The world is becoming an increasingly connected place, with 57% of shoppers now accustomed to purchasing from overseas retailers. In Europe, this figure climbs to 63%.
Despite this, some 79% of UK-based small businesses said that the majority (60-100%) of their revenues still come from domestic sales, meaning many are missing out on the opportunities of overseas sales.
Here, we talk to marketing experts to find out how you can get started on creating an effective international marketing strategy to take advantage of the opportunity for overseas growth.
Step 1: Do your analyses – and your homework
According to Tim Bond, head of insight at the Data & Marketing Association, the key for small businesses is to remain realistic.
“The main challenges facing most small businesses when trying to implement a global marketing strategy all stem from the same issue: size,” he says. “This can cause expected difficulties in having the experience, local knowledge, resource, and skills required.”
Bond recommends carrying out GAP and SWOT analyses.
A GAP analysis helps you gain clarity on what your current standing in the market is (Performance), versus where you want to be (Potential). This will help you decide on the steps that need to be taken in order to reach your full market potential. Meanwhile, a SWOT analysis identifies your Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats, therefore, giving you a big-picture view of the best ways to reach your target market in a manner that differentiates you from your competitors.
“It’s important to understand the nuances of each market your organisation works in, whether that’s differences between audience or geographies, and then how well a business is performing relative to its potential,” Bond says. “This will not only help to showcase the messaging that is effective across markets but also highlight the markets that might need special attention.”
Step 2: Focus on universal themes during marketing localisation
Gabey Goh, of marketing consultancy WARC, says it is important to integrate your international messaging at the heart of your products and services.
“Multi-language localisation is good to have, but in the early stages, single language outreach can still be effective,” she says. “Marketing messages and campaign creatives should focus on universal and simple themes to cut across cultural contexts and languages."
One company that has achieved this particularly well is UpCircle Beauty, an ethical skincare company from London that is now stocked in stores across the UK, Europe, Australia, and America, as well as on its own website selling directly to consumers across the globe.
The brand message settled on was one of sustainability, but with a tone that set it apart from competitors. UpCircle’s messaging stays conversational and down to earth and avoids any language that might have “preachy” connotations. This helped UpCircle to resonate with what the public was looking for, and set it up for beating its £200,000 crowdfunding target in just three days.
Step 3: Leverage social media for core audiences
With more than half (56%) of people active on social media across Europe, this is a very fruitful channel for small businesses.
“The most cost-effective strategy would be to leverage digital channels and communities to raise awareness of your brand and proposition,” Goh says. “Identify the core markets beyond the home market that would be the most receptive to your brand/product, and which of the key media channels and platforms are most used and consumed by your target audience.”
When assessing these channels and deciding which is the best to use for your brand, it is important to consider which social media networks have the highest levels of penetration for your target audience.
Facebook, for example, has its biggest presence in India with 290 million users and is most popular with people aged between 25 and 30, with 64% of people in this age range using the system. This compares to just 51% of 13-17-year-olds.
Instagram, meanwhile, is biggest in the US and is most popular with teenagers, with 72% of those aged between 13 and 17 using the platform.
If a social media platform supports multiple languages, make sure you enable that function so that international users can discover your posts in their own language. For example, LinkedIn allows businesses to display their company page in 20 different languages, according to the target audience's region.
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