5 tips for marketing your business overseas

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Successfully marketing your business abroad is a challenging task. Carefully choose your target market, do thorough research on the selected market, find the right distribution partner, create a solid business plan and international strategy, and tailor your online channels to the target market.

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Photo credit: Porapak

Venturing into new markets can help increase your profits, lower risks, and develop economies of scale. But marketing your business in a foreign country can be a hassle. You’ll be dealing with international customers whose social behavior, custom, language, culture, and experiences vary significantly from those you’re used to marketing to. So, to successfully market your business abroad, you’ll have to invest time and resources, plan thoughtfully, and carefully execute the plan.  Here are 5 tips for marketing your business overseas.

1. Select your target international market diligently

The global business scene is changing at a dramatic rate. New markets that offer fantastic opportunities for all kinds of businesses are emerging almost everywhere. There are also tons of existing markets that are easy to overlook. That’s why you need to be careful when selecting your target international market.

The target market is the audience or group of customers that your business will try to sell its products and/or services. While it’s impossible to accommodate every customer in your target international market, tailoring your products to suit the needs of the selected market will make sales seem effortless. Here are a few steps to help you choose the right international market for your business.

  • Determine what makes your products and services stand out from those of the competition. What benefits do your customers derive from your offerings? Do your products meet the unique needs of your customers? Answering these questions will help you determine the value that your products and services will deliver to the target international customers.

  • Identify the kinds of customers who have a high likelihood of buying your products and services. Look at things like age, marital status, level of income, level of education, gender, occupation, and ethnic background.

  • Think about the personal traits of your target customers and find out how their lifestyles influence their demand for your products. Consider the customer’s principles, personality characteristics, and interests.

  •  Study the target market of your competition. Look at the needs and pain points that your competition addresses. Try to unearth sections of the market that your competition might have overlooked. Aim to fill the gap within that market, instead of competing for the same market with your competition.

  • Gather all your findings and use them to identify the type of customers who are likely to buy your products and services.

As you have probably noticed, studying a new market is a time- and resource-intensive task. But be ready to walk away if you find out it’s not ideal for your business.  The cost implications will be far much greater if you select the wrong market than if you walk away at the initial stage.

2. Do a thorough market research

Once you have chosen the right international market for your business, the next step is to perform thorough research on the selected market so that you can develop an effective marketing strategy. Here, you’ll need to know your target audience including its purchasing habits and price sensitivity, your competition, product life cycle, logistics, levies, and regulations.

Some great sources of valuable information for your market research include trade journals and magazines, professional trade groups, and statistics sites. But keep in mind that some of these sites have restricted their access to paid subscribers. For comprehensive global development data, sites such as World Bank would be a great resource. For reliable trade data, check out the UN Comtrade Database.

You can also perform thorough competitor research using Google. This will involve Google searching companies, paying attention to their products and services, their value proposition, and their strong points and weak points.

Getting the appropriate information and suitable contacts can be daunting. Fortunately, there are tons of helpful services and resources out there, from expert advice to financial support to trade missions to Professional Employer Organization (PEO) services. Partnering with such recruitment services, for instance, can help you set up a great marketing team that knows the language and culture of the target market.  It can also help you comply with regulations and legislation in your target international market.

3. Find the right distribution partner for your business

You don’t have to move your products alone. Although there are benefits of selling directly to the customer like cultivating deep connections through customer service and converting your customers into your product ambassadors, partnering with agents, distributors, or consolidators can help you succeed in a new international market.

These people already have in-depth knowledge, relevant experience, and well-established channels in place to help you get your products in the hands of the consumers. They’ll also make sure your products and services are appealing to your target customers. But how do you find the right distributor for your business? Here are some tips and tricks to help you do that:

  • Know why you need a distributor. Write down reasons for partnering with a distributor, instead of going directly to the consumers. Before approaching a prospective partner, know exactly how working with one will benefit you and your business. That way, you’ll easily compare different options.

  • Compare at least three distributors. Comparing a few distributors will help you choose the right partner for your business. Some of the things to look at include sales, diversity, retail affiliations, and marketing ability. Consider costs and charges (processing and storage). Check out review websites and the respective social media pages of the distributors to see the kind of reviews, ratings, and comments they are getting from their customers. Once you do all that, you’ll identify a distributor that inspires your confidence.

  • Hold an in-person meeting with the distributor. It’s important to have an in-person meeting with a potential distributor. This will give you a real opportunity to look them straight in the eyes and determine whether they’re telling the truth. It’ll also help you confirm if they have offices and distribution channels in the appropriate places.

  • Make sure the distributor is passionate. It doesn’t make sense to work with a distributor who doesn’t believe in your business no matter how knowledgeable and connected they are. You need to partner with someone passionate. Someone who wants to see you succeed and is willing to go the extra mile.

  • Be ready to pay up. If you want something good, you must be willing to pay for it. If you have a shoestring budget, finding a distribution partner might not be the right thing to do at the moment. If you want to see the right result, you must be ready to spend. But that doesn’t mean you go for the most expensive distributor. Instead, do your due diligence and partner with someone who will offer value for your money.

4. Come up with solid business plan and international strategy

Each international market is unique. Each market has a distinct culture, legislation, language, competitors, and so forth. The business plan you came up with when you started your business and any other strategies you might have developed for domestic operation and/or expansion won’t work in foreign markets. You’ll have to come with a completely new business plan and international strategy.

The plan will increase your chances of success in the target overseas market. Ensure the plan fits into your company strategy and objectives. Here are some steps to help you develop a solid business plan:

  • Break down your strategy into short-term and long-term action plans.

  • Come up with specific, realistic, and measurable goals and objectives. Define metrics that you’ll use to assess progress along with cost/benefits.

  • Choose the ideal business model and structure. Are you looking to start a sales office, a subsidiary, or a separate company?

  • Come up with a tactical project plan, which features commit dates.

5. Tailor your online channels to the target market

Did you know that 14.1 percent of all global retail sales in 2019 were made online? With more than 4 billion Internet users across the globe, digital channels are a goldmine. Tailoring your website and social media channels to your target overseas market will increase your odds of success. And this may involve offering your content in a range of different languages.

Although English is the most commonly used language online, providing content in other mainstream languages like French, Spanish, Germany, and Chinese can help you reach more than half of all worldwide Internet users. Don’t rely on software to translate your content, as that may distort the intended message. Instead, work with a reputable translation company that offers quality translation services. This company should have in-house team members who not only speak but also can create content in the native language of your chosen market.

The bottom Line

Successfully marketing your business abroad is a challenging task. But there are steps you can take to simplify things a bit. Carefully choose your target market, do thorough research on the selected market, find the right distribution partner, create a solid business plan and international strategy, and tailor your online channels to the target market. Be sure to create content in a language that your target audience can understand by partnering with a competent translation company.

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