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:
- 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.
- 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.
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?