual customer preferences vary, it’s very important to get a sense of which of things really matter the most to clients, so that you can make sure that the products you are putting into the market help them to achieve their most important goals, solve their most important challenges and fulfil their most relevant desires. 

Go to the source

There are several ways that you can source the information for your ideal client profile, including: 



Draw up a list of questions and call your clients and potential clients directly for their input. This is a great way to get a deep understanding of what people are looking for, but it takes a lot of time and effort.

Focus group


This is a tactic used by big firms, and can yield deep insights into what clients are looking for and how they feel about products. The downside is that they are complex to coordinate and can be expensive to run.

Create surveys


You can survey clients using tools like Survey Monkey, virtually for free and this method has the advantage of being quick and inexpensive. The downside is that response rates to surveys are usually very low and the quality of data is often lower, because the format is inflexible.

Run a poll on social media


Like surveys, social media polls are a ‘quick and dirty’ way of getting feedback from prospects. They’re quick and inexpensive, but don’t provide nuanced data about clients’ goals, challenges and desires.

Commission professional market research


This can include interviews, surveys and focus groups. Professional research is more expensive than DIY research, but the advantage is that you can leave the hard work to experienced researchers who know how to find the data you need.

Interested in commissioning market research for your international expansion? Find out how we help companies gain deep insights into their target markets, through qualitative and quantitative international market research and modelling.

In the end, whichever method you choose, it all comes down to this: ask people what they are trying to do, what they struggle with and what they need. 

Dig for concrete information

To clearly differentiate between your prospects, goals, challenges and desires, get people to describe them as concretely as possible. 

For example, when a customer says “waiting in line was a waste of time”, ask after how many minutes exactly it began to feel like a waste of time. That way, you can note “wasting more than X minutes standing in line”. When you understand how clients measure the severity of inconvenience, you can design better ways to solve their problems.

As you go through this process, you’ll discover that what matters to your clients and potential clients overseas is often quite different to what matters to clients in your domestic market.


What if I don’t have a list of potential international clients?

If you’re starting cold, with no list of international prospects,  an interim solution is to begin creating your ideal client profile with your best guess as to what is important to your future customers. The caveat is that you’ll need to test those assumptions to make sure they truly reflect priorities from the client’s perspective, before you’ve invested a lot of time and money in a particular strategy. If this seems like a daunting task, it could be time to commission some professional research.

In my next post, I’ll be covering how to create your ideal client avatar, by putting everything we’ve discussed so far together.

Have you ever dreamed of taking your business global?


Business Beyond Borders: Take Your Company Global is the latest book from international business strategist, Cynthia Dearin. It’s the culmination of decades of research, experience and ‘aha moments’ about the world of international business.


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Business Beyond Borders: Take Your Company Global

Business Beyond Borders: Take Your Company Global is the latest book from international business strategist, Cynthia Dearin. Pre-order your copy today!

The Manufacturers Ultimate Guide to International Expansion [2024]

Everything you need to know about taking your business global in 2024 and beyond.

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