In my years of advising high-tech companies on ways to grow their brand through advanced marketing strategies, international expansion has always been something that most businesses find stressful, if not completely overwhelming. But experience has taught me that, with the right strategy, the process of expanding into international markets can be very successful. The key lies in not leaving anything up to chance, but for someone who has never worked on an international expansion before, it can be very easy to overlook critical details. I always strive to help businesses find the best marketing strategy to communicate with the world, whatever the market. The goal of this post is to help guide brands as they open their marketing up into new international markets.

The tips for sustainable growth for marketers expanding into international markets that I have found to be the most important can broadly be sorted into the following categories: pre-expansion market research, appealing to the chosen market, developing a team, and working smarter not harder.

Before international expansion: market research

  • Before you can expand your brand and marketing efforts into an international market, you have to choose what that market will be. A smart strategy is to focus on single-country markets at first, rather than markets defined by entire regions or languages.
  • With this strategy in mind, identify a few markets that already look promising based on previous data. If you have very little international data to work with, researching economic factors that are relevant to your industry can be helpful.
  • All else being equal, consider whether it would be possible to break into a smaller, easier market that could later help propel you into larger markets in the same region or language.
  • Research whether keywords relevant to your brand present opportunities in the markets you are interested in. Google AdWords keyword planner is a useful, free tool for this.

After choosing your market: appealing to that market

  • Part of appealing to your chosen international market is understanding how they differ from your domestic market. This can involve obvious factors like language and time zone differences, as well as often-overlooked factors like cultural norms. For example, if you will be launching an automated email marketing campaign, make sure they are scheduled to arrive during normal working hours, keeping in mind that meal times can vary widely from country to country.
  • Remove barriers by making things easier for your international consumers to understand. This extends well beyond translating content into their language, and also includes details like time and date formatting and default currency displays.
  • Understand what is relevant to people in your market using tools like Google Trends. Even if you are only writing in English at the moment, writing about trending issues in your international market can help you expand your readership there.
  • If you will be using a live chat feature on your website and have multilingual staff to assist your international customers, make sure your chat supports the target language.

Developing a growth-minded team for international expansion

  • If you have existing relationships with international partners or contractors, see if they can assist you with your international marketing. If not, you can start building these valuable relationships by reaching out to freelancers in your global market.
  • Prepare your core team to start thinking about the customer experience as a whole for your new international market.
  • Find a quality translator for your content. Using automatic translators will ultimately be counterproductive because search engines reach this content as low quality. If you will be communicating with consumers over the phone or by voice chat, you should also be prepared with an interpreter in the target language.
  • Set up local phone numbers for your international customers with a call rerouting service.

International expansion made easy: work smarter, not harder

  • You may already have content that is performing well in your international market, so make sure you maximize the value it can bring you by translating it into the target language and linking the different translations.
  • Clone your marketing campaigns, translate and adapt them to your international market instead of building new campaigns from the ground up.
  • Don’t neglect the basics of good on-page SEO. Make sure you are including your focus keywords in the right places, and create localized URLs for your content specifically for your international market.
  • Is co-marketing an option for you? Are there any companies that have already broken into your target market that would be interested in pooling resources with you towards a common goal?

The prospect of penetrating a new market in a country that you may be unfamiliar with can be daunting. But with a little guidance, a lot of research, and the right marketing strategy, international expansion doesn’t have to be a nerve-racking experience.

If you have any questions about adapting a marketing strategy to help your business grow in a new market, please feel free to contact me.

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Zack Alami - International Marketing Manager and Growth Hacker

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