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International Marketing Checklist

This article follows on from my earlier focus on taking those first tentative steps towards exporting. On the assumption that your initial research into your intended destination has identified a gap in the market or a need for your product (other than its low price), the following criteria should be considered an essential part of your marketing endeavour. This article should be read in conjunction with my pieces on managing channel partners.

Before I continue, I feel it’s worth highlighting two points:

  1. Marketing should be considered as a discipline in its own right, not an occasional add-on to the Sales function – a clash which invariably plays out within SMEs, often through budgetary constraints.
  2. In order to best plan your go-to-market strategy, you will already have decided on your target customer base(s), and how you will position your brand locally. You cannot be all things to all people, so clarifying this internally will at least line you up at the starting post. I highlighted segmentation in the context of pricing in an earlier posting.

What Does it Say on the Tin?

The competitive climate in all countries is challenging, so your campaign needs to be innovative if you are to stand out in a crowded market.  “Innovative” need not necessarily mean wacky, extravagant or bullish, but it must strike a chord with your desired customer base.

Decorative Tin Cans. lubsy1uk's photostream

Your campaign needs to be innovative if you are to stand out in a crowded market

Your marketing collateral may be the first contact a prospect has with your company, so in raising awareness, you need to be clear about what benefit you are offering.  Avoid the use of vacuous terms like “solutions”, and “services”, unless you can substantiate these.  You may well be able to offer these at a later stage, in association with partners.

Products identified with saving time, duplication of effort and money and promoting “green” initiatives are all actively sought by customers today. Innovative products guaranteeing these may not necessarily be very expensive, but have been well designed with a specific environment or context in mind.  Stating your credentials, expertise and examples of any recent project wins  – even in your domestic market – will create a stronger image than a load of ambiguous text.

Marketing Tools: Content is King

An integrated approach to marketing works best:

Web site: localise this where possible, even if initially you only post up contact details for your local rep; Press releases, awards, customer references, project wins and brochures are all expected these days. If your budget can stretch, seriously consider a short webcast, to make your site less static.  If you are exhibiting at an event, post this, and offer a facility to book a meeting.

Blog: Not suitable within all B2B environments, but definitely worth considering as part of the marketing mix. This is one area where prospects are invited to contribute to the discussion without committing. Typically, via the landing page, we offer a white paper in exchange for their contact details, and although this is still important, a blog is a softer way to capture richer data on potential clients’ expectations. Brand building can be achieved by having several colleagues contribute, e.g. Marketing, R&D, Product Management, Channel partners.
Brochures: Must match the brand image you are building.

Direct email campaigns: Use qualified leads, and be as specific as possible. Use simple analytical tools such as Google to track potential leads.   Don’t forget to include an unsubscribe option.

Ally Sales with Marketing

To minimize risk at the early stages of market expansion, a supplier may opt to employ a business development executive, who travels out to a country to build up qualified leads and business. That executive may then relocate, to base him/herself permanently in that country.  Only at this stage, may investment be committed to deploying a Marketing manager.  If this incremental route is used, it is still important that there is a consistency in approach.

Marketing is there not only to highlight your superior products, but also to define boundaries, so that customers’ expectations are not artificially raised.  Your sales rep is a natural extension of your brand building, the part which brings your company to life internationally, so ensure that there is consistency between what you do and say.
Areas where they can effectively collaborate include client workshops, V.I.P. briefings, RFPs, and client briefings.

Do you have anything to add to my international checklist?

I am an International Strategy and Marketing Consultant with over 20 years experience in marketing and strategy and international operations both in the US and Europe. Broad functional experience in: Marketing and Communications Strategic and Financial analytics including Business Case Development Consulting and Operational management Client Relationship Management Deep financial services sector knowledge. Worked in organisations ranging from technology start-ups, fast-paced direct marketing agency to large corporates. Member of Enterprise Ireland Mentor Panel Member of IIA (Irish Internet Association) International Strategy Working Group Committee member of the MBA Association of Ireland:

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  • Hi Una,
    Great article…makes me want to get back into international marketing!!

    I particularly agree about the need for innovativeness with your campaign. When I was doing my International Marketing Masters, I remember being told the story of how a reputable and popular beer company broke into the Eastern market.

    They asked that bar staff not remove empty bottles from tables. So when people entered the bar, they saw the new beer bottles, automatically got curious and ordered the beer. Clever, eh?

    Another thing to add to your international check-list is to gain an understanding of the culture that exists within the country of export. A very senior executive of the multi-national that I used to work for made a complete faux paus in Japan. He took the business card that was offered to him and put it right in his pocket. He was used to doing that in the US but the Japanese executive was highly offended.

    There are other subtle nuances in culture that can make or break a deal.

  • Hi Una, nothing to add to the checklist, but I guess those on a bit of a shoestring budget can use webinars as a way to blend sales with marketing. The rep can build qualified leads and invite them to the webinars about the product (broadcast from headquarters). That way, one may be able to convey a more solid presence to the prospects, compared to only having one rep which may seem unreliable compared to the competitors. In other words, the idea is for people to know that you are only new in their country but solid back home (and coming solidly to theirs). just a thought!

  • Hi Una,

    A confident and outstanding read with plenty of points.
    The point you make about localising content, I feel is the most important. This is where content becomes more relevant and targeted. Whilst commiting to a clear consistant branding wrapper, content can be edited per region. Many companies use mirror sites and update content from one source or upload the exact same content to all sites because it’s easier.
    It is easier, of course it is. You didn’t consider the differing needs of your target…you assumed China would be content with UK news, policies and discussions.
    This is where companies can build strong communities and use separate strategies, subjects etc, and collaborate solely with that country (Or if they’re really clever, they will weave in global content also).
    The likihood of forging connections and returning visitors/repete business is much higher.

    Your strategies are both online ond offline, and pull together marketing and sales. I often feel that ‘marketing’ here is just another word for ‘sales’. They are two distinct functions that can combine, but work in a different way.


  • Thanks for your considered commens Christina. I gave a presentation on International Social Media Marketing at the recent IIA Annual conference. I emphasised the importance of strong cross-cultural skills and working with local professionals to ensure succcess with international marketing.

  • Very good point. Thanks for this Facundo.

  • Hi Denise, why don’t you come along as my guest to our MBA Barometer series event this evening – late notice I know. I think you would enjoy the subject.

  • Facundo, likewise, I’d like to invite you as my guest this evening:

  • Christina, I don’t know where you’re based but if you’re in dublin tonight, I’d like to invite you as my guest this evening:

  • Good post Aileen and good tips re the financial information we should be checking each week in order to keep an eye on cashflow

  • Tlfromdet

    Good post Aileen. Have you ever heard of I have heard good things about this company. 

    woo hoo! got a mention here – see the Bill Clinton section

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