Making the leap into overseas marketing

Jan 24th '22

The benefits of using the Internet to exploit international markets are straightforward: Additional revenue can be generated from new international markets.


Before investing and committing resources to each international market – the online revenue potential should be analysed. Ask – is there a customer need and who needs it? for example in a B2C market:


  • Demographics include age, sex, income, etc.
  • Economic factors – including GDP per person and income distribution
  • Cultural – including nuances and cultural idiosyncrasies
  • Competitor activity – what services already exist in each country?


There are many barriers to online international trade. Here are four:


  1. Psychological – worries and fears about the unknown
  2. Operational – resourcing issues
  3. Organisational – restructuring issues
  4. Product/market specific – the need to define a strategy


There are many other constraints that marketers have to be aware of. In each market there are many additional challenges and constraints.


Here are six:


  1. Cultural – the risk of misleading or offending people from other cultures
  2. Economic – the levels of wealth are too low in a country to gain returns
  3. Privacy laws – to protect consumer data and privacy
  4. Product laws – who is liable if there is a problem with a product?
  5. Advertising laws – designed to avoid misrepresentation of products
  6. Taxation – eCommerce taxation varies significantly in different countries


The differences in law in each country and the speed with which legislation changes means consulting s specialist is essential.


Marketers have several strategic options:


  • Do nothing – stay local – refuse international orders
  • Do minimum – only offer the standard product without significant changes in the marketing mix
  • Tailored marketing when marketing activities are adapted for non-domestic markets
  • Establish a presence in a specific market
  • Go global and seek out global segments or smaller global niches


Key strategic issues for companies using the Internet to market are:


  • Market selection – select markets that require your Internet Value Proposition and that also have weak competitors
  • Check whether channel partners are required for order fulfilment and servicing of end customers?
  • Standardisation – can the product or other elements of the marketing mix such as promotion be standardised?
  • Localisation – required tailoring of Website content, products and services for countries or regions with:
  • different product needs
  • language differences
  • cultural differences


Remember that making that leap into overseas marketing involves more than just identifying a new market and going after it. The process requires plenty of foresight and local knowledge if the pitfalls of compliance, legal and cultural issues are to be avoided. Linguistic and cultural differences, shifting political systems and governmental protections for home-grown brands will all have to be planned for and dealt with first.


  • Political Climate

Some regions around the world are less stable politically and legally than others. In these areas, the issues you face as a marketing head can change as fast as the next election or even the next revolution. Instability makes all business harder to conduct and less predictable into the future. Marketing campaigns in such locations must take into account the ebb and flow of the society, and focus more on constants than trends. A changing political climate can also affect your ability to sell goods in the region, depending on the philosophy of those in power and the side effects of the process. If the new government decides that no more outside companies will be welcome in your industry, the campaign you worked so hard to create may be for naught.


  • Uneven Playing Fields

In many cases there are laws and regulations in place that favour local industry over outside companies. In these cases, your marketing and distribution network may have to deal with tariffs and limitations that your competition never has to consider. For example, if you are launching a marketing campaign in an international destination, the prices you advertise may be made artificially higher by mandatory tariffs designed to make locally manufactured goods more attractive to the consumer. Your marketing message and approach may have to change in response so that attention is shifted from your less attractive price point to benefits of your product or service that separate you from other, less expensive existing options.


  • Consumer Interest

Foreign market segments come with their own set of needs, wants, tastes and desires. These must all be analysed and considered when your marketing is being developed. What is passes in one market can be popular in another, and what is the hottest thing at home can be looked upon with curiosity or even negativity in different destinations around the world. Local research and market trends are an important part of learning your new market and avoiding issues of consumer rejection. You can have the most beautiful, effective and thorough marketing in the world, but if the consumer doesn’t want the product it won’t sell.


  • Language

Marketing products or services in an unfamiliar language always has its inherent challenges. Meaning and implication is often lost in translation from one language to the next, and things become even more cloudy when local dialects and colloquialisms come into play. Direct translations of your marketing tag lines and phrases often end up making confused or forced statements that locals immediately discern as being of foreign origin. Instead, marketing should be reworked from the ground up in a way that caters directly to the local population, using local terms and demonstrating a good knowledge of the culture.


To compete in the global marketplace, marketers must:


  • Understand their customers, market structures, local competition and local rules and regulations.
  • In addition, marketers may have to provide:
    – 24-hour customer support for order taking and customer service
    – regulatory and customs-handling, including experience to ship internationally



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