International Marketing - a la Bear Grylls

Ed Marsh | Jun 22, 2012

A young science (or art?  or gut feeling?)

Michael Czinkota (@michaelczinkota) recently released an article on the history of international marketing.  He wrote "2012 marks the 75th anniversary of the academic field of International Marketing."

Being slightly irreverent myself, I can imagine many of you out there responding "So what?"  After all academics is a different world from that of actual international business.  Fair point, but Czinkota's blog is based as much on his consulting experience and government trade positions as on his academic research.  (BTW - if you'd like to read his piece you can find the introduction here and full article here.) 

So why's this important?

International marketing is neither art nor science - it is a fascinating multi-disciplinary pursuit which can't succeed based primarily on metrics or on design/communications.  Would you simply read a survival book and then helicopter into the wild like @BearGrylls?

But isn't that what happens?  Suddenly your company decides to "go global" and tells you to shift your focus from domestic to international marketing.  And before you know it, despite earnest efforts, you're (figuratively) wandering in circles without food, soaked through and shivering.

It's a harsh and unforgiving environment, and naive international marketing will doom your diversification effort!

7 International Marketing Survival Tips

1. Experience saves - Bear didn't go camping a couple times and then launch his survival show.  Only through many iterations of challenging experiences (after substantial training) in funky places was he prepared to undertake his larger challenges.  International Marketing lesson - Just because you've been to Europe (or Mexico, or even if you have a well stamped passport) you don't necessarily have international experience.  How many different SIMs have you carried?  (Don't know what that means? You're  definitely not ready!)  How many foreign assignments have you had?  Without actual, sustained, local international marketing and business experience you might as well head into the backwoods without a compass.

2.  Be easy to find and rescue - Of course you left word where you were going and when you'd return.  So they're going to come looking.  Don't hide under triple canopy and don't 'hole up' in a riverbed cavern.  Find an open spot that is large enough for an LZ so that they not only find you - but then pick you up.  IM lesson - Inbound marketing is key.  An appropriately designed and localized strategy (using microsites, local language keywords, etc.) will make you easy to find.  You'll start to drive substantial prospect traffic.  But make sure your methodology converts that traffic.  In other words don't just flash a mirror from a ridge line, but pick an LZ that lets you convert those visitors to leads with compelling, localized calls to action.

international marketing requires an understanding of important nuance3.  The difference between safe and poisonous may be barely discernible - coral vs. king snake or Queen Anne's Lace carrots vs. hemlock are classic examples of deadly wilderness miscues.  IM lesson - legal statutes and local norms can vary in seemingly insignificant ways - but the variations can have massive implications.  Can you directly mention competitors?  Can you place cookies?

4.  Cold and wet kills - not only are these conditions miserable, but hypothermia is dangerous.  You have to have the right gear, and must recognize conditions and symptoms of early onset so you can react safely.  IM lesson - market reactions can catch you by surprise.  If you aren't prepared, and don't recognize the symptoms early, you may persevere in activities that will ultimately doom your effort.

5.  You can't pack for every eventuality - If you're in the wild, you work with what you can carry while still remaining mobile and nimble.  And a small number of light, multi-purpose items complement the available resources in your local environment.  Carrying too much will doom you too!  IM lesson - localize and adapt!  You have a core brand in your pack, but messaging, delivery and engagement will be developed based on local conditions.  If you pack it all in, you will be bogged down and ineffective.  But despite your romanticized impressions, the 3" thick swiss army knife doesn't do it all - don't think that "marketing translation" is the only equipment you need to pack for your international business development adventure.  Localization is far more complex.

6.  Determination and toughness are critical - in survival situations the mental toughness to overcome the inclination toward self-pity and lethargy often distinguish survivors from casualties.  IM lesson - you will make mistakes.  Do you, and does your company, have the resources and more importantly the intestinal fortitude to press on to success?  Don't start if you are committed to finish.  You'll end up another bleached set of bones picked clean by vultures.

7.  Observe and understand your surroundings - absent substantial experience, the first reaction is often wrong.  With immediate safety, water and shelter requirements met, it's critical to calmly assess your situation, adapt to the sounds, smells and sights of your surroundings.  With a reasonable baseline familiarity you will make better survival decisions.  IM lesson - go there.  Talk to people.  Walk through stores and bazaars.  Visit large urban metro areas as well as secondary and tertiary centers.  Develop a "feel" for the market before you start to react.

Coming soon - our International Marketing Survival eBook. Want to be alerted when it's ready?  Sign up (see it in the upper right corner?) for our periodic blog update emails. 

Is this for real?

ed marsh international marketing expertAnd, in case you're wondering...Ed Marsh has spent substantial time in the "boonies" - both figuratively and literally.  A former army officer, he completed several of the US Army's most rigorous training courses (including Ranger and Airborne) and deployed in multiple locations ed marsh international business development expertglobally.  As a civilian, married to a foreign national, he has led international business development efforts in the globe's major regions, has founded several companies, including one in India, and is noted for his international marketing and channel management expertise...but still enjoys individual challenges.  So he recently ran the ToughMudder Vermont.

Feeling brave?

Contact Consilium Global Business Advisors to explore how we can help you develop an international marketing program that strategically supports your objectives and incorporates key elements including marketing localization and international inbound marketing.  We've been in the wild and survived!

Want to learn more right away?  Download our free whitepaper "4 Immutable Principles of International Marketing" and check out our eBook on "International Marketing Considerations" below.

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