4 ways to conquer the world with international marketing
Isaac Bullen, digital marketing specialist at 3WhiteHats shares his approach to conquering the world through international marketing
There has never been a better time for your business to conquer the world, thanks to the internet and globalisation. Recognising your business’ potential to expand by exporting your goods and services either digitally or physically is the first step, but there are four important strategic moves to consider before you start taking over the world – identify, divide, conquer and learn.
You might have big dreams about how many countries you want your business to trade in, but it's important to take a few steps back and look at the big picture when you're just starting out. When deciding which territories to expand into first, you'll want to use the tools already at your disposal to determine where your biggest customer hubs are. A good place to start would be to look at your customer lists and make note of which country has the most customers.
If you have website analytics setup like Google Analytics, you can also use location filters to determine where the bulk of your customers’ online activities are coming from. If you have an established online brand presence, you can also incorporate the analytics tools that are built into larger social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube to see where the most customer engagement with your brand is coming from.
While you're still in research mode, you should identify one or more multi-national companies you'd like to emulate and study how they do business. When emulating them, don't be afraid to tweak or change what the original company did to suit your needs better. Pay attention to how they represent themselves online as it's this online presence which will provide the first interaction and impression for that multi-national company.
In among all the excitement of expanding your business, I’m going to ask you to do the impossible: start slow. With such a complex and high-risk business move, the strategy of 'divide and conquer' is your best chance for success. Start with just one country, ideally somewhere with enough customers to be statistically meaningful, but also low risk at the same time.
Think of this country as your minimum viable product (MVP) for going international. Starting with just one low risk territory gives you the chance to test, measure and optimise your international business and marketing strategies, work out shipping and logistics, and allow you to test how local tools and technologies might help your business. This will give you both the fastest and cheapest path to success you can then mimic when you expand further.It also gives you the opportunity to negotiate and overcome some of the trickier potential obstacles like local legalities, language barriers and time zones. For instance, if the language barrier is one of the major causes of you not expanding into a given country, try crowdsourcing translators from your customer base in that country in exchange for discounts and other small privileges. However, if you do decide to take the crowdsourcing route or enlist the help of internationally based native translators, make sure you check the time zones your potential workers would be in before enlisting their help. Sometimes work hours do not overlap as well as you would hope, and that can cause unforeseen logistical and planning issues, stretching out turnaround time unnecessarily.
Once you've decided which country to conquer first, you need to consider how your business will get the attention of local markets. Brand consistency is essential to make sure you're recognisable and that your customer experience remains constant. However, you may also want to take into account the local cultural landscape when considering your marketing and product development efforts. This marketing strategy is called Glocalisation (a portmanteau of globalisation and localisation) and has the benefit of allowing your business to reach a larger target market and lower the cost of production, which in turn makes the prices lower and more accessible to a wider market.
While making plans to seize the attention of the local markets, you'll also want to consider the digital terrain. Having an online presence as a business is crucial, but it'll have almost no impact on your expansion if you don't take steps to optimise local online visibility. A great first step is to make sure your SEO is thorough. This includes, but is not limited to, incorporating page titles, meta descriptions and investigating how to make sure the correct geographic version of your site shows without your localised content being hidden underneath your global content. You should ensure your website is optimised for both mobile and desktop, and that you're tracking your website’s rankings on Google (and localised search engines) by adding specific keywords that people may search in relation to your business.
If that sounds like a lot of work, that's because SEO is a commitment, but when done correctly can greatly benefit your business and even be fed directly into website analytics, allowing you to constantly monitor how everything is progressing. If you're looking for advice or help in this area, there are loads of online resources like Moz and Google’s Analytics Academy that can give you the tools to ensure your website is trusted by search engines and their users.
As I touched on in the divide segment, this is a learning experience for both you and your business. The best way to do this is to use the resources you already have and once everything's in place, it's important to debrief and evaluate what could have gone better in order to be prepared for next time. Once both your digital arsenal and any physical locations are set up, you'll want to pay attention to any patterns or trends you see emerging from your customer base. If those trends are telling you to try something different, don't be afraid to test and measure to see if it makes a difference to sales.
Website analytics are the best way to achieve this, as they provides almost instant measurable feedback to any tweaks and changes you might have made. If you're unsure, Lean Startup by Eric Ries is a book that outlines a great business methodology to follow if you want to achieve innovation, through fast iterations that pose relatively low risk.
While learning through the results of your customers’ actions, you can also learn through your customers’ thoughts. No matter how large your business is, it's important to be accessible to your customers through the social media channels they use. You can also use this to your advantage by creating exclusive customer labs on platforms like Facebook, where customers can provide feedback on product development and advertising campaigns before you release it publically.
By starting with just one country at relatively low risk, you can use these steps to optimise your business and its marketing practices both online and offline before using the resources mentioned above, as well as your own, to expand your empire to its full potential and eventually conquer the world.