What Is International Marketing?
International marketing refers to the process of promoting and selling goods or services across national borders, around the world. Essential for brands that wish to expand their business globally and reach new markets, it involves identifying and understanding the cultural, economic, and political factors that affect consumer behavior and marketing strategies in different countries.
While the idea of expanding your business globally does indeed involve some growing pains, it’s worth the effort if you have a product or service that holds promise outside of your home country. In practical terms, expansion of this nature is very similar to domestic growth in terms of process — just on an incrementally larger scale (depending on your plans and ambition) accompanied by a new set of dynamics to take into account.
International marketing involves a range of activities, including market research, product development, branding, pricing, distribution, and advertising (ring any bells?). Above and beyond those familiar trappings, businesses must adapt their marketing strategies to meet the specific needs and preferences of consumers in different countries. So they have to develop a deep understanding of cultural differences, language barriers, legal requirements, and local business practices. Effective international marketing also involves building relationships with local partners, such as distributors, suppliers, and government agencies, to facilitate market entry and expansion.
In a nutshell, the key elements of international marketing include:
- Global market research: Internationally inclined businesses invest time and outlay to identify potential target markets, understand consumer behavior, and analyze the competitive landscape in different countries and regions.
- Product adaptation and standardization: Adapting products to meet local preferences and cultural norms is important for success in international markets. At the same time, standardizing products can help reduce costs and increase efficiency.
- Pricing: Brands develop pricing strategies that are competitive in local markets, while also maintaining profitability.
- Distribution channels: Developing effective distribution channels ensures that products reach consumers in different countries and regions.
- Promotion: Marketing campaigns should resonate with local consumers and are tailored to the cultural and social context of the target market.
- Language and cultural differences: Brands must understand the nuances of language and cultural differences in different countries and regions, and tailor their marketing messages and communication accordingly.
- Legal and regulatory compliance: Companies need to be aware of and comply with local laws and regulations related to marketing, advertising, and business practices in different countries and regions.
- Logistics and supply chain management: Effectively managing logistics and supply-chain awareness ensures products are delivered on time and in good condition to customers in different countries and regions.
Some Differences between Domestic and International Marketing
Domestic advertising refers to marketing efforts focused on a single country, while international advertising involves promoting products or services in multiple countries or regions. One of the key differences between these two types of advertising is the level of complexity involved. As we just pointed out, international advertising campaigns must consider factors such as language and cultural differences, legal and regulatory compliance, and logistics and supply chain management across multiple countries, which can make them more challenging to execute than domestic campaigns. Obviously, domestic marketing is fully independent of those considerations.
Another key difference between domestic and international advertising is the level of competition. Domestic markets are typically less competitive than international markets; in the global arena, brands must compete with a much larger pool of competitors. International advertising campaigns must be tailored to local preferences and cultural norms, and often require significant relative investment in market research and localization efforts. In contrast, domestic campaigns can be more straightforward to execute, with less need for customization or adaptation to local markets.
Types of International Marketing
In order to develop strategies that effectively reach global markets, it’s crucial to understand the different types of international marketing and their advantages and disadvantages.
- Export marketing involves selling products or services to customers in foreign markets. Export marketing may involve using agents, distributors, or online platforms to reach customers in different countries. Of course, businesses must comply with local laws and regulations related to exporting goods or services.
- Licensing is the practice of granting permission to foreign companies to use a business’s intellectual property, such as trademarks or patents, in exchange for a fee. Licensing can be a cost-effective way to enter new markets without significant investment.
- Joint ventures involve two or more companies forming a partnership to jointly develop, produce, and market products or services in a foreign market. Joint ventures can help companies share risks and costs associated with entering new markets.
- Direct investment: Direct investment — establishing a wholly-owned subsidiary or acquiring an existing company in a foreign market — enables brands to have more control over their operations and to better adapt to local market conditions.
- Franchising: With franchising, a business grants a license to a foreign company to use as their business model, brand, and systems in exchange for a fee. Want a cost-effective way to expand into new markets while maintaining control over your brand and business operations? Give franchising a go.
Why International Marketing Is Important
In today's intensely competitive globalized economy, businesses hoping to make a mark on the world stage must first and foremost be willing and able to adapt to changing market conditions and customer preferences. With that flexibility in play, international marketing can help brands expand their reach, increase profitability, and build a more resilient and sustainable business. Other key benefits include:
- Access to new markets: By expanding into new markets, businesses can access a larger pool of potential customers, which can help drive growth and increase revenue.
- Increased brand awareness: International marketing can help companies increase brand awareness and recognition in new markets, which can help build a global reputation and increase customer loyalty.
- Economies of scale: By producing goods or services in larger quantities, companies can achieve economies of scale, reducing costs and increasing profitability.
- Diversification of revenue streams: By diversifying their revenue streams, brands can reduce their dependence on a single market or product.
- Competitive advantage: International marketing can help companies gain a competitive advantage by accessing new technologies, processes, and resources that may not be available in their domestic market.
- Increased innovation: Exposing businesses to new ideas, practices, and perspectives from different countries and cultures inevitably fosters innovation.
- Enhanced customer insights: A deeper understanding of customer needs and preferences in different markets can help inform product development and marketing strategies.
Brands that successfully navigate international marketing can achieve significant benefits and gain a competitive edge in the global marketplace.
Current Trends in International Marketing
Many of the trends associated with international marketing mirror those of its domestic counterpart — the difference being that you’re operating in a much more diverse, variable environment. Some current and upcoming trends in international marketing include:
- Personalization: As consumers become more accustomed to personalized experiences, businesses are increasingly tailoring their marketing efforts to specific target audiences in different markets. This includes adapting messaging, branding, and product offerings to local customs and preferences.
- Digital transformation: The growth of e-commerce and digital technologies has transformed the way companies approach international marketing. Digital channels such as social media, email, and search engines are increasingly important for reaching international customers, with marketing strategies based on data analytics paving the way to successful outcomes.
- Sustainability: Consumers are increasingly demanding sustainable products and practices. Brands are responding by incorporating sustainability into their international marketing efforts, including highlighting environmentally friendly products and practices, as well as supporting social and environmental initiatives in local communities.
- Localization: Businesses are increasingly recognizing the importance of localizing their products and marketing efforts to different markets. Adapting product features, packaging, and branding to local tastes and preferences, as well as recruiting local influencers and ambassadors to promote products and services makes all the difference in the world…literally.
- Artificial Intelligence: AI technology continues to advance, and wrangling its power is proving to greatly impact international marketing efforts for the better. For example, AI-powered chatbots and virtual assistants can now provide customer support in different languages, and AI is being utilized to analyze data and substantiate marketing strategies.
- Augmented reality and virtual reality: AR and VR technologies are increasingly being used to offer immersive experiences to customers in different markets, which has the tendency to dramatically increase engagement and conversion..
Businesses that successfully navigate these trends will remain in the best position to build stronger connections with international customers, increase brand awareness and loyalty, and drive growth in new markets.
The Right Time for a Business to Expand Globally
Let’s be clear: Not every business is cut out for an international future. Multinational corporations, exporters, e-commerce businesses, tech startups, and travel and hospitality brands are clearly destined for that adventure. But it’s not an exclusive club. If you have a product or service that can be sold to a global audience, bolstered ideally with a strong brand identity, a competitive advantage, and the resources to support international expansion, you’re a viable candidate.
In case it’s not blazing clear at this point, growing a business globally is a complex and challenging process for any brand, regardless of size — and timing, as usual and to be expected, is pivotal. Some key considerations to help determine the right time for your business to go international:
- Market demand: Your business should have sufficient demand for its products or services in the target international market. Key assessments include analyzing market trends, consumer behavior, and local competition.
- Financial resources: Expanding globally requires significant financial support, including capital for investment, marketing, and operational expenses. A clear understanding of the costs involved and sufficient financial resources should be available to support your expansion.
- Competitive landscape: To compete effectively in your target international market, become familiar with and evaluate local competition, market conditions, and consumer preferences.
- Operational capacity: You should have the necessary operational capacity to support global expansion, including staff, technology, and supply-chain logistics, to guarantee that your business can effectively manage and operate in an international market.
- Legal and regulatory environment: Familiarize yourself and your business stakeholders with the legal and regulatory environment of your target international market, including laws related to intellectual property, trade, and tax regulations.
- Strategic objectives: Expanding globally should align with your business's strategic objectives, such as increasing revenue, diversifying the customer base, or leveraging new technologies.
Social Media and International Marketing
If your business is up to the challenge, embracing social media and the advertising benefits it offers is more essential than ever. A tight synergy with major social platforms enables you to address a global audience in a cost-effective and efficient manner. Social media marketing on an international scale also helps you:
- Reach a global audience: Big-league social media platforms like Snapchat have massive, multinational user bases that routinely rely on social interactions and influences to make purchase decisions. In fact, people on Snapchat say their friends are 4X more influential than celebrities or influencers on their purchasing decisions.¹
- Build brand awareness: Social media provides an opportunity for businesses to build their brand and increase brand awareness in international markets on a scale no other vehicle can touch.
- Engage with customers: Social platforms allow businesses to engage with their customers in personal and unique ways, to respond to their queries and feedback, and to build relationships with them.
- Generate leads and sales: Social media can be an effective tool for lead generation and sales by promoting products and services and directing users to a business’s website.
Shy on strategies to execute and optimize social media marketing on an international level? Try these on:
- Understand local cultures and customs: It's crucial to understand the cultural nuances and customs of your target audience to ensure that social media content is relevant and resonates with them.
- Create localized content: International target audiences respond very favorably to brands that approach them with localized content (and conversely, not so favorably to those that don’t), which results in increased engagement and conversions. So adapt your social media content to suit the language, culture, and preferences of your target audience.
- Use local influencers: Local influencers can help businesses reach a wider audience and build credibility in their target market. Establish relationships with influencers who are relevant to your target audience and align with the brand values.
- Choose the right social media platforms: Different social media platforms are popular in different countries and regions. Do the research to determine the platforms that are most relevant to your target audience and align with your brand strategy.
- Monitor and analyze performance: Keep a close eye on your campaign metrics to determine their effectiveness and identify opportunities for optimization.
International Marketing with Snapchat
With our globally diverse, deeply engaged community always at the ready, Snapchat excels in international marketing. Here are five really good reasons why:
- High engagement: Snapchat has some of the highest engagement rates in the industry and world, with users spending an average of 30 minutes per day on the platform²— providing a rich opportunity for you to engage with your target audience and build brand awareness.
- Younger audiences: Snapchat's user base is younger, with 81.7% of members under the age of 34.³ If you want to reach the younger generations, this is the place to do it.
- Geotags and filters: Snapchat offers geotags and filters that can be customized for specific locations, events, and audiences, giving your business the opportunity to target specific markets and promote your brand in a more personalized way.
- Creative content: Snapchat's ephemeral nature encourages creative content that is visually appealing and engaging. You can take advantage of this facet to showcase your products or services in a more creative way and capture the attention of your target audience.
- Cost-effectiveness: Our advertising options are famously cost-effective compared to other social media platforms. So you can still make plenty of waves even if you’re on a limited marketing budget.