Whilst B2B marketing in itself can be an intricate and unique business activity, executing this process on an international scale brings with it a number of considerations and variables.
Historically, international expansion has been a challenging process. Amongst a number of reasons, unsuccessful global growth is often a result of a poorly developed strategy – regarding both B2C and B2B, business leaders move into international markets with unfounded assumptions and ill-fitting, standardised tactics that fail to communicate with a more varied population.
Regardless of whether this is based on the notion that this standardised approach has been refined for an international audience, or is the result of a lack of appreciation of how cultures and populations can differ, it implies a need for a more intricate and in-depth international B2B marketing approach.
Understanding the Factors of Differentiation Within an International Market
The most important aspect of developing an international B2B marketing strategy is understanding the audience to which you are marketing. Success will depend on how well you understand the culture and local nuances of your target market – this is what will allow you to implement a localised strategy, rather than one that is based on nothing more than a translation of the same message.
Differences in foreign culture should impact everything from the way you approach potential customers, to the product you are selling – customs regarding communication, business conduct, local competition and the way technology is used are all examples of why your marketing strategy might require revision.
In developing a genuine understanding of the international market, whether you are doing so in order to determine where you want to market to or already have pre-determined target markets, a strong approach will consider primary and secondary research. Whilst failed global expansion efforts will often be based on assumptions and stereotypes, successful ones will ensure that decisions are based on in-depth research that is backed by first hand knowledge and experience.
In particular, an area of focus should be international laws – from one country to the next, the laws regarding B2B and marketing will differ in how they dictate the way a business operates. An example of this can be seen in the legal services provided by law experts such as the New Zealand lawyers at LegalVision, as opposed to an equivalent example in the US.
The Right Approach to Strategy Implementation
Following the development of an understanding of the relevant international markets (and their relative positions), minimising risk within your B2B expansion process will require you to employ the proper implementation strategy. This will be dictated largely by the understanding you have of the target market, however there are a number of considerations to make within and beyond this understanding.
Whilst there are too many to list (pricing, branding, usability, viability of position within the market), an aspect of the expansion process that is often overlooked is in terms of marketing channels. This is due to the aforementioned differences in international use of technology. Whilst online channels boast high conversion rates in some areas of the world, oversaturation or even a lack of tech adoption in other countries, or even just different viewpoints surrounding digital advertising can impact the effectiveness they have. Similarly, offline channels may be more prominent and widely used in specific countries.
Following the creation of a plan that is built upon a comprehensive understanding of the target markets, consider how you can maximise its success. A pre-established presence in the target country and market is an effective approach to take – whether this means building relationships with potential customers and stakeholders in new countries, or otherwise demonstrating that you are invested in these countries. Establish a strong web presence, create local content, ahead of time. This will ensure that you have credibility, are familiar to potential customers, and are serious in achieving your business goals and providing genuine value to them.
Developing Appropriate Expectations and Implementing a Control Plan
Successful implementation of an international B2B marketing plan will require you to have appropriate expectations, and to consider the implications of these expectations. Particularly, this is in regard to understanding the structure and timeline of your product growth plan within particular markets, as well as implementing a control plan that keeps you on track. This will ensure that you have a clear understanding of when you are on track, and to remain on track
Finally, be sure to have realistic (or even conservative) goals regarding sales and ROI (and an appropriate approach to achieving them) – a measured and patient approach that doesn’t rely on domestic success will ensure that you reach your goals in the mid-term, rather than striking out fast and early.
Ultimately, successfully minimising the risks in approaching B2B marketing within an international market will require patience, early implementation, a strong understanding of the relevant target audiences, and an appropriate approach to each.
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