Q: Our product has a distinctive American theme; however, we are getting some attention and requests from the United Kingdom and Australia. Can you please share some marketing dos and don’ts for international audiences?
A: The global marketplace is changing rapidly, especially because of digitization. Even the smallest of companies can serve customers halfway around the world thanks not only to the internet, but also to the growth in mobile phone penetration.
One major implication is how you define your target market. Instead of segmenting by country, age, income, etc., in a digital world, you can define your target based on attitudes and behaviors, which are often more relevant. For example, expats living abroad might be a great target for an American-themed product, or perhaps for foreigners who have studied or lived in the U.S. and maintain a strong, positive affiliation.
Reaching your target audience often requires a combination of online display ads and search engine marketing. Display ads allow you to push your message to exactly the right audience, while leveraging search engines helps those who are seeking related information find your product.
Even if you can reach similar customers anywhere on the planet, you also need to understand the different contexts in which they live. Conduct a PEST analysis, which considers political, economic, societal and technological factors in various environments. Areas with a strong sense of nationalism, for example, may be harder for you to penetrate.
If your product or service is digital, transactions are practically instantaneous, allowing consumption to begin almost immediately. Otherwise, rapidly evolving logistics systems can deliver your product within a week, and often faster. That said, it is incumbent on you to understand and comply with different regulations related to global trade. If this is not your strong suit, consider working with someone local who has experience navigating those systems.
Finally, be aware that anti-American sentiment is more prevalent these days. You should develop a plan for how you will respond to any potential negative backlash to your product.
Lisa Abendroth is an associate professor of marketing at the University of St. Thomas Opus College of Business.