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If you are concerned with developing your international marketing plan, you have come to the right place.
In this article we will lay out the three main concerns of international marketers, with some examples and a plan for you to move in the right direction.
What are the three concerns of international marketers?
There are three main concerns of international marketers, they are: 1. Slowing growth in big and developed markets, 2. Navigating the unknowns within emerging markets, and 3. Finding buyers in international markets.
Whatever your goals are for your international marketing strategy, this article will help you focus your plan.
The third concern in this list is where I discuss a fun growth hack, which if you can make it work, can quickly help you grow your international marketing strategy, or provide an incredible opportunity for you if you don’t have a customer list right now.
Let’s get started now by reviewing the main concerns of international marketers, and review some examples.
Whether you are focused on developing an international marketing strategy to enter an emerging market, find a growing developed market or simply expand on opportunities you found in your customer list, this article will help you develop your plan.
Big and developed Western markets, which, for simplicity, we tend to lump into the term “legacy countries” have experienced a slower growth rate, with emerging markets’ growth rates falling even more.
Many economists may even say the growth rates are less than zero, based on how growth is quantified.
Many factors have contributed to the decline of global markets, but the reason why is not the scope of this article.
Like all of our article topics, the only topic for this article is to help you grow. And grow through building an awesome international marketing strategy.
Let’s get started and discuss what to do about slowing growth in developed markets.
Let’s face it…
But this doesn’t always mean it is bad.
Yes, inflation is very high at the time of this writing and interest rates are rising.
The banking industry in many legacy countries is contracting, suffering from a looming liquidity crisis and policies are … well… kinda crazy.
So much so, that many of these big legacy countries are actually harming their tax base and employers by restricting their ability to do business.
All these factors are, of course, squeezing the consumer.
Do you double down on your primary legacy marketplace even though it may be in a decline evidenced by a reduction in customers who are spending less?
Do you search for new international markets?
When you take a step back and analyze the situation, you might find some opportunities.
The whole goal for building your international marketing strategy is for market expansion.
But you can’t have a market expansion discussion without first addressing your market penetration strategy.
And assuming you are in a developed country now, or you primarily sell to a developed country, before building your international marketing strategy and expanding, you need to fully develop your penetration strategy.
That is, get the most out of your existing target market as you possibly can. And I am assuming your existing target market is in Canada, Australia, Singapore, United States, Germany or another developed country with high GDP and solid infrastructures.
We’ve addressed penetration strategies a lot in other articles. For a very helpful article on this topic, start here:
Market penetration vs market expansion (the difference)
The bottom line is this:
If your target market consists of 100,000 women who make $300,000 a year or more, who are 40+ years old, married with 2 kids and are homeowners who own their house valued at over 750,000+, and you have 10,000 customers in your database, do you have a market penetration strategy?
Please read this again as there is a lot to unpack here, with many assumptions.
This question needs to be carefully considered before you develop your international marketing strategy.
Have you explored all options to get the most out of this target market in a developed country(s) as you possibly can? Better marketing? Offer something free to get them into your list? Leverage existing platforms? Joint ventures? Better product than the competition? Better messaging? Better value? Financing options? Maybe a low price option for acquisition?
The options are endless.
In this scenario, you might also hire a statistician to help you more clearly define your best possible potential customers in your target market. The more clarity the better, which can increase conversion rates and reduce marketing spend.
Even if the market is slowing in your existing marketplace, a penetration strategy may produce a better return than expanding into an international market.
Now, let’s forget about the big macro topics, even if they do really hit home and affect sales.
There is nothing we can do about inflation and interest rates.
For two excellent article on how you can survive in markets like this, and potentially come out even better, here are two very helpful articles:
But, now that we have driven our penetration strategy as far down as we possibly can, let’s briefly look at market expansion by marketing to another developed country.
For this example, let’s just address the lowest hanging fruit.
Let’s assume your product sells to 100,000 women in your target.
Your job is to first make a list of all the other developed countries that have a similar demographic and find out how many women are in those countries, too.
So, for example, maybe you find that in:
Where do you start?
It depends on how easy it is to communicate with the respective target market. I personally would Canada based on the ease of communication and logistics.
After all, international marketing may sound sophisticated, but success always comes back to the basics:
Communication with your customer
One of the main concerns of entering international markets is navigating the unknowns.
And one of these main topics are unknown growth rates with the sole purpose of acquiring more customers who can buy your product. And this topic specifically points to growth rates of emerging markets.
An emerging market is a country that has many characteristics of a developed country, but just misses the mark by at least a metric or two.
For example, BDC defines a developed country as an industrialized country, which has a mature economy, usually measured by gross domestic product (GDP). Additionally, a developed country would typically have better than average infrastructure in their technology, industrial and service segments. And, their citizens would typically have access to a higher quality health care and higher education system.
We listed many of those example countries above.
On the contrary, an emerging market would have many if not all of these characteristics, but may fall short in at least some of these categories.
Let’s take Peru as an example.
Defined as an official emerging market, the World Bank reports that Peru has been one of the region’s fastest-growing economies, with an average growth rate 5.9 percent. Although, Peru’s inflation rate is running very hot at over 8% in November, 2022.
CIA.gov reports that Peru has a population of 33 million people and Spanish is the primary language.
Peru is a country with rich natural resources.
inPeru.com reports that it’s main exports include:
Their trading partners stretch from Canada, US, Spain, Germany, China, South Korea, Ecuador, Argentina and more. They have an impressive list of free trade agreements that cover 92% of their exports.
While their economic numbers seem to be improving and they are an important supplier for many of the world’s important natural resources, at least one of their very important metrics falls short: childhood education.
For example, World Bank measures something called Learning Poverty, a tool they have devised to simplify a very complex situation as it relates to identifying gaps in childhood learning across the globe.
Unfortunately, Peru has a 56% learning poverty score in their latest update. This means that 56% of the children at the age of ten cannot read. For comparison, Sweden, a high income nation, has achieved a 2% learning poverty score. While the score does seem to be improving, the big takeaway here is that Peru’s education system has a lot of work to do in order to bring their young population up to speed in basic reading, writing and math.
This one metric alone has huge ripple effects in the rest of their economy, technology infrastructure, society and political system, among other things.
Now, let’s use our example of your international marketing strategy, carrying it over from the above example of our target market.
If you wanted to do business in Peru, how many people would be in your target market?
The target market in Peru probably doesn’t come close to the 100,000 in the home market example. At best, it may be 5% of a developed country, so maybe there are 5,000 potential buyers of your product based on your home target market demographics.
In this example, and if you wanted to expand into Peru, building your international marketing strategy in an emerging market may force you to make a lot of adjustments to your communications, marketing collateral, product, packaging, pricing, customer onboarding, on and on -- which is why it may be more cost-effective to:
But this isn’t to say you can’t make it work and be a massive success in Peru, or whatever country(s) you decide.
Experts report that there’s been minimal growth in these emerging markets since 2010; however, this trend differs between countries for a variety of reasons.
For your convenience, I listed the 24 emerging markets in a table produced by World Economics below.
If you have not developed your international marketing plan, you might start by comparing this list to your current customer base and see if there is any crossover or any possible opportunities arise. You might start with the countries that have the highest growth rate first and work your way down.
We did an excellent example of how to choose a country in a previous article. While it is not in the list of emerging markets, we used our work in Costa Rica to provide you a great example of developing an international marketing plan:
What are International Marketing Channels? (5 best)
I personally like the Asian countries such as Malaysia, Philippines, Indonesia, Thailand and Taiwan and see if there may be an opportunity within the RCEP trade agreement.
For an absolutely eye-opening and very helpful article about doing business in Asia, you can read more about RCEP here:
What is the RCEP trade agreement in simple terms? (15 nations, $26 tril)
Some of the reasons for low growth rates in emerging markets may include:
India has grown more resilient since its government took measures to support economic activities. For instance, they’ve accelerated public infrastructure investment, removed price-distorting subsidies, adopted an inflation-targeting framework, and initiated policies to improve the business climate.
India has really done a great job recently. For a great article about the opportunities to do business with india, go here:
Does India have any trade agreements? (This is massive!)
Other cyclical factors have also affected economic growth in emerging markets. For example, poor terms of trade have affected emerging markets that export products, including falling prices of raw materials, especially industrial metals and energy products. In contrast, commodity-importing emerging markets have benefited from the low energy prices.
But many countries are really starting to ramp up their free trade agreements (FTA). For a great article on FTA’s, go here:
What Does a Free Trade Agreement Do? (examples)
In the past decade, most financial institutions created expansionary policies to help build the economy and international market. However, recent policies have led to increased rates because of inflation. This has led to currency depreciation in various countries and a low purchase power that has affected international markets.
For an excellent article about how increased trade and doing business in international markets can really benefit everyone, ge here:
How Will CAFTA-DR Benefit Consumers? (Costa Rica vs Honduras vs US)
This topic is exciting.
That’s because it’s literally where the rubber meets the road.
We are going to walk through a couple examples in just a few moments.
Let’s first review what we mean by demographics.
Demographics are core to any marketing plan. It’s core to the marketing mix.
And if you are looking to expand into an international market, this is just as true.
While there are many macro events happening across the globe that signal bad economic events internationally, such as a disruption in the supply chains, increased inflation, rising cost of capital and less discretionary income for much of the world, there are ‘pockets of positives’ that can fuel your international marketing strategy when you do your research.
All these factors have affected the international marketer, leading to varied and inefficient supply and demand for goods and products.
However, great marketers often adjust their product, marketing strategy, distribution, pricing and test other major factors based on demographic data in the intended marketplace.
This means you need to do your research, just like you would with any product launch, even in your home market.
Here are some starting points and some examples we take when we want to expand into a new international market.
The first thing we are looking for are some basic metrics including:
Let’s look at doing business in one of our emerging markets from our list.
In another business project we own in the education space, we have some customers in our database from the United Arab Emirates (UAE). This may present an opportunity for market expansion (this is a form of primary research).
We have always had a great experience with these UAE customers, so we will review some high level basics in UAE for this example to serve as the beginning of our research.
First, I just want to be very clear where we are looking to do business.
The CIA.gov tells us that the UAE is located in the Persian Gulf region, sharing a border with Saudi Arabia and Oman.
UAE is a small country with a population of about 10 million. The first two primary languages are Arabic and English. The GDP is $655 billion (2019) and the real GDP per capita is about $67,100 (2019).
For comparison, the real GDP per capita in the US is $60,200 (2020) and the average income is about this as well, so we have a broad benchmark for comparison.
So far so good. At first glance, it looks like the average income is higher than what is in the US.
With that, now we can get into a little deeper research based on the niche market we serve.
For our example of an education niche, we did some basic secondary research to find there are about 19,000 professional service providers in the niche we serve, working in the UAE.
This is a great first step.
Because, for this example, we sell a high-end digital product needed by service providers in this niche, the next thing we will check is Internet technology and the reliability.
The first headline I found after a quick check on Google (called secondary research) was that UAE has some of the best Internet technology in the world. Good enough for me, even if it may not be the highest quality resource coming.
This is enough preliminary research to let my team and I know that we can go to the next phase of our international market research. This is where we will do some more research to check how much these service providers earn per hour, get some basic cost and financial metrics and see if we can uncover some buying habits by reviewing the competitive landscape.
We will also call some of these professionals and interview them as best we can before looking at a marketing budget. This, by the way, is absolutely the most valuable kind of market research you can do: personal, one on one conversations with a paying customer.
The first place we will search for as much of this information is within our current database of customers, which we already have several from UAE in our database. 10 telephone calls and conversations could be all the market research we would need.
Now, alternatively, let’s review another country in the list.
CIA.gov says Turkey is in between the Black Sea and Mediterranean Sea, sharing a border with many countries.
CIA.gov reports that the population is about 83 million (2022), with Turkish being the primary language. The GDP is about $2.4 trillion (2020), and the real GDP per capita is about $28,000.
From a fast secondary search, it looks like there are at most about 9,000 professionals in this niche we serve.
While we do not like the lower income levels, we do like that Turkey is a much larger country than UAE and should offer many more opportunities, comparatively. It does surprise me to find about 50% of the number of people in my target market in Turkey that has almost 10x the population. This is a red flag for my niche and needs more research.
We do not have any customers in the database from Turkey, so finding reliable demographic information would be much harder to find. Plus, I don't speak Turkish, so that would be a little more timely in order to start building a reliable network.
Looks like we will go deeper into our UAE research for our plan of market expansion through international marketing.
If we do decide to take this route we will certainly let you know and keep you posted.
I hope you found this helpful and look forward to hearing about your international marketing journey!
For more information about the wonderful opportunities of building your international marketing strategy go here for many helpful articles:
International Marketing Strategies