Avoid These 3 Common International Marketing Mistakes

Becky DeStigter | December 8, 2014 | Export Finance
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Avoid These 3 Common International Marketing Mistakes | Shipping SolutionsWhen I meet with new clients, I normally review their current international marketing and operations. Oftentimes I find the same core issues that hold companies back from reaching their potential.

Here is what I find:

1. Resource-Starved Marketing

I work with many technology companies eager to expand and increase shareholder value. These companies want to grow revenue, profits, staff headcount, etc. The resources that brought the company and its products into the market, namely research and development, need to make way for resources needed to expand sales and marketing.

How to Fix This Issue

I always recommend starting with the end in mind: your exit strategy. If you plan to take your company public next year, it’s a very different expansion approach than if you plan for your company to be acquired in 10 years.

Based on your plans, decide what your company needs to become by the time of the exit. Once you've done that, plan backwards from there in terms of what it will take to reach those goals. Marketing and sales normally gain resources from this approach because they directly impact the top line of the company’s Profit & Loss Statement.

2. International Expansion by Language

Among my fellow Americans, I often see international expansion that follows the English language—first Canada, then the UK, followed by Australia and New Zealand. This mirrors some cultural similarities too.

The business environments in this set of markets may feel more familiar and comfortable than countries with more cultural distance like China, Mozambique or Turkey. But it does not mean that this is the optimal sequence for market entry.

Markets should be chosen based on their overall potential to help your company reach its long-term goals. That said, I am not recommending bypassing any English-speaking country out of hand either. Canada in particular is a strong market for many American products and also is part of NAFTA.

How to Fix This Issue

Develop specific market selection criteria to help decide which markets truly optimize your market opportunities and generate the best long-term profits. For help with this evaluation, download the free eBook—Evaluating Export Markets: Assessing Country and Customer Risk.

3. Home Culture Comfort Instead of Developing Global Competency

It is easy to get wrapped up in the assumptions from your own business culture, particularly if most company employees are from the same geographic location. You can watch for two signs to know if this is an issue.

First, are there many communication misunderstandings between your staff and overseas clients and partners? Second, are international sales low with no apparent explanation? Both of these problems point toward a likely cross-cultural issue. If left unchecked, your entire international operation is at risk.

How to Fix This Issue

Build global competency as a company. This means looking for international experience in your new hires. It means troubleshooting existing cross-cultural issues with either globally competent company leaders or by bringing in a cross-cultural specialist from outside the company. And to best build global competency in company leadership and client-facing staff, bring in cross-cultural training. It can make a huge difference.

I hope you found these ideas useful. If you want to read more about this and other international business topics, please visit my website: The International Entrepreneur.

This article was first published in December 2014 and has been updated to include current information, links and formatting.

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