Launching your business overseas can be an exciting and frightening endeavor. When you enter a new market, you will have new customers, new employees, and new partners. It is important not to follow the same marketing strategy as your home operations blindly. Of course, you should retain your company values and purpose, but you will need to adapt your strategy to your new market. In this article, we'll cover the different types of challenges and strategies for entering foreign markets.
What Is International Marketing?
International marketing is the application of marketing principles in more than one country by companies overseas or across national borders. International marketing is based on an extension of a company's local marketing strategy, with special attention paid to marketing identification, targeting, and decisions internationally.
In simple words, international marketing is the trading of goods and services among different countries. The procedure of planning and executing the rates, promotion, and distribution of products and services are the same worldwide.
In recent times, companies are not restricted to their national borders but are open to international marketing. With the increasing change in customers' demands, choices, preferences, and tastes, the economies are expanding and giving way to more competitive marketing. Thus, organizations need to respond rapidly to the demands of the customers with well-defined marketing strategies.
Types of International Marketing
International businesses looking to sell their products or service in a new country usually start with export or licensing. Besides these options, other international marketing types include contract manufacturing, joint venture, and foreign direct investment (FID). Let's take a closer look.
Exporting is a common international marketing strategy, and it refers to the practice of shipping goods directly to a foreign country. Manufacturers looking to expand their business to other countries often consider exporting first. And that's not surprising. Compared to the other international marketing types on this list, exporting entails the lowest risk. It also has the least impact on the company's human resource management.
Licensing is an agreement whereby a company, known as the licensor, grants a foreign firm the right to use its intellectual property. It's usually for a specific period, and the licensor receives royalty in return. You'll find several examples of licensing of intellectual property across the United States. These include patents, copyrights, manufacturing processes, and trade names.
Some top global licensors include Disney, Iconix Brand Group, and Warner Bros, to name a few.
Foreign Direct Investment (FID)
In FID, a company places a fixed asset in a foreign country to manufacture a product abroad.
Unlike joint ventures, the foreign company wholly owns the subsidiary. As a result, it establishes either effective control or substantial influence over the decision-making process. Examples of foreign direct investment include mergers, acquisitions, retail, services, and logistics, among others. Several companies in the United States use these international marketing methods to sell their products and services globally.
A joint venture describes the combined effort of two businesses from different countries for their mutual benefit. It's the participation of two or more companies jointly in an enterprise in which each company:
- Contributes assets
- Owns the entity to some degree
- Shares risk
Perhaps the most popular international joint venture to date is Sony-Ericsson. It's a partnership between a Japanese electronics company, Sony, and a Swedish telecom company, Ericsson.
Like licensing, franchising involves a parent company granting a foreign firm the right to do business in its name. However, franchises usually have to follow stricter guidelines in running the business than licensing. This type of international marketing is also more prevalent among service firms, such as hotels, rental services, and restaurants. On the other hand, licensing is usually restricted to manufacturing.
Before Entering International Markets
So much of international marketing involves doing your homework. Below are the top priorities for any brand seriously interested in entering international markets.
Don't rush into it.
You're always going to understand your own market better than a foreign one. So, you're almost certainly going to run into cultural, legal, and regulatory differences at every step. If you rush into an expansion head-on, you'll entangle yourself in these differences, stunting your momentum and wasting your time solving avoidable problems.
For a young company, the problems may not be limited to the new market, either. Will this move potentially reduce your existing client base? How much will it increase your team's workload? How many people will you need to hire to compensate? You need to have answers to all those questions before making your decision. Because if you jump into a situation, you're not prepared for, you're setting yourself up for failure.
Hire people who have global business experience.
If you don't have experience in international markets, it's important to bring on people who do.
These hires may already speak the language, understand cultural norms, or have connections within the country, which are all important for a successful expansion. They also may have a better idea of how to market your product or service within that country. Advertising in the U.S. is very different from advertising in China, for instance, and understanding industry differences can make or break your venture.
For example, our chief revenue officer is from Sweden. He understands the preferences and working styles of the country, as well as the cultural requirements for doing business there. And that kind of knowledge is enormously helpful when it comes to establishing good relations in a new market.
Learn the country's cultural norms.
You can learn a lot about a country and its norms simply by talking to experts or doing some research on Google. But if you're serious about breaking into a market, you need to go there and experience it firsthand.
Meet with people who operate in your industry. Discuss the realities of working in that specific country and what an expansion would actually look like. Speak with your target clients to ensure you're not making false assumptions about what they need and where their pain points are. There will be differences in the way businesses and people operate.
For example, in Japan, there's a specific etiquette regarding business cards and how you're supposed to receive them. If you immediately file it away in your wallet or pocket, it's considered offensive. When you make a point to experience and learn about the country you want to do business in, you'll avoid several unpleasant surprises down the line.
Be aware of how international work will affect your team.
It's not just the leadership team that has to adjust to working in international markets. The rest of your team will also be affected by the expansion, and it's up to you to help prepare them for it.
If you're a small company, working in a new market overseas can stretch your team pretty thin, especially if you don't have support in multiple time zones. No one wants to take calls at 2 a.m., but it can happen if you haven't adequately prepared for a time zone difference.
A lot of team-related changes will depend on your product. If you're putting out a piece of software that costs $20 but has 2 million users, you're likely going to need outside support for customer service. But if your software costs $20,000 a month and you only have a small number of users, you'll basically have to be available 24/7.
Think carefully about your team's capabilities ahead of time, and you'll save yourself a lot of headaches and late-night calls.
Prepare for unexpected costs.
Most expansion costs come from regulations or licenses specific to each individual country. Every government has a different license to obtain or fee to be paid if you want to work within their borders.
However, depending on your industry, you may have to consider inherent costs that come with doing business in a certain country. For example, in the shipping industry, Brazil is notorious for losing packages and has a standard loss rate between 10% and 20%. Sometimes, the packages are stolen; sometimes, they're seized without notice. Other times, the customs officer just likes what's inside and takes it home.
To someone who's unfamiliar with the system, it seems completely ridiculous. But if you want to ship anything to Brazil, it's a cost you have to take into consideration.
These tips aren't meant to discourage companies from exploring opportunities abroad. It's just wise to take your time and comb through the potential problems and opportunities within the new market. The fewer surprises you have to deal with, the greater your chance of a successful expansion into international markets.
International Marketing Strategies for Entering Foreign Markets
The world is a big place with billions of potential customers, but you can't go after them all. You'll need to conduct thorough research into each marketplace to understand the potential for your business to thrive there.
It helps to know your existing market and customer base inside out before you start. For example, what is the demographic of your core customer – what age range, education, and income bracket do they fall into? Why do they buy from you?
Let's cover some international marketing strategies to enter foreign markets:
Barriers to Entry
For many small startups, the barriers to entry can feel overwhelming, but if you can overcome them, the rewards can be huge. Here we look at the main stumbling blocks and how you can navigate them, as well as understanding if international growth is something you should really be setting your sights on.
It's highly advisable to hire a consultant native to the country you're planning on launching in, as well as on-the-ground fixers to help you with logistics. Adding someone to your team in the U.K. who speaks the language is another great idea. Even if you are expanding into an English-speaking country, such as the States or Australia, there will be differences in the way things are done or communicated that make it wise to have locals on board.
Registration and Compliance Difficulties
Do hire a lawyer and get professional help with your paperwork, and investigate in advance how long it's all likely to take so you can plan a realistic timetable. You don't want to find yourself in a situation where your launch has to be canceled or pushed back due to a vital license not being granted.
Rapidly building a new team in a new country can be tricky. If you don't have an existing network, the recruiting process can be akin to casting a net in the ocean and hoping you catch something good. Then there's the business of employment contracts, laws, and customs that will be different from what you're used to.
Appointing an experienced leadership team in your new territory rather than sending existing executives can really speed up the recruitment process since they will already have trusted contacts to bring on board. They will also be better placed to negotiate salaries and contracts, which lets you hit the ground running.
Even if you plan on going over to the new office to conduct interviews and select staff yourself, who will be in charge of building the team and turning them into a cohesive unit? It's vital to delegate to a trusted leader who understands both cultures. They can act as a go-between to bridge the gap between head office and the new location to make sure nothing gets lost in translation.
Conventional wisdom says that entering foreign markets isn't cheap. Without even getting into the nitty-gritty, here are some costs to consider:
- Shipping costs
- Legal expenses (think: registering your business in a new location, licensing, contracts, etc.)
- Foreign taxes
- Translation services (for international social media accounts, multilingual SEO, and so on)
- New employees (either digital or in-person, including consultants and contractors)
- Travel expenses
Perhaps this is why global expansion seems reserved for corporate giants and household names. The bigger your budget, the easier it is to expand.
But again, it really depends on your industry. It's possible for a smaller retail business to offer international shipping or market to specific territories without specifically creating microsites for those regions. Compare that to eCommerce giants like H&M that have a presence just about everywhere.
On the flip side, some companies have an easier time entering international markets than others. Specifically, those who don't have to worry about physical products.
Look at SaaS marketing as a prime example. Sprout Social's Spanish site boasts similar creatives and messaging to our standard homepage. Meanwhile, on-site translation services like Google Translate can go a long way to empower companies selling digital products to go global.
Now, let's explore some of the most effective methods available to market researchers when getting started in a new, overseas market.
Overseas business research
The research conducted by other businesses can be an extremely useful starting point for your market research. This data may have been collected by businesses in your space or not. It may have been collected by businesses based in your target market or some other location.
Business research is valuable because it's an example of another organization that has done some of its work for you. You can learn a lot about the business trends, cultural differences, market, laws, and more from the research of other companies.
However, this is always just a starting point. No business in the world will have exactly the same set of questions, challenges, and needs as yours, and nobody will have the same product and audience for it. For effective market research, you'll have to do your own work too.
Collecting foreign government information
Governments collect a tremendous amount of information about their populations and the business within their borders. This includes demographics, geography, and culture, which can be extremely useful when planning your marketing and choosing where to sell your product.
In addition, government data can provide valuable insights into the legal challenges you might face when entering a new market and the various regulations you'll be required to comply with as you market and launch your product. Much of this information is readily available on government websites.
One-to-one interviews and focus groups can both be highly effective market research methods. They afford you a direct insight into what your customers think, what they want, what they worry about, what their pain points are, and how they feel about your competitors, among many other things.
However, doing face-to-face research in an international market comes with a unique set of challenges. The logistical demands are higher — you'll need to locate and hire venues and work with interviewers on the ground, which may be harder than doing so back home. You'll also need to consider linguistic differences, which means hiring interpreters or locally-based staff.
Another challenge here is cultural differences. For example, some Middle Eastern cultures treat interviews with suspicion, and it may be difficult to gather a meaningful sample group.
Social Media Strategy
An international social media marketing strategy consists of taking social media and turning it into a platform for the international community, rather than only one type of language community, such as the English language community.
Doing so increases your chances of enhancing your visibility, acquiring more customers, driving more traffic to your social media page, and growing your business.
An international social media marketing strategy will consist of building networks, applying international SEO, personalization based on region, and more, which we'll talk about later.
For now, it's important to know that an international social media strategy is just one part of a great global strategy, which might include a multilingual website, an international product or service, and more.
Translation, Language, And Cultural Considerations
If you're targeting specific markets, regions, and countries, there will be language differences for all of them, as well as cultural considerations. Translation will be the guide for your international strategy for social media since you'll be using key languages for each platform you choose.
With this in mind, you'll also need to translate your content into languages that your target markets will understand.
You'll be globalizing, of course, by creating a global strategy for your social media. But, hand-in-hand, you'll also be localizing. Localizing your social media pages means you'll have tailored content, links, and images based on the cultural preferences of your target audience.
The cultural preferences of each social media page will change according to the regions you're targeting.
Although they may share the same language, a Canadian social media page will have different cultural specifications than a Parisian social media site. So make sure to target content that's specific to your followers, based on their cultural and social media preferences, which you'll find in the targeted market research, which is up next.
Personalization Based On Region
Once you conduct market research, and when you have the language and cultural considerations down pat, you'll begin to do something that is a key term in social media marketing and in marketing in general: personalization.
But for a global marketing strategy like international social media marketing to truly be successful, you'll need to personalize based on region. Location-based marketing, as it's called, has its uses. Geotargeting and then serving your consumers with personalized messages or ads work well on social media.
Developing International Marketing Strategies for Your Business
International marketing has become easier and easier. Social media ads, google ads, online shopping, and a wealth of other tools mean marketers can reach audiences in surprising new ways. That being said, it's important to conduct thorough research on cultural differences and invest in regional marketing. Some brands have had success with global marketing standardization but more locally targeted marketing strategies are highly recommended.
If you're looking to enter foreign markets but want an expert's advice on how to strategize and navigate the potential problems that come with it, we can help. Universal Creative Solutions offers business and marketing consulting for international markets and help you to make the transition successfully. Schedule an appointment to see how to can help you scale your business.