While not every business owner dreams about taking their business global, some ambitious entrepreneurs won’t stop until they achieved their version of world domination within their market. But spreading your company’s influence worldwide is not simple or for the faint of heart. Here are 7 tips for taking your marketing worldwide.
Marketing worldwide takes many forms from accidental export through to foreign direct investment. I once interviewed a small business owner in Spain who found foreign customers ordering his product online after learning to appreciate their unique pleasures during a trip to the area. We call this accidental exporting since the owner had no intention to expand his business beyond his national borders. Yet, discovering that travelers wanted his products once they returned home spurred interest in exporting, which he was exploring at the time of my visit.
Understand different markets
While you may have mastered the market in your home country, markets are not the same worldwide. While differences come from a variety of sources, the most significant ones usually involve cultural differences, legal challenges, and technological differences across regions. For instance, tariffs (taxes on international trade) and quotas seriously impact your potential for profit in another country, while technological differences, such as electrical issues (the US uses 110 volts while much of the rest of the world uses 220 volts, which short out US-enabled electrical products). And, while language differences dominate the view of the inexperienced in marketing worldwide, cultural differences have much more impact. For instance, when US fast-food giants moved into Asia, they had to explain who to eat a hamburger, since these cultures didn’t have an equivalent of a sandwich. Uninitiated Asians tended to eat the hamburger by deconstructing the layers rather than biting into the entire sandwich. These differences across unique nations and cultures force businesses to approach individual markets differently.
Understanding differences without the lens of one’s own culture helps target customers most effectively. Especially important are the channels used for communication in various countries. For instance, many Developed Nations and Newly Industrialized countries favor communication via smartphones, while in less developed nations, even TV advertising might miss the mark due to low levels of ownership.
For places where smartphones are a major channel for information, product search, and other forms of communication, take advantage of mobile marketing measures and work with traffic boosters.
As promised, here are our 7 tips for expanding your market by marketing worldwide.
1. Have a plan
Once you fully understand how different markets operate, you must formulate a plan for your international expansion or optimize international marketing efforts currently underway. Businesses face a myriad of decisions from the mode of entry (see image below), adaptation of the product and messaging, distribution issues, pricing – in fact, you must rethink every element of your marketing plan, taking into consideration issues specific to a country or region.
Regarding mode of entry, it is tempting to go as big as possible immediately, but this strategy involves serious risk, and even the largest firms enter foreign markets sequentially, expanding from one region or country to the next once they’ve gained traction in the early markets entered. Not only does this strategy involve lower risk, as you’re only expanding into one area at a time, but what you learn in one market informs and improves decisions in the next.
It’s also essential to know why you want to expand your marketing efforts. Doing so gives you a better idea of what is important to you, which helps prioritize different aspects of your marketing strategy.
2. Think global, act local
The saying, “think global, act local,” highlights the important decisions of which strategic elements to carry forward into a new region and which require significant modification to effectively market your brand in a different area.
Rather than a singular message that translates well in most parts of the world, such as Coke’s campaign of unity, you must understand the importance and relevance of holidays, festivals, religion, and other elements of culture significant in the region where you’ll market your product. For instance, a baby food company used the image of a smiling baby on products sold in all countries. In at least one area, the image backfired as consumers thought the jars contained babies rather than were marketed to babies.
Demonstrating an understanding of the country’s culture helps build a relationship with consumers in those regions, which boosts sales and profits. Furthermore, understanding cultural sensitivities help avoid embarrassing gaffs. For instance, in the Middle East, belching signifies their enjoyment of the meal, something widely different than in other regions of the world. You must remember that other countries don’t always share the ideals of Western businesses, and one false move could ruin your reputation before you even get started.
3. Don’t rely on Google Translate
Maybe Google Translate is what got you through your High School French lessons, but it has no place when trying to market your business worldwide. While Google Translate is great for casual translation needs, the broken syntax produced marks you as an outsider who doesn’t really care about local language and customs. Such cultural blunders seriously hinder your chance of success in international expansion.
Failure to accurately translate your message also shows slothful disregard for your potential market, as well as disrespect. For anyone trying to impress themselves in a new market, making sure your message is clear to everyone is vital. Because of this, you must hire a professional translator who understands the nuances of the local language and can work around idioms and euphemisms to provide clarity.
4. Build a strong local brand
No company succeeds without a strong brand, and this is essential when considering marketing worldwide. Even if your brand is based on local heritage, you can use it to your advantage when moving into markets abroad, just as my Spanish informant with his historic product made the transition to other places in the world.
Customers enjoy feeling exotic, so use your homegrown product to appeal to such desires. You can market your brand as a genuine service straight from your home country and use this as the building block for your global brand. For instance, American blue jeans do very well in other regions by emphasizing the independence and ruggedness of the American West.
Conversely, consider building a brand that appeals to everyone regardless of where they call home. By doing this, you remove much of the hard work and instead focus your marketing efforts in the right direction.
5. Create accessible content
Whether you specialize in blog posts, videos, or infographics, creating accessible and relatable content for every country no matter where you are is important. However, accessible content in the US or Canada is not always the same as accessible content in France, Germany, or Japan. For instance, the US persists in using a system of measurement that makes no sense to the rest of the world, which embraced the metric system.
When developing content, you must understand cultural differences through extensive research regarding the type of content brands in your industry and native to your target market create. Marketing worldwide requires extensive knowledge of the types of content that work in that region.
Focusing on color palettes, soundtracks, themes, and presentations help your company adapt to what the audience expects, and you’ll start to see results from this quickly. For instance, a US president made the mistake of wearing a color identified with the opposition party. Needless to say, his hosts didn’t find this appropriate.
6. Search Engines
Search engines are not the same all over the world. While Google is a popular go-to for many nations, there are other markets such as China or Russia, where Google is not the first option for internet browsers and may not even make it past the firewall imposed in these command economies. Thus, marketing worldwide requires knowledge of technical aspects of the Internet.
When setting up SEO keywords to enhance your ranking and drive traffic, you must specify which countries you’re optimizing for within a specific search engine. If you understand this before getting started, you’ll save yourself the trouble of failing to hit your market targets the way you hope.
7. Worldwide Influence
Putting your business into the global stratosphere is not an easy task, and there’s always the chance that it won’t pay off as you hoped. Despite this, if you take the correct steps to prepare your company for the next significant step in its evolution, you’ll find your shift from your front door and towards the front doors of millions of others is much more comfortable and effective.
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Hausman and Associates, the publisher of MKT Maven, is a full-service marketing agency operating at the intersection of marketing and digital media. Check out our full range of services.