The Definition of an International Marketing Strategy

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International marketing is the ability to market effectively to a variety of markets, both foreign and domestic. It may be an important aspect of your company's overall growth strategy. It's important, however, to understand that not every market will respond the same way to the same strategy. Instead, a tailored approach for each foreign region you plan to target is essential.

Why Market Internationally?

Marketing internationally is an essential aspect of growth for many companies. By effectively strategizing and developing the right marketing mix for a variety of markets around the world, it's possible to be very successful. These strategies should vary by region and culture. It isn't enough, for instance, to just change your market campaign by translating it into another language.

International vs. Global Marketing

International marketing differs from global marketing in that international marketers rely on staff on the ground in each potential market to design a strategy best suited to that region. Global marketers, on the other hand, create just one strategy and attempt to apply it universally across all markets. While there are good and bad points to each approach, many large companies like McDonald's and Coca-Cola have found great success in tailoring their strategies to each place they wish to sell their products.

Cultural considerations are an essential aspect of international marketing's importance for a growing company. For instance, something that might be very funny in one country's advertising approach might be viewed as very offensive in another. Alternatively, something that one culture finds humorous might fall flat elsewhere. Not only can these things make it difficult for a brand to succeed in certain markets, the wrong strategy can actually lead to great PR scandals if not properly considered for all potential audiences.

How to Market Internationally

To market internationally, it’s best to revert to the four basic marketing strategies known as the four Ps — product, price, parts and promotion. The four main components of a good marketing strategy are also the components of a good international marketing strategy. As a result, you must take what has been working and marry it with new techniques to stay competitive. The strategy should then be adjusted by region as appropriate.

Four Basic International Marketing Strategies

These four strategies work together and need to be in sync for your message to reach the consumer effectively on in a foreign market. This is true for both international and domestic marketing campaigns. When one P changes, the other Ps need to adjust to account for a dynamic shift. While all companies have their own various marketing goals and strategies, the four Ps are still considered the cornerstone of marketing programs.

Importance of Product

A marketing department must have something to market. Your job as a marketer is to make your company’s product appear more desirable than any of the alternatives on the international scene and in each specific region.

After all, products are developed for a reason. Their inventor saw a need – they wanted something to exist that didn’t currently exist on the market or they were let down by other products and thus focused on making something to fill that gap. When looking at the product, we can define it as anything (goods/services) that's offered by a company to the customers.

Price in Marketing

The price of a product is more than simply what the consumer will pay for the product, which may vary from country to country. Prices are set using a metric that has been developed by the company. The first thing that a business will look at when factoring price is cost — what did the product cost them to make or acquire?

Parts in Marketing

In order to get started, you'll need to price out the parts that go into making the item. Once again, this cost may vary from place to place, so international marketers must carefully consider all regions their products will be for sale. That said, your raw materials may cost less if you order in bulk from the manufacturer and then distribute and adjust prices accordingly.

Assembly/Manufacturing in Marketing

Once the parts for your product are in hand, you'll need to have them put together, which can mean that you need to hire staff to work assembly and manufacturing. When paying employees, it's important to offer fair wages for your area. Someone living off of $50,000 in Ohio would be doing fairly well; however, if your assembly line is in a more expensive area, then that income wouldn’t necessarily be fair.

Marketing and Packaging

You need to advertise so customers know about your product. This could involve appearing at trade shows, developing an influencer and social media strategy or even paying for Google or other sponsored ads. Most companies need to set aside a sizable part of their revenue for marketing advertising.

In addition, for marketing and packaging, you'll need to hire designers, marketers, copywriters, line workers to package, truck drivers to distribute and many other staffers. These costs will vary by region, as well.

Setting Price Points

Now you need to consider how much money you can afford to earn from your product, so you'll need to determine how much profit per item you want to have before you finally set the price. When setting your price, you also need to factor in supply and demand, which will fluctuate as you gain footholds in various markets.

Forming a Brand Identity

The other aspect of your price sorting falls under the category of brand identity. If you want to be seen as an accessible brand, you don’t want to raise your prices, and therefore your profit margin, by too much. Consider also sales and corporate taxes, as well as money for bonuses, shareholders and other business needs.

Place in Marketing

As with price, there are a lot of aspects that go into place when you're considering who to market to. Consumer locations and income levels are essential considerations in international marketing and are extremely important when considering your target demographic.

You’ll also need to consider things like where you're storing your stock and where it's being manufactured. Depending on the state or country where your manufacturing center is located, you’ll need to determine whether it has laws for testing that your current location doesn't.

A good example of this is animal testing in the cosmetics industry. While a lot of brands in the United States are labeled “cruelty-free” and don’t do animal testing, China requires animal testing on their cosmetics. As a result, you can't market cosmetics to China unless you pay for that testing. You’ll need to consider this in your international marketing strategy.

International Shipping Considerations

Due in large part to the popularity of internet shopping, businesses with an online presence may need to ship internationally. How will that factor into your bottom line? To answer this, some domestic companies have added an extra percentage charge for shipping international orders. While this works well on a small scale, it's seen as less friendly and accessible for larger companies that are perceived as being able to absorb the costs.

International Advertising Options

Localization also plays a role in how you advertise. Where will you place an ad? If you operate in an area with a lot of train traffic, for instance, it makes sense to buy space within the commuter rail to reach customers. If your customer base is in a more rural area, then you might prefer to use billboards.

Magazines work well for some products, such as furniture. You might also consider placement in television or film ads. Unless you know what your customer base will go see, however, you won’t have a good idea of where to place your ad. You shouldn’t have trouble with this if you've done market research.

Promotion in International Marketing

Promotion dovetails on “place” as far as the four Ps go. You need to promote your products so that other people will want to purchase them. Your promotional strategy should focus on how to show consumers why they want this product over your competitors’ products or why they need this product if it’s a newer concept. Timing is critical on the level of promotional marketing you choose to do.

Did you know that it costs companies $5 million to place a 30-second ad spot in the Super Bowl? For companies like Budweiser and Ford, this cost is worth it. While your company is probably not going to buy a Super Bowl ad spot, the lessons available here are important. Don’t place an ad without believing that you’re going to get the value back.

Location and timing are essential to understand when it comes to ads and their placement. Figure out what your core demographic is going to be watching before you place a television ad. Perhaps you’re a small local company; instead of a Super Bowl ad, your banner may do very well when placed on the high school football team’s fence.

International Marketing Approaches

The major differentiating factor with international marketing as compared to domestic marketing is that you want to appeal to a far wider range of people, across locations and cultures. Using terminology that's too esoteric or domestic, for instance, won't appeal to a wide audience. For an example of successful international marketing, consider this global marketing example, which is a subset of the brand's larger international marketing strategy.

Coca-Cola commercials are and have always been focused on people coming together and having fun, and some of the company’s most influential ad campaigns focused on how people all over the world could enjoy a soda together. The company’s ads don’t involve slang or many words, swapping those components for music and the imagery of smiling consumers. They hit a successful balance of text, music and context that has worked well for the company on the international market.

For an international marketing campaign to succeed, it needs to be diverse and appeal to a wide audience. To market this way may mean that you lose out domestically and with some niche consumers. However, it will be to your benefit overall and is why you should include the four Ps in your international marketing strategy.

Examples of International Industry Changes

The importance of being seen on an international scale is underscored by the example of streaming services for films and television shows. For instance, Netflix has infiltrated and succeeded in markets around the world and actually changed the face of the international film and television industries.

With this service, customers can watch an enormous catalog of movies without ever leaving home. Netflix operates in 190 countries all over the globe. As a result, the video store has gone out of fashion in many countries, and in the United States, finding one is nearly impossible. Netflix has acted as a major disruptor to the film and television industry and continues to innovate across international markets by offering more variety and even open-ended, interactive shows.

References

About the Author

Danielle Smyth is a writer and content marketer from upstate New York. She has been writing on business-related topics for nearly 10 years. She owns her own content marketing agency, Wordsmyth Creative Content Marketing (www.wordsmythcontent.com) and she works with a number of small businesses to develop B2B content for their websites, social media accounts, and marketing materials. In addition to this content, she has written business-related articles for sites like Sweet Frivolity, Alliance Worldwide Investigative Group, Bloom Co and Spent.