Don’t get lost in translation when marketing abroad

If you’re looking to start expanding to an international market, then you’ve probably already got a solid domestic marketing strategy. But don’t rest on your laurels, as the approach that works for your business at home may not necessarily work in a new overseas market.

When it comes to marketing overseas, there’s a lot of things to consider that you might not have had to before, such as different values and customs, languages and currency. If you fall short of meeting these core components that impact consumer behaviour and customer experience, then you may not be setting yourself up for much success.

As with every element of growing your business globally, one of the most essential things for a successful expansion is to engage in robust market research.

In particular, pay attention to:

  1. Market saturation – consider if you’re entering a suitable market and providing a unique product.
  2. Customer behaviours – this means looking at price point, what they want, and what influences them to buy - including key demographics or the household purchaser.
  3. Media channels – there may be different local trends in the use of print or digital media for marketing. Consider finding out what channels your target buyers are most exposed to.
  4. Regulations – different countries have different regulations on what can be advertised legally. Make sure you are across this in the country you’re exploring.
  5. Translations – be wary of ‘marketing translation’ firms. If you can find someone on the ground you can trust to translate not only language, but also cultural nuances, that may be your best option.

Once you’re confident in your decision to move into a particular internal marketplace, there are a number of ways for you to set yourself up and establish your position there.

An easy way in: trade selling missions

It’s important to be aware of the great opportunities Austrade make available. Throughout the year they conduct selling missions in different international markets. If you are eligible to participate, these are high profile, well-structured and a good way to gain exposure in your chosen market. You can follow their upcoming missions here.

Getting on board an Austrade selling mission could help provide:

  • Wider media coverage
  • Increased access to potential customers
  • Direct contact with political and business decision makers
  • Lower travel costs due to bulk travel, accommodation and shared promotions
  • Access to support networks of similar exporters
  • More exposure to information about potential markets, competitor products, new trends and technologies

This is an example of a 'push strategy': taking your product to the consumer to help build brand awareness. This is generally most useful when your product is a lower value item such as fast-moving consumer goods (FMCGs), when customers are standing at the shelf ready to drop an item into their baskets and are more likely to make their decision on the spot.

A push strategy may be helpful if you need to generate exposure and open the door to retail channel distribution in a new market. Other examples of push strategies include trade shows, promotions, direct selling in showrooms, point-of-sale displays and arrangements with third party retailers to stock your products. Once your brand has been established, this can be integrated with a pull strategy.

Make the consumer come to you

A pull strategy involves motivating customers to seek out your brand actively. You’ll need a more visible brand, which can be developed through mass media advertising or similar tactics. If customers want a product, retailers are likely to stock it. It’s the concept of supply and demand in its purest form.

Pull strategies include advertising and mass media promotion, word-of-mouth referral, good CRM strategy and sales promotions or discount offers. But choosing the right media to carry these out is essential for a successful pull strategy. Will you advertise in local newspapers, or host a product sampling launch event? Will you purchase signage on billboards or organise spots with local radio stations?

Regardless of how you implement your pull strategy, it’s important to research the advertising and marketing channels in the country you want to expand into. Not only may rules and regulations differ, but so may cultural expectations and effectiveness.

Things to consider include:

  1. Usage – the extent to which a local buyer will expect advertising to achieve results and whether advertising is acceptable
  2. Form – in each country, the value between press, radio, TV and other media may vary
  3. Content – what can or cannot be said in each country. Government regulations might be an influencer
  4. Presentation – conforming to local expectations
  5. Right medium – again, understanding the buyer(s), then targeting the medium they use

First impressions count

Whether it's a push or pull strategy you decide to adopt, one thing is for sure: first impressions count. Be confident and clear in your message, because you’ve done the groundwork to help best ensure your product is exactly what your customer might need.

A customer’s first point of contact will most likely be your website. A good website is your calling card, so make sure it’s easy to understand and navigate, has helpful graphics, and there’s an easy way to get in touch. If you wish, you can install a website translation widget, but be sure to check the language translation with a pro.

Once you’ve worked out your international marketing strategy, don’t forget to include this in your international business plan.

Ready to take on the world?

Read our Insights paper on the Australian small businesses that have gone global and begin charting your route there.

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