You might already have a global marketing strategy without even knowing it. According to a survey by American Express, half of the small and mid-sized businesses that sell products internationally began exporting without realizing it because foreign buyers found them online. You may already be receiving online traffic from foreign countries, so there’s no reason not to try and market to those consumers who are finding you by accident and making purchases.
So, how can you jump further into the international market? Opt for a solid global marketing strategy that keeps your brand message on point and injects a little local flavor.
Benefits of Global Marketing
The global market has more than 7.5 billion people who are waiting to be transformed into customers. Why limit your company’s reach to whoever exists within your city or even within your country? In today’s market, it’s easier than ever.
The reason companies didn’t expand to reach global markets in the past was because it was somewhat expensive. Today, with low-cost internet platforms, you can reach a global market in a flat second. This includes everything from sponsored videos and Facebook posts to advertising with foreign podcasts and local blogs. In truth, you can reach a third of the world through Facebook alone. After all, it has about 2.7 billion users.
Global marketing is also fairly low risk. You can use the tools you already have, and if you find that it’s working, you can expand from there. According to a survey by American Express, 77% of small and mid-sized businesses that currently export goods believe that their international sales will increase by 30% within five years.
Find the Right Market
Niche is everything when it comes to successful marketing, but you need to find the right market for your products. This is especially important if you’re planning to expand your reach to foreign countries that have different cultures and tastes. There are some countries that won’t want what you have to offer because it doesn’t fit into their view of the world.
For example, if you’re a drink brand from the United Kingdom hoping to introduce a soda that is blackcurrant flavored to the United States, you might want to think again. Most products that are blackcurrant flavored in the U.K. are grape flavored in the U.S. This stems all the way back to 1911, when growing black and red currants was banned in the U.S. because the plants were thought to spread a fungus that threatened evergreen trees. Even though New York state lifted the ban in 2003, most Americans have not developed a taste for currants.
Sometimes, there’s a reason there’s a hole in the market. Do your research about specific cultures and figure out where your company would work best. Don’t try to introduce a product to a popular foreign market simply because you’d have access to a lot of people.
Get Online Now
Developing a solid social media strategy is a given for any business in the digital age. It’s also a great way to advertise your business to a global market because social media reaches everywhere. Platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram allow you to target campaigns at specific regions. This means that if you’re looking to expand your consumer base in Europe, you can push out an ad specifically to Europe.
It’s a little difficult to measure the return on investment with social media marketing, especially because a huge chunk of marketing campaigns are simply meant to raise brand awareness, but according to a report from the Data & Marketing Association, nearly 50% of marketers said they saw a ROI. The more solid and planned out your strategy, the more likely you are to succeed.
For example, Airbnb can credit a huge chunk of its success to social media because it used specific brand campaigns that targeted the world market rather than just the U.S. This included hashtag campaigns to help bolster its pool of listings in more than 34,000 cities around the world. In 2015, the room-booking service launched the #OneLessStranger campaign, which encouraged people to do random acts of hospitality to strangers, take a photo and share it on their social media accounts with the hashtag. In just three weeks, 3 million people engaged with Airbnb’s campaign.
Think Outside the Box When It Comes to Region
Markets are typically divided by region. For example, EMEA (Europe, the Middle East and Asia), APAC (Asia Pacific) and LATAM (Latin America). This isn’t always the best way to divvy up things, and you might miss out on great opportunities among countries with similar backgrounds.
For example, Swedish game company King, which created “Candy Crush”, had a major snafu while marketing the game “Pet Rescue Saga” to Asia the same way they marketed it to Europe. South Korea is one of the largest gaming markets, so they attempted to introduce it there after finding success in Europe. The only problem was that South Korea has a different view of pets, and the game featured less-traditional pets like livestock, which didn’t evoke sentimentality in Korean consumers. Simply put: It didn’t work.
Instead of opting to lump together your marketing strategy by geographic region, consider thinking about economic and cultural history. Consumers might have similar spending habits in regions that have seen the same type of economic growth.
Explore Both as a Local and Foreigner
All cultures have different norms. For example, it’s common in Scandinavian countries for children to nap outside during the winter, but that would be unheard of in the U.S., where leaving a child unattended outside could probably get you arrested. In Korea, having crooked teeth is considered cute, but the U.S. aesthetically leans toward straight teeth. For this reason, one of the key strategies to marketing globally is becoming one with the culture, but only focusing on local traditions is a little short sighted.
It’s often difficult to find out the cultural norms of a new market because it’s so deeply ingrained in a region’s culture that any local consultant you might hire may not even think of mentioning it. This is why you shouldn’t just work with a local — you have to think like a foreigner as well. For example, you might have a sweeping social media strategy but find a better ROI putting money into Facebook ads in Brazil rather than Twitter ads. This isn’t the case for Latin America, where Twitter is the standout social platform.
One of the best global marketing strategies is to expand your pool of consultants. You have the knowledge of what people need outside the market, and a local consultant has the knowledge of what people need inside the market. It’s a winning union.
Ramp Up the Translation
We’re speaking English. Our internal monologues are in English. It’s easy to overlook the fact that outside of North America, the U.K., Ireland and Australia, English isn’t typically the most prevalent language. This means you probably need to translate your work to actually reach who you want to reach.
To do this, consider adding a microsite or local top-level domain to what you’re doing. This is a tried-and-true method for online publications. For example, Elle and Glamour will automatically redirect to their local versions depending on from where you’re browsing. You can even add a translation widget.
Add Local Flavor
Translation isn’t enough. There are a lot of differences in the way we speak colloquially, even in English-speaking foreign markets. To have a successful foreign marketing campaign, you need to inject a little local flavor into whatever you’re doing. This goes for everything from using region-specific slang to adding region-specific products based on local tastes.
You see this type of marketing strategy a lot in the world of fast food. For example, KFC managed to link its brand with Christmas in Japan. Every year, around 3.6 million Japanese families grab ready-made KFC meal bundles thanks to some clever marketing that highlighted the inclusion of a traditional Japanese Christmas cake. Thus, the “Kentucky for Christmas” campaign actually created a tradition where there wasn’t one before.
Other fast-food restaurants like Starbucks, Dunkin Donuts and McDonald's have permanent local menu items that they heavily advertise over their more traditional American offerings. For example, Dunkin Donuts has seaweed and dry pork donuts in China, and McDonald's sells macaroons in France.
Keep Your Macro Focus but Don’t Forget the Micro
Of course, you want to have an overarching marketing plan suitable for the whole global market, but if you lose sight of micro trends, your business is going to suffer in a global market. Google ended up learning this the hard way when it completely missed out on hitting the Chinese market because it didn’t tailor itself to suit the needs of Chinese consumers. Instead, Baidu became the go-to search engine.
The second time around, when Google was trying to enter the Indian market, it took a more micro approach. It introduced an operating system that works specifically with the type of low-end smartphones that most consumers use in India. It still fit within Google’s global perspective but adopted some of the smaller needs of that market.
For a successful marketing campaign, you need a mix of macro and micro perspectives. Keep your brand message but adapt it slightly for local audiences.
Break Down the Borders
One tried-and-true global marketing strategy is no global marketing strategy. Instead of targeting specific areas, target the entire world and market as if there are no borders. This is particularly easy in the internet age, where digital platforms can reach the entire world in seconds.
To be truly successful with a unified marketing strategy, you need to launch campaigns that don’t isolate a single culture. It really depends on the products or services you’re offering.
For example, Arby’s probably wouldn’t find much success marketing its famed roast beef sandwiches to India, when the majority of citizens don’t eat beef. Nonetheless, many e-commerce brands find success marketing worldwide, and this is especially true for clothing and accessories brands, as Western trends are generally prevalent everywhere.
Create a Rock-Solid Brand Culture
Whether you’re crafting a local or global marketing campaign, crafting a solid brand culture will lead to greater success. People are more likely to purchase products from a brand with which they feel familiar. You want to create a culture to which customers feel connected.
For this reason, the best strategy for global marketing is to never, ever compromise your brand culture to fit within a global market. This was one of the main factors behind Google’s failure in China. Could a company whose culture is dedicated to delivering as much information as possible at all times work within a country where the media is historically censored? Not really.
If you water down your brand message, you offer a murky perspective to customers, and they won’t be able to relate. Instead, be clear and concise. Skip the markets that don’t support your vision and dive into the ones that do.
- Smart Insights: Does Social Media Marketing Actually Generate ROI?
- Inc.: 5 Smart Strategies to Help You Go Global With Your Brand
- Cleverism: Global Marketing: Strategies, Definition, Issues, Examples
- Entrepreneur: 5 Simple Steps for Reaching New Global Markets
- American Express: Using the Internet to Expand the Global Reach of Your Company
- Food to Live: Why Are Black Currants Banned in the USA
Mariel Loveland is a small business owner, content strategist and writer from New Jersey. Throughout her career, she's worked with numerous startups creating content to help small business owners bridge the gap between technology and sales. Her work has been featured in publications like Business Insider and Vice.