It’s finally happened – your business has expanded into the international market! Not only does this mean you’ll have to learn the ins and outs of shipping products overseas (or hire someone that knows), you’ve got to figure out how to market those products to your now-global customer base. Sure, a large part of the world can functionally read and speak English, but that doesn’t mean that your customers in Germany are going to understand the subtle nuances of your product or that your marketing program even makes sense to their culture.
International marketing can be an amazing boost to your brand’s image, when done correctly. When you go global, you’re trying to engage and inform a whole new group of people – make sure you know who they are before you even begin. It’s easy to get bogged down in the details, but there are certain things that cannot be overlooked when marketing to other countries. Cultural nuances, taboos and even the little things like spelling and the use of slang can destroy your marketing campaign if ignored.
Consider Your Audience
Your product is the perfect fit for American girls ages 11 to 18, but in France or Spain, your demographic could be significantly different – maybe men carry handbags or women prefer drinking dark beer in your new market. These differences matter, and they matter a lot. Without considering the needs of your new audience, you have no way to know if you’re wasting your advertising dollars and energy translating your product into a second market.
Trends and fashion aside, in many countries the culture is so drastically different from our own that something we consider normal could be incredibly offensive. Many Middle Eastern countries, for example, strongly believe that women should remain covered at all times when they’re outside their homes – you don’t have to support these beliefs, but if you want to market to them, you need to drop the scantily-clad bikini models in favor of traditionally dressed women and men.
Country-Specific Marketing Campaigns
When you expand into an international market, it’s important to tailor your message to each market you enter. Don’t simply recycle your American campaign for your new customers in Australia. Although you might think the culture would be similar, language, customs and laws may vary considerably. Ignoring these important details will tell everyone in the target market that you’re an outsider and you don’t care enough to try to understand who they are.
Check advertising laws and familiarize yourself with common advertising methods before even beginning to take that big international step. What’s legal in America isn’t always legal in other countries, even English-speaking ones, and fines may be significant for advertisements deemed inappropriate by statute.
The same general premise holds for social media engagements – know your country before you dive in. In some places, social networks that we don’t even use in the US are the common gathering spots. The demographic of social media may be very different as well, instead of marketing to middle class women in their 30s, your social media might be dominated by socially aware teenagers in Internet cafes.
If Necessary, Hire An Insider
It should be no surprise that there are marketing professionals living in every corner of the globe. When your new market is so removed from your own experience that it’s difficult to be familiar with their needs and wants, it’s time to bring in a local. Local contractors bring a whole new angle to your marketing campaign and may keep you out of hot water, while making your campaign more successful.
Not only do these Natives understand the culture and marketing expectations of their fellow countrymen in a way that you probably never can, they can protect you from making seriously embarrassing translation errors. Common languages like Spanish and French are spoken widely, but the slang and usage can vary greatly between countries – don’t even consider using a computer to do your translation – unless you really want sales pages that read awkwardly or make no sense at all.
When it’s time to go global, think before you act. Remember that every country’s market is different – get to know your demographic before laying out a ton of advertising dollars. And if you’re not the expert you thought you might be, don’t hesitate to make a local advertising professional part of your team. Not only will your response from your new market be stronger, that pro will keep your image sharp in the eyes of your new customers.