Developing a truly effective global marketing strategy can be challenging. But with this straightforward, easy-to-follow guide, you’ll be able to create and execute on a successful global growth strategy – and have the data to back it up.
In international marketing, the opportunities – and challenges – are endless. It can be difficult enough to execute on a marketing strategy in one market – let alone two, or ten, or twenty.
But there’s a way to not only develop but also execute on a successful global marketing strategy in any market.
This relatively low-risk, low-cost approach allows marketers to prove the case for localization, inform global content strategy, and scale up in-country marketing activity and budget based on hard data.
Here’s how to get started.
1. KNOW YOUR MARKETS (THE FOUNDATION OF YOUR GLOBAL MARKETING STRATEGY)
Research is crucial for knowing which markets to pursue and how to engage with your target international audiences. But research doesn’t have to be time consuming or costly. The key is asking the right questions to create a locally relevant strategy. And having access to in-country subject-matter experts.
IDENTIFY YOUR MARKETS
There are three basic considerations for determining whether an international market has potential for your brand:
1. Market opportunity & competition. How relevant is your product or offering to your target international market? What do the competitive landscapes look like? Are there logistical or legal barriers to marketing there? What socioeconomic, cultural, and demographic factors might impact your international brand messaging or marketing strategy?
2. Your company’s business indicators. Sales on your domestic US site from an international market are a sign it may be time to pursue that market more seriously. Data points like increased sales, revenue, repeat business, and customer lifetime value – and how those trend over time – are good indicators of international interest in your brand or product.
3. Interest in your company. It’s likely your existing digital channels will offer additional insight into which international markets to go after. Gather country-specific engagement data from your social channels, videos, and website.
UNDERSTAND YOUR INTERNATIONAL AUDIENCES
Consumer behavior varies from country to country. You can’t assume your target audience in an international market has the same habits, interests, or demographics as your US audience. To understand your target customers, you need to know:
What in-country consumers care about. Understanding what impacts consumer behaviors and values – from sociocultural trends to the demographics you’re targeting – will inform how to communicate authentically and effectively.
Their familiarity with your brand. If the target international market doesn’t know your brand, you may need to create content to drive brand awareness, sentiment, and reasons to believe. If in-country consumers already know who you are, you can dive right in and connect via aspirational campaigns. Knowing what local competition looks like and how familiar (or not) international consumers are with your brand will help you decide which communication strategies to test at the local level.
Where they spend time online. Domestically, the digital landscape is huge and complex. Worldwide? Even more so. There are multiple region- and language-specific social platforms, search engines, and eCommerce marketplaces dominating local markets. You need to know where your in-country audience lives online – and what resources and activities it will take to reach them.
How online behavior drives decision-making. The international customer journey varies from one market to another. In one country, customers may seek out extensive product specs. But in another, brand value and sentiment are more important. Knowing what motivates your international audiences is key to providing an authentic experience that connects them to your brand.
How to build in-country trust and engagement. You need to know what it takes for someone in your target market to trust and engage with a brand – and how you can meet those expectations without breaking your budget. Understanding how the local competitive landscape layers into that is also key.
2. LOCALIZE & OPTIMIZE
Going global doesn’t have to mean committing budget and resources to broadscale, multilingual content marketing efforts. Minimize cost and time to launch by focusing on:
- International user experience (UX)
- Localizing less (but more relevant) content
- Improving discoverability at the local level
By starting small, and allowing for iteration and optimization as a natural part of your global marketing strategy, you can minimize the risk to your brand of a poor user experience, maximize performance, and keep your budget in check.
USE IN-COUNTRY DIGITAL TRENDS TO INFORM LOCALIZATION STRATEGY
Work with your marketing localization partner to gather data from your website analytics, social channels, and the top in-country search engine(s). And don’t assume they’re the same as in the US. These sources can give you valuable information about an international market’s online trends to inform which content you should focus on localizing first – without overcommitting time and budget to localizing everything at once.
DETERMINE WHAT – AND HOW – TO LOCALIZE
Not all translation services are equal, and language quality is subjective. So it’s crucial to match language services to the nature of your content while meeting the expectations of your international audiences.
Think about the type of content you’re localizing. What’s the purpose? Is it branded copy or product information? Is it high visibility or low profile? Does it have long-term or short-term value?
When translation and localization budgets are tight, translate smaller amounts of highly targeted, relevant content. Don’t overshoot on high-volume translation before you have the data to support its value. Instead, determine the minimum you need to localize to provide a positive local experience and help your in-country consumers to take the desired action.
International design and UX preferences vary from market to market, too. So it’s important to take those into account as part of your localization strategy.
OPTIMIZE FOR IN-COUNTRY SEARCH TRENDS
Localization alone doesn’t guarantee your in-country audiences will be able to find your content. That’s why it’s important to consider international SEO as part of your marketing localization strategy.
Use international keyword research to determine which keywords you need to focus on. Carrying out translation and on-page SEO concurrently means relevant keywords can be incorporated into your multilingual content naturally. And you’ll improve the discoverability of your localized content based on locally relevant search trends, setting your content up for success from the get-go.
3. PROMOTE YOUR INTERNATIONAL CONTENT
Strategic digital tactics can help you drive international traffic, gather data, and quickly discover what resonates with your audience – and what doesn’t – before you invest in expanding your global marketing strategy.
DEFINE YOUR GOALS FOR EACH MARKET
Traffic, engagement, conversions, or sales? To define a digital strategy for your international markets, you first need to decide what success means for each locale. This means setting realistic goals based on in-market consumer behavior, market opportunity, and brand awareness.
For example, you shouldn’t expect significant sales immediately in a market where consumers typically take their time to research and decide on a purchase. A better indicator of success may be the number of visitors to your site, time on page, or email list signups.
DRIVE RESULTS WITH INTERNATIONAL PAID DIGITAL TACTICS
Paid search and social advertising are particularly well-suited for testing global opportunity, driving ROI on already localized content, and informing future content needs.
With a few exceptions, the barriers to entry in setting up international paid digital campaigns are relatively low. And since digital marketing is by nature an iterative process, launching small, localized digital campaigns can be both quick and cost effective.
GLOBAL PAID SEARCH
The biggest mistake companies make with global paid search is treating their in-market campaigns as an extension of their US domestic campaigns. (Here are some other global marketing myths to watch out for.)
In-country keyword research. Keyword translation can sabotage your campaigns well before launch. Why? Because translated keywords don’t take local search volume, linguistic nuance, intent, or consumer behavior into account. So it’s critical to perform keyword research in-country, and on the market’s dominant search engine(s).
Locally informed ad copy. Straight translation won’t create ad copy that drives conversions. Your ad localization process should be informed by in-country keyword research. And your ad content should inspire your target audience to take action.
Localized landing pages. To be successful, your landing pages need to align closely with the localized ad text and keywords you’re targeting – and all three elements should be in the same language. Keep in mind that differences in international UX and design expectations may affect your conversion rates.
GLOBAL PAID SOCIAL
Depending on the market and your goals, international paid social may be a better route to test market opportunity. For example, in China and South Korea, the set-up process for paid search platforms Baidu and Naver can be much more involved than paid social options. And for B2B companies, LinkedIn (or local equivalents, such as Xing in Germany) offers the better chance to micro-target specific audiences.
Different global social platforms offer great targeting options for brands, depending on the product and target audience. And some have direct eCommerce integrations or highly popular marketplace options. Global marketers can test social ads, measure international engagement, drive sales, and optimize their global paid campaigns while gathering direct feedback from international users.
4. MEASURE, ITERATE, EXPAND
A regular, cross-tactic reporting cadence for each of your international markets is key to measuring how they’re performing against the goals you established.
Which pages, ads, and content do your international target audiences engage with the most? Are you seeing significant engagement, but a consistent point where your audience drops off before converting?
Examine in-market performance and look for connection points between tactics. By leveraging insights across platforms and avoiding tactical silos, you’ll see quicker results and more opportunities for international growth.
Once you have solid data to determine what’s working and what’s not, you can expand your marketing localization activities and budget in the markets that show the most promise. This could mean allocating more resources to channels that are performing best, or expanding localized content for local audiences. You may want to increase translation efforts, refine UX and design, or create original, in-language content to leverage unique in-market trends.
At this point, you may want to invest in a more robust, ongoing global marketing strategy. This could include:
- A localization-friendly site structure
- A topic-cluster-based content strategy informed by international search trends
- A broadened international social presence for your brand via locally relevant, country-specific platforms
- New tactics, like global programmatic advertising or email marketing
Developing a successful global marketing strategy – one that truly engages your international audiences and drives long-term results – takes the same care and consideration as your domestic strategy.
By understanding your international markets and focusing on user experience, you’ll set your brand up for global success. With paid digital tactics, you can quickly drive ROI on your localization investment while gaining insight into international consumer behavior, applying learnings across tactics, and evolving your marketing localization strategy for maximum success.