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Global Marketing 101 for Small Businesses

posted by Michael Epps Utley Michael Epps Utley
Global Marketing 101 for Small Businesses

Small businesses are going global. Conducting business online has made it possible for more and more companies to reach beyond borders and find new customers in different countries. This trend has left many owners of businesses both big and small with questions about extending marketing efforts worldwide.

This article answers common questions about global marketing for small businesses.

What Is Global Marketing?

Global marketing is how a business organizes, positions, and advertises its products and services in different parts of the world. Large companies have marketed themselves worldwide for decades by having operations, representatives, employees, and advertising agencies in many countries.

Through social media platforms, websites, online stores, and other digital tools, small businesses can now enjoy the benefits of global marketing while working exclusively in the United States.

Why Is Global Marketing Important?

Marketing all over the world is becoming essential because it:

  • Provides new streams of income

  • Enhances brand awareness and reputation

  • Supplies new knowledge about products and services that can make them better

  • And much more.

What Are the Benefits of Global Marketing?

Expanding your marketing to new markets around the world can benefit your business. It can:

  • Enhance the quality of your products or services. When you move into a new market, you see your offerings in a fresh light. A new perspective could help you improve them or add features or benefits that make them more attractive in new nations and at home.

  • Improve brand perception. Many consumers respect brands with a global presence and philosophy.

  • Increase business at lower costs. You may have tapped out your customer base in the U.S. Still, you can expand your pool of prospective buyers by going global for less than starting a new operation.

  • Reach a broader target audience. The internet, social media, and e-commerce platforms make it easier than ever for small local businesses to transform into larger global ones.

  • Top the competition. Compared to your strictly-local competitors, your company will seem more substantial when it goes global.

  • Build cross-border relationships. You never know what opportunities could present themselves when you connect with new people in new places. You may find partners, suppliers, or manufacturers you never would have before.

  • Limit risk. If economics, politics, or other issues negatively impact your business in one country, those factors may not exist in another. You diversify your stock portfolio, so why not do the same for your business?

Going global could be a smart way to take your small business to the next level.

What Challenges Do Businesses that Enter New International Markets Face?

Small businesses that move into international markets also face certain risks.

  • Your products or services may not be attractive in other nations. Even after careful research, you may find that certain aspects of your product or service offerings —or brand—aren’t appealing to new prospective consumers.

  • Potential financial risk. You will outlay money to market in a new country. While the investment won’t be as high as for starting a new business, you could lose money if your expansion doesn’t take off as intended.

  • Possible legal risk. The rules, regulations, and laws are different in other countries. Even the most diligent business owner could run afoul of them, putting the entire operation at risk.

Expanding to a new country could take your small business to the next level. However, it's important to know it also comes with risks.

What Is Global Marketing Strategy?

Your strategy is the overall plan for your small business to expand into new markets all over the globe. When moving into new places, a company must consider how it will approach all aspects of marketing in countries with different values, cultures, and languages.

For instance, if your U.S.-based company wants to sell products in China, you must figure out how to connect with people in that nation who are very different from Americans.

What Goes into an Effective Global Marketing Strategy?

Use this checklist to build a sound expansion strategy.

Develop a Brand and Image that Engages Consumers

  • If your business is well-established and thriving in the U.S., people in other countries will likely want to learn more.

Develop Personas

  • Create consumer profiles for the people in the new locations, including the issues they face your business can solve, their mindset, media preferences, demographics, education levels, and anything you need to know to market and sell to them.

Adjust Your Products and Services to Meet Local Needs

  • You may find that once you develop your personas, some of your products or services aren’t quite right for consumers in another country. Be brave and make an adjustment that meets local tastes and expectations. For instance, if you run a clothing company, you may be required to adjust your color palette to address local preferences.

  • Are your services or products in any way culturally offensive? If you’re not sure, hire an expert to make certain. It doesn’t make sense to spend marketing money in another country only to offend its citizens.

  • Does what you sell meet foreign government rules and regulations? Perhaps the only thing worse than offending foreign consumers is breaking local laws or not meeting regulations and getting fined for it or worse. Hire a lawyer with foreign small business expertise before you start selling things in a new market.

Review Your Brand and Its Assets

  • Is your business brand and trademark appropriate for the countries you’re entering? This is another area where it makes sense to hire a legal expert to ensure you’re getting everything right.

  • Ensure that everything from your company name to logo isn’t similar to that of another business in the country. If it is, consider adjusting to differentiate it and avoid getting sued.

  • Check that your key brand messages are translatable to another language and culture. It’s easy for a tagline that’s compelling in the United States to be confusing or insulting when translated to another language.

  • Leverage your personas to ensure promotions speak to the non-U.S. consumers you want to reach. Different people have different wants and needs. This is especially true for those who live in other nations.

Set Goals

  • Create goals, benchmarks, and KPIs for what you can expect to sell in a new country during the first three to five years. Make sure the goals are measurable and based on reasonable benchmarks.

Develop a Marketing Plan

  • Similar to what you do in the United States, develop a complete marketing plan tailored to your new locations. Include:
    • Tactics

    • Media

    • Spend

    • Key messages

    • Goals

Use the Right Channels

  • Twitter may be an excellent media option to drive sales in the United States. However, it may be almost irrelevant in a country you’re entering. Ensure you promote yourself on social media, blogs, publications, and other resources to the people you want to engage with. Some online research should help you figure this out quickly.

Personalize Promotions

  • Be mindful of language differences, cultural practices, and observances (i.e., holidays and events) when advertising a product or service to a new audience in a different location. Many large companies have harmed their reputations by promoting the wrong thing on the wrong day in a country outside the U.S. Don’t let it happen to you.

Monitor Results

  • The only way you’ll know whether your global marketing efforts are working is to monitor results across all channels and compare them to the benchmarks you set. You should do this far more often than for your U.S. activities. There are more unknowns in marketing globally, so it’s critical to stay on top of what’s happening.

  • Be bold: If something isn’t working out for you, change it. It doesn’t make sense to spend more money on failing foreign campaigns hoping to equal your U.S. results. Figure out what’s wrong and fix it before moving ahead.

Hire an In-Country Marketing Expert

  • If you feel unsure—or can’t figure out why something isn’t working—hire an expert who understands marketing in the country. You may be able to find someone through an online source like Upwork for a one-time consultation or to handle a portion of your marketing in that country.

Final Check: Is Your Global Marketing Campaign Ready for Prime Time?

Ask yourself the following questions as a final check before launching a global marketing effort.

  • Are your products or services sellable in your new market, or should they be changed depending on regional traditions, tastes, laws, and regulations?

  • Do you need to change your prices to be competitive in a new location?

  • Are you aligning your marketing and sales process with how foreign customers research, choose, and purchase products and services?

  • Is your company’s messaging understandable to people in your new markets? Might you alienate anyone because of language, culture, or value differences?

Marketing Your Small Business Internationally: The Bottom Line

Expanding a business into new countries isn’t easy. Sticking the landing takes a lot of planning, preparation, and research. However, it’s much more doable than ever thanks to digital marketing, social media, e-commerce, and other virtual innovations. Plus, modern shipping makes it easier than ever to transport things across most borders today.

Leverage the information in this article to determine whether marketing globally makes sense for your organization and the steps you need to take to get it right.

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