International Marketing - crawl, walk & run

Dave Kaupp | Jul 10, 2012
This is the first in a 3 part "mini-series" on international marketing - one of the most fundamental elements of and international business development initiative.  In part one, Dave Kaupp, an experienced international marketing expert and international business consultant discusses the foundation for an effective international marketing program.

Planning an international marketing campaign

Do you have a product or service that would be perfect for the international marketplace?  Have you been considering global sales, but aren't sure how to put together an international marketing plan?  And even more importantly, how would you even get started?  What are the pitfalls that your business might encounter?  These are all natural concerns and the failure to research and plan your expansion could easily lead to frustration and squandered resources.  A sound strategy is key.

The United States has over 30 million businesses and, although U.S. businesses are still growing, the growth rate has slowed from 4% to 2.2%.  Internationally, the economic downturn has increased, and "decoupling" offers little relief.  But, as the saying goes, where there are greater risks, there are greater rewards, and, for certain businesses, this might be a particularly opportune time to launch an international sales initiative. 

If the idea of launching a global sales effort is appealing, but has been a low priority, then perhaps now is the time to reconsider your strategy.  There is almost certainly a profitable international marketplace for your service or product - and exporting is fundamentally good for you, your company and the country.  Nevertheless, marketing your product or services on an international level can be daunting.  There are pitfalls and speed bumps, not to mention land mines!  (on a roll mixing metaphors now!)  On the other hand, with the proper planning, budgeting and implementation, expanding internationally offers great benefits.  (Research indicates that companies that export are more profitable, pay higher wages and create jobs.  And of course, 95% of the world's consumers are outside the US!)

Baseline considerations

When you're considering global expansion, then there are some major considerations and you need to carefully plan how to market to other countries.   In order to reach other markets, creating an international marketing strategy requires some basic steps.  Preparatory steps include:   
  • Understanding the culture.  It might seem like this is a given, however, the idea of an "ugly American" is deeply rooted in many countries.  It's easy to overlook cultural considerations in your zeal to build a market, and unintentionally offend instead.  It's not just the faux pas of scheduling a dinner in Spain at 5:30 and not realizing that people dine much later, but actually offending a potential client that can destroy the fragile business relationship between your businesses.  
  • Learning the laws.  Just as the laws vary from state to state, knowing the legalities of the target market is also important.  Additionally, there might be tariffs, taxes and regulations that you're not aware of -- or, even, in certain circumstances, the common practice to cut through red tape might be a well placed bribe.  The Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) prevents American companies from engaging in such activities.
  • Hiring a consultant.  Perhaps one of the best ideas is to hire a consultant to help you navigate the waters of opening your business globally.  A good consultant will assist in opening the doors than you, as a foreign business probably won't be aware of.  Additionally the consultant will be able to assist you in your ongoing international marketing efforts.
 And speaking of of the most important issues that you'll face will be to determine how to market your business.  And today's technology gives you amazing tools to reach massive international markets - economically and efficiently.

The aforementioned cultural barriers impact your digital international marketing efforts just as they do on-the-ground business.  But if you will effectively market globally market your digital infrastructure has to be designed for the task.  For instance, website design must account for localized microsites, markets with almost exclusively mobile connectivity and cultural expectations.  Channels of communication must be suitable for prevalent habits (in some markets SMS nearly dominates and email is insignificant.)

In the next installment Dave will discuss elements of a well crafted site and marketing localization.  In the final piece he'll explore the opportunity of international inbound marketing.

Interested in getting started?  Contact Consilium to discuss how we can help craft your international marketing strategy.

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