INTERNATIONAL MARKETING STRATEGIES: A GUIDE TO COMMERCE ONLINE AND OVERSEAS
Undoubtedly one of the best things about conducting business online is that the possibilities are nearly endless. The web provides a limitless customer base, and allows companies to cater to a wide range of demographics and international markets which might have previously been out of reach. Firms of all sizes can now compete worldwide on an equal footing with their major multinational counterparts. Many UK businesses are seeking to take advantage of healthy markets in Russia and China, and the ever-burgeoning growth markets of the developing world.
Of course it goes without saying that you should walk before you can run – starting out in business often means starting small and setting yourself realistic, attainable goals, with a view to expanding. The beauty of business growth on the web is that it is frequently exponential, which put simply means that the more markets you corner, the quicker and easier your business grows. International marketing strategies help you plan for this growth when it happens.
There are a number of considerations to take into account before targeting potential international customers, and it pays to know your audience. What works at home might not work so well overseas. An often quoted example of cross-cultural confusion arose in 1928, when Coca Cola attempted to market a diet soft drink product to the Chinese market. The name translated to “bite the wax tadpole” which just serves to show lack of understanding can result in a loss for even large multinational corporations.
While language barriers might cause you some irksome problems, not having a comprehensive understanding of regional and national laws could actually land you in trouble, with fines or worse. For an example, certain products which may seem innocuous enough (such as alcohol) are actually illegal to import in various countries. Again, certain regions of countries might have a ban on products (under differing State laws in the US for example). From an advertising perspective, an advert which seems like a bit of harmless fun in the UK could actually be construed as offensive in other parts of the world. Developing international marketing strategies is all about being sensitive of cultural differences, and using this to your advantage.
Behaviour and how you conduct yourself with prospective clients and customers plays a part too. If your business is conducted primarily online, you could be forgiven for thinking that cultural differences might not cut through via an email as they would in a face-to-face meeting. No matter what your means of communication it certainly pays to try to tailor your interactions to the cultural needs of your international clients, regardless of the medium.
There is no single rule that can be used. International marketing strategies will vary from product to product, and market to market. The best advice is to do your research and take the time to understand your target consumers.
In these fast changing times it pays to remain agile and to be prepared to adapt to the market needs.