Deciding which global market is a strong fit for your business is the first step when you want to expand internationally. Several factors – some more straightforward than others – will impact your short- and long-term success. Going in with your eyes open and expectations aligned at the organizational level is critical.
When Google reached out to us to help their clients overcome international digital marketing challenges, their first priority was to offer a better understanding of international market trends and behaviors to drive better ROI.
If you’re looking to enter new international markets or drive growth in markets you already have a presence in, it’s critical to know your audience in each locale – and what motivates them. Upfront research to size the market opportunity, assess the competitive landscape, and determine how to price and position your product or services is key.
But the success of your efforts will hinge on capturing and holding the attention of in-country buyers. Language and cultural considerations, as well as logistical challenges, need to be addressed. And ultimately the market opportunity needs to outweigh the cost of entry. Where to start?
CHOOSING A MARKET FOR INTERNATIONAL BUSINESS EXPANSION
An initial international market assessment must include cultural fit, local market trends and behaviors, and potential barriers to reaching your in-country consumers. The right marketing localization partner will augment the strategy you have already developed and leverage in-country experts and strategic partners to help position you for success and avoid common mistakes.
What will it take to succeed in your target locales?
Assessing international market opportunity, understanding the competitive landscape in each locale, and identifying your pricing and positioning strategy will lay the foundation for your international business expansion:
- Will your brand and offerings align with local market values?
- How much of the local market opportunity do you think you could capture? What will it take to drive a return in each locale – and over what time period? Does this align with your international expansion goals?
- Are you competing with international or local brands? Or both? How engaging is their localized customer experience?
- Are local consumers price or brand sensitive? What does buying behavior look like? Do target locales align with premium, mainstream, or below premium pricing? How does this align with your brand positioning?
- What international content strategy do you need to align with your in-country target audience’s culture and preferences?
Do you have a route to market?
No international business strategy would be complete without also considering operational viability and the logistics of a route to market. Depending on the nature of your business, there are many factors to consider:
- the upfront investment needed to reach and service your international buyers
- market-specific and practical factors that could affect control over your brand and content
- clear goals for ROI and what success looks like short-, medium- and long-term
- overall risk to your budget, time, and brand as you evolve your in-market strategy
Tradeoffs may be necessary when working on your optimal route to market, especially when it comes to budget and brand control. For instance, doing business internationally delivers expanded revenue opportunities, but overly centralized control over your in-country brand could impact long-term performance in the market. Creating a physical in-market presence with on-the-ground stakeholders helps drive success at the local level but could result in brand dilution, while increasing operational and marketing costs.
Companies selling consumer products will also need to determine a logistical path for distribution (e.g., export, strategic partnerships, international acquisition, or establishing a new physical presence within the market).
For digital products and services, the technical landscape is key. For example, compatibility with international platforms and technology, internet bandwidth, local data and security regulations, eCommerce platforms, and locally accepted payment methods.
How do socio-political factors come into play?
International market assessments should include analysis of socioeconomic, political, and other factors that may affect the timing or feasibility of new market launch. The direct (and indirect) impact of war, corruption, bureaucracy, and legal complications should inform your international market expansion goals. For example, Chinese government control and censorship of internet content within its borders creates a significant challenge for many international companies. Your marketing localization partner can help bring known issues like this to light and guide you through your options.
MARKETING LOCALIZATION FOR GLOBAL BUSINESS EXPANSION
Once you’ve identified and vetted your international market opportunities, the critical work of developing your marketing localization strategy begins. This is where in-market expertise can make or break your efforts. Even the best global business expansion plans can fall completely flat if your core message gets lost in translation. Or if your marketing localization fails in its chief duty: driving engagement and conversion with your international consumers.
Your marketing localization partner can help you access consumer behavior insights in your target countries, avoid easy-to-make mistakes when engaging with new cultures, and properly localize your message to connect with your target audience in a truly impactful way.
Adapting your brand for international market expansion
As you localize your brand, there may be tradeoffs to consider, particularly if aspects of your brand image, key messaging, or your tagline need to shift to better address in-country socio-cultural nuance, differentiate from local and international competitors, or adhere to local regulations. Adapting your brand for new international markets can have a large impact on your success in other parts of the globe, so you’ll need to determine your level of comfort and flexibility with this. When making these brand adaptations, it’s critical to keep your brand essence and brand guidelines in mind so your localized marketing communications are still true to your brand.
Content translation for an international audience
Speaking to your international consumers in their language is essential. According to CSA Research, international consumers are far more likely to make a purchase in their own language, regardless of their English proficiency:
- 37% of international consumers spend more time viewing web content in their own language.
- 56% of consumers say that the ability to obtain information in their own language is more important than price.
- 76% of B2C buyers are more likely to make a purchase in their own language.
- 81% of B2B buyers are more likely to purchase products with a localized experience.
That being said, you don’t need to localize all your content to successfully launch in a new market. Your marketing localization partner will work to understand your brand and expansion goals, communication strategy, and customer experience standards. From there, they can help prioritize which content to localize. And how to create an on-brand, authentic, positive experience for your international audiences.
Localization approach matters – and one size does not fit all
Many international marketers find out the hard way that using a single method to localize all of their content for new markets ultimately dilutes brand and the quality of local user experience. Language services best suited for product descriptions, for example, may very well be different from what you need for your social media posts. Despite this, many language service providers (LSPs) will try to simplify content localization through tech-driven, one-size-fits-all solutions that drive short-term results but limit longer-term marketing localization strategy.
The right marketing localization partner will thoughtfully recommend varying levels of multilingual content services, from simple translation to transcreation to in-language concept adaptation and copywriting, depending on the type of content and how international users will experience it. This typically includes a variety of technical solutions for process efficiency, while putting a locally authentic, human touch on the end result that – bolstered by solid cultural insights – connects meaningfully with your in-country audiences.
Choose right-size, right-fit international markets. International markets where you can position your offerings at a brand-appropriate price point, be competitive, and proceed with a clear route to entry will drive the best results, both in short-term ROI and for long-term international expansion. Be prepared to adapt your products and services, brand guidance, and marketing content to optimize how international cultures will receive and engage with them over time.
Select the right marketing localization partner. Be sure that the agencies you’re working with provide marketing and creative services that combine local market insights and in-country talent with processes and systems designed to scale for your long-term marketing localization needs. Look for core competencies and opportunities to leverage economies of scale, alongside experience and expertise that complement your internal strengths. The international content solutions you choose in the earlier stages of your marketing localization maturity will need to evolve over time to drive lasting growth. The right partner will operate as an extension of your team and pivot with you as you grow and scale your international content.