How to Improve Your
International Marketing Strategy

If you want to grow your business overseas, you’ll have to establish your brand in those foreign markets. Even some major companies struggle with this transition, and it’s particularly tricky for smaller firms. But by following a few basic guidelines, you can grow your company in any market.

There are three main things to keep in mind while building your strategy: build a local presence, know the local customer, and build your design for a local audience. These are the keys to international marketing.

So, how do you build these principles into your international marketing strategy?

Here’s an overview.

Build a Local Presence

Part of expanding into an international market is building a local presence. If at all possible, this means opening a local branch. It doesn’t have to be a huge presence at this point; you’re just getting your foot in the door.

Of course, this isn’t always going to be possible. For a smaller company, you may not be able to sustain an overseas branch while you build your strategy. In that case, there are other ways to establish a local presence.

Some of these ways are absurdly simple. For example, let’s say you’re a U.S.-based planning to expand across the border into Ontario.

In that case, establishing a presence could be as simple as getting a virtual Canadian phone number. This will make you easier to reach, and people who see your phone number won’t immediately think of it as “American.”

Another great way to build a presence is to hold events. These events can be physical, but it’s just as easy to hold a virtual event these days. Whatever the events are, make sure that they’re targeted to the right audience.

If your event is targeting mainland Chinese, for instance, something themed around the Lunar New Year would be well-targeted, while a St. Patrick’s Day event would be a poor choice.

In many countries, it can be helpful to partner with a local company.

This is useful in any market because it’s a way to avoid miscommunications and cultural hang-ups. Your partner can help you avoid mistakes that could otherwise damage your image in their market.

Partnerships are even more important in markets that rely heavily on personal relationships. Japan is a notoriously hard country to break into; most people don’t want to do business with an unfamiliar foreign company. If you can find a local partner, it suddenly opens a lot of doors.

Know the Local Customer

A lot of people overcomplicate international marketing because to them, it’s new and intimidating.

In fact, foreign and domestic marketing have the same basic rules. Most importantly, you need to know your customer, which means doing some market research.

Try to learn the following information:

  • Local demographics such as gender and age distribution, income, language, and other basics.
  • What problems do people have? How can your company help solve those problems?
  • What are your target customers’ interests? How can you best reach them about your product or service?

As you can see, this isn’t rocket science. These are the same things you need to know to run a successful domestic ad campaign!

Design Your Campaign for an International Audience

As you develop your strategy, design is going to be a big part of the process. Advertising is a highly visual medium, relying heavily on logos, with limited amounts of text. Take the time to do your research and run your designs by people with knowledge of the local culture.

Sometimes, the same graphic could be interpreted differently in different countries. For example, a “thumbs-up” symbol would be just fine in most western markets. But in Greece, it’s the equivalent of giving someone the finger. Talk about a miscommunication!

As with any design, the marketing strategy should be consistent. You want to come up with imagery that works equally well on signs and on product packages.

When it comes to the text-based aspects of marketing, it’s very important to use the native language. Based on a global survey of 8,709 consumers, 76% of people prefer to buy from websites that are written in their language.

40% will outright refuse to buy a product if there’s no information in their language. Translation might be expensive, but it’s cheaper than the alternative.