Positioning your brand
Now you’ve decided on the country and the route to getting your product or service into that market, you need to think about your market strategy and marketing internationally. This is key to every new business venture because without a marketing budget and plan how will anyone know about your product or service? It is particularly important for service and business-to-business companies that need to develop a personal relationship with clients, however, every company working internationally needs to think about their brand positioning and reputation in that market.
Whatever your route to market, if you have a business partner they will want to know what expenditure is being allocated to promote your product on an ongoing basis. If you decide to use an agent or distributor or even a local marketing expert, it’s important that you are involved in matching your marketing with the characteristics of that country bearing in mind that the local business culture might be very different from what you are used to.
Remember, visiting the market and building relationships is part of your marketing strategy and you will usually need to have a regular and consistent approach to visiting the market no matter what route you are choosing.
Developing your international marketing plan
Your marketing plan is an extension of your business plan and must describe in detail how you will position your business, product or service in the market and differentiate it from its competitors. You should think about your key messages, the tactics you will use to communicate with your potential customers and the costs involved.
Your marketing plan is part of your business plan (which you’ve already started to develop) so below are some of the things to think about when completing the marketing section of your plan:
As with your existing marketing plan you should think about the 4 P’s of marketing: Product, Positioning, Price, Place when thinking about your strategy for your new international market, remembering that some elements might be different in each country. Consider:
- What will your brand positioning be in each country?
- What unique product features will you accentuate in each country?
- How/will you add value to the customer if you are entering an established market?
- What price positioning will you take? Consider competitor prices when making this decision.
- You need to build credibility in the overseas country so do you have relevant independent validation or case studies that will resonate with the market?
- How will the competition respond to your entry into their market?
- Think about your client/customers perception of quality-price relationship as this might be different from your home market. This might drive your price and positioning in new countries.
It is really important to understand the culture in which you will be marketing so that you are aware of how your message will be perceived. If you have partners or associates in country then they will help you, but consider:
- Your online presence and how you can translate it for overseas clients.
- How strong your social media presence is and whether it can easily extend into new markets or whether you will need to develop new platforms.
- How will you promote your product to your key market segments? If you have existing customers, can you replicate your marketing for new customers?
- Think about your communications. Each country will have different tone and idioms which you need to be mindful of.
- Consider using one or more of the following: Advertising: where, when, how, to whom
- Public relations
- Direct marketing
- Website and internet marketing
- Social media: research which is the best platform for each market
- Exhibitions and conferences
- Word of mouth
- What resources do you have to undertake your marketing?
- Do you need specialist skills in those countries?
In some countries you need to spend a lot of time developing a relationship before any business emerges so bear this in mind when approaching potential contacts.
- If you need to tender or to become a preferred supplier, think about what you need to do to achieve this.
- Do you have links with people in the new market who can make introductions for you?
- If not, can you get these through your research and or visiting a relevant conference or exhibition?
Our tips on getting the most out of international trade shows, conferences and exhibitions might help you prepare for a market visit.
If you are running an e-commerce business, selling your products or services online, your website is your platform for overseas sales success.
You will need to consider whether your local website will support international sales or whether 3rd party platforms such as Amazon and e-bay, for example, would be appropriate for your product.
Whilst online platforms such as Amazon have a global reach, China, for example, has completely different platforms and so it is important to make sure you pick the right ones for the markets you are getting in to. You will need specialist help with this so research it thoroughly and work with credible partners to get your products listed on the most appropriate sites.
Here are some points to think about to maximise the impact of your digital presence:
- Think about the domain name for your website(s) and make sure it fits with your overall strategy.
- Will you use your current website or develop local ones for each country you enter?
- If you are using one platform make sure it has the ability to support multiple languages, different payment systems and different sales tax systems.
- Bear in mind that different markets are used to different payment methods so it’s worth thinking about which payment method you will offer in each country.
- Think about who will create and provide the content and images for your sites. You will need to own these and so bear this in mind.
- Make sure your terms and conditions are clear and available on your site and that they relate to the country you are selling in, for example, how will you deal with cancellations, returns, deliver or exchanges.
- Get professional help to draft the legal and financial policies that you need for different countries, particularly in relation to consumer and distance selling regulations, as these might be different from those you are used to.
- Decide how will your website(s) integrate with your existing systems?
- How will you integrate or manage the ordering process?
- Think about how to consistently represent your brand across multiple sites.
- Having local sites will allow you customize content for each country which will make customers more likely to consider buying from you.
- Use the analytics to see how people are moving through the site so you can make changes in the right places to minimize the abandonment rate
- Customers who don’t know you will want to find ways of checking you out, so think about including reviews on your site and/or getting listed on review platforms.
- Just because you have a website doesn’t mean people will see it. You need a marketing strategy to get your site at the top of the search rankings in your overseas markets.
- Allocate a budget to online marketing. Use relevant social channels to push traffic to your site, but remember to use the channels that are appropriate for the country you are working in.