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International Marketing 101: Guide to Global Marketing

Did you know that the first-ever successful airplane was invented on Dec 17, 1903, by the Wright Brothers? Before this amazing feat, traveling or conducting business transactions between countries was difficult. Business transactions were mostly done locally so there was no need for international marketing. 

Thanks to the advancement in technology, business can be conducted among two parties in different parts of the world. Advances in technology, communication, transportation, and massive improvement in financial institutions has made it possible for business to be conducted on a global scale. 

To meet up with the demands of running a business on a global scale, it is important that business owners learn about international marketing. 

In this guide, this is what we would be looking at:

  • Definition of international marketing
  • Who employs international marketing?
  • How to enter the international market
  • Who are the target customers for international marketing?
  • How to develop an international marketing plan
  • 5 examples of international marketing mistakes
  • Factors to consider for international marketing 

Definition of international marketing

According to Wikipedia, international marketing is “marketing on a worldwide scale reconciling or taking commercial advantage of global operational differences, similarities, and opportunities in order to meet global objectives.”

The American Marketing Association defines the term as a “multinational process of planning and executing the conception, pricing, promotion and distribution of ideas, goods, and services to create exchanges that satisfy individual and organizational objectives.”

To put it in simple terms, international marketing is the adaptation of marketing strategies in such a way that it meets the demands of people in need of your product or service across all borders. 

The term is sometimes called Global marketing. It involves customizing your marketing p’s (product, place, price, promotion) to meet the preference of people from different nations and cultures.

The decision to go international is a very significant one that every business would have to undergo at one stage or another. Making the right decision can either cause a business to grow or shut down. 

Depending on your business goals, you can either choose to go international or continue to run your business locally. 

Here are some of the factors that you might want to review if you are considering going global:

  • Untapped global market
  • The profit opportunities in the international market is more significant than the domestic market
  • Increased economies of scale
  • Significant market share
  • Extended life of product or service

Who employs international marketing?

Technological advancements have made it possible for just about anyone to market internationally. The geographical and cultural barriers that plagued business in the 1800’s no longer exist. 

Anyone with the desire to market globally can do so. Even businesses that do not have any physical location can run their business online and market to anywhere in the world. All you need to achieve success is a strong business plan, marketing strategy, and a foolproof system for lead generation. 

Why most individuals fail at marketing at a global scale is because they fail to do any research beforehand.

For example, a business that deals with exporting and selling goods should do an in-depth research on custom restrictions of the country they are exporting too. 

International marketing ; food restrictions to the uk

Source: tripsavvy

There are countries that do not allow certain food items, plants, or technology to be imported into their country. These are some of the many things you would need to look into.

Even with the restrictions, exporting to other countries can be very profitable especially when you are offering goods that cannot be easily found locally.

How to enter the international market

The image below shows the major ways you can use to enter the international market.

ways to enter international marketing

Even though anybody can trade internationally, there are certain companies that perform better than others. 

Let’s dive into the factors in full.

What is exporting? 

Exporting in international trade is when a good or service produced in one country is purchased by someone in another country. The person who is doing the selling is called an exporter, while the individual doing the buying is called an importer.

One of the fastest ways that businesses can use in growing their potential market is through the use of exporting. Reports from Small Business Administration show that 96% of consumers live outside the U.S. and 67% of the world’s purchasing power is outside the U.S.

Exporting is a big part of international trade and plays a significant role in the bottom line of several businesses. In 2018 alone, the US exported $2.5 trillion worth of goods and services. 

U.S imports and export in 2018

Some of the biggest brands involved in exporting include Johnson & Johnson, Procter & Gamble, Intel, Pfizer, and Cisco System. 

What is a joint venture?

A joint venture is a business partnership where two or more parties decide to join their resources to achieve a business objective, project, or activity. 

There are two ways a joint venture partnership can occur:

  • The joint venture can create a separate business entity where both parties would contribute their resources towards and then decide how equity is managed and shared. 
  • In the second instance, both parties would retain their individuality. They would work under a joint venture agreement and determine how the joint venture shares are managed. A contract would also be signed that would determine how profits or losses would be managed. 

Why should you think about forming a joint venture?

  • To save money
  • To share expertise
  • To combine resources

Some notable joint ventures are:

MillebCoors: This is a partnership between SABMiller and Molson Coors brewing company. Their partnership has made them one of the largest beer distributors in the US and Puerto Rico. 

Another example is Ford and Toyota. In 2011, both carmakers entered a joint partnership to create hybrid cars. 

What is direct investment?

A foreign direct investment is an investment in the form of a controlling ownership in a business in one country by an entity based in another country.

In some cases, foreign direct investment would involve opening up new business operations in a foreign country. In another instance, it would involve acquiring assets of a business run in a foreign country. 

Foreign direct investment pros and cons

Source: thebalance

Majority of the time, direct investment does not involve purchasing a controlling interest in a foreign business. It can include factors like investing in organizational or management systems or technology. 

There are three kinds of foreign direct investments. They include:

Vertical direct investment

This is when an investor adds a new activity to an already existing business. For example, an auto-manufacturer opens up a car dealership or parts manufacturing operations in a foreign country.

Horizontal direct investment

This is when an investor establishes the same kind of business operation he already runs in a foreign country. For example, a fast-food chain opening up a new restaurant in a foreign country.

Conglomerate direct investment

This is when an investor opens an unrelated business operation in a foreign country to the one he runs in his own country. For example, an investment bank opening up an amusement park in a foreign country.

Global Web Strategy

The amount of internet users in recent years has grown exponentially. Currently, there are over 4.48 billion internet users. Businesses can use this to their advantage and develop a global web strategy. 

A global web strategy is a form of international marketing where business adapts their websites to provide specific web content and services that meet the needs of a potential foreign market. Majority of the time, this content is delivered in the local language. 

With the reach that businesses have through the internet, their main aim now should be improving the customer experience as much as possible. 

For example, a luxury fashion brand would create a website where customers can go to for detailed information about a product, generally written in their own language, before they make a purchase online. 

A good example is the Louis Vuitton luxury brand. When you go to the company website, this is where you are directed too.

International marketing louis vuitton

If you chose the Chinese store, you would then see a web page created specifically for the Chinese market.

Licensing and franchising

These are one of the easiest ways for a business to enter a foreign market. 

Licensing Definition: A business arrangement in which one company gives another company permission to manufacture its product for a specified amount of profits.

Franchising Definition: A relationship in which a business (franchisor) provides a licensed privilege to the other foreign businesses (franchisee) to do business. The franchisor offers assistance in organizing, training, merchandising, marketing and managing in return for a monetary consideration to the franchisee.

Licensing is one of the fastest ways to grow your business and participate in international trade. You can license trademarks, patents, intellectual property, copyrights, and designs to other businesses in return for a percentage of the revenue received from selling a product under your license.

For example, Calvin Klein earns about 90% of their yearly revenue from licensing. They allow underwear, jeans, and perfume manufacturers to use their brand name on products for a certain cut of the revenue. In reality, the only product the luxury brand offers are women apparel. 

Who are the target customers for international marketing?

The first step to creating the perfect marketing strategy is finding out who your target customers are. In the case of international marketing, any foreign citizen is a potential customer.

The key to successfully selling a product or service to a foreign market through thorough research. 

According to GetVoIP, ” You’ll need to perform a market segmentation analysis first, which will effectively break up the market’s audience into naturally-occurring or artificial segments. This is important because it will establish what steps your business needs to take to effectively sell your goods or services in a new area

The habits and preferences of customers in a foreign country might be different from what you are currently dealing with. You need to perform in-depth customer survey and market research of the foreign country you plan on marketing to. 

One thing to take into consideration when targeting a foreign market is their culture. Without proper research on the culture or beliefs of the country you are marketing to, you can create an ad campaign that might be offending to them. 

For example, dogs are seen as dirty animals in the middle east. If you create a commercial showing dogs as man’s best friend, your company might get into a lot of trouble with the locals.

How to develop an international marketing plan

Developing an international marketing plan can be difficult especially when you are a small or medium-sized business. 

To launch a successful campaign, you would need a considerable budget and an expert team.

The easiest way for smaller businesses to get started with an international campaign is by hiring marketers who have expert knowledge of the potential foreign market. A joint partnership between two or small businesses can also increase their chances of having a successful campaign.

The most important part of creating a marketing plan is conducting proper research. Research would educate you on how to go about targeting the new market and maximizing your ROI.

After you have chosen the market you want to target and have conducted proper research, the next step would be to develop your brand strategy.

For your campaign strategy to be successful, you need to make sure that it suits your target demographic. Things like cultural differences should be taken into consideration. You have to ensure that your ad campaigns are not offensive.

A good strategy to help you achieve a successful campaign is by partnering with companies in the market you are trying to target. When you partner with companies in your target market, it is easier for you to get recognized. 

The final step of the process is to perform a regular assessment of your marketing strategy. The results and feedback you get from your campaign should be checked regularly so you can understand the areas that are working and what areas need optimization. 

Tip: It is important that the sales team learn how to effectively manage their time to increase productivity. Read this article from Liveagent on effective time management tips.

5 examples of international marketing mistakes

Lack of proper research can cause you to make certain blunders that can affect your campaign negatively. Here are some of them:

Pepsodent: Pepsodent ran ad campaign for a toothpaste and their tagline was “whitens your teeth”. They need not put into consideration the fact that the locals chew betel nuts to blacken their teeth. They saw black teeth as a sign of attractiveness.

Electrolux: When marketing their vacuum machine in the US, the Scandinavian company did not do proper research on US colloquialism. Their ad tagline was ” Nothing Sucks Like An Electrolux”.

Fresca: In Mexico, a beverage maker marketed their soft drink with the name Fresca. It was later that they realized that Fresca was a slang term for lesbian in Mexico.

Pepsi:  For an ad campaign in Taiwan, Pepsi used the slogan “Come Alive With Pepsi”.  The slogan was translated as: “Pepsi brings your ancestors back from the dead” in Taiwanese.

Coors: While running a campaign for the Spanish market, Coors used the slogan “Turn It Loose.” It was translated into Spanish as “Suffer From Diarrhea.”

Factors to consider for international marketing 

Cultural Factors:

1. Language: 

When running an international campaign, language must be taken into consideration. Most specifically translation. When running an advertising campaign and there is a mistake in translation to the local language, it can prove catastrophic.

For example, when General Motors were trying to advertise their new vehicle called Nova in South America, they did not realize the translation of the word Nova in the local dialect means “it won’t go”. 

Another example was Coca Cola. When they wanted to push their product into the Chinese market, they did not realize that the translation of Coca Cola depending on the Chinese dialect was ” bite the wax tadpole” or ” female horse stuffed with wax”. 

Little mistakes like this can destroy an entire campaign and can cause serious financial loss. 

2. Taste:

The eating habits of a country can be a problem for food-related companies. For example, when McDonald’s was trying to get into the Indian Market, they encountered some difficulties because of religious laws. In India, beef consumption was off-limits. To get into the market, they had to overhaul the brand outlook. They started introducing vegetarian food choices that the locals were used to in their menu.

In Asia, one of their main staple pieces is rice. To break into the market, brands like McDonald’s, Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC), and Wendy offered side dishes of rice in their menus. 

3. Regional values:

When campaigning to a foreign country, you need to put into consideration that within a country there are several regions with their own values and culture. For example, Canada has a large French-speaking community in Montreal and Quebec. The culture in these two places is largely different from the English speaking communities around them. 

4. Consumer habits: 

Due to the different cultures, religions, and preferences in a particular country, 

consumer habits always changes from one region to another. 

When marketing to a country for the first time, you need to consider if the country has a free-thinking culture (individualistic thinking) or buyer’s decision is influenced by peer group (collective thinking). Other factors you should consider are societal factors, religious factors, and psychological factors. 

5. Age/demographics:

Companies have to pay close attention to the age and demographics of individuals they are targeting. This plays a vital role in the success of any international marketing campaign. For example, if your company sells high-performance laptops, you would not want to market to a country that has most of their citizens above 60, illiterate, or do not have access to the internet. 

To make the right marketing decisions, you have to ensure that the country you are marketing to is in need of your product or service. 

Economic Factors

6. Per capita income:

The per capita income of the potential country you are marketing to plays a huge role in determining if it is worth your while. For example, if the per capita income of individuals in a country is less than $1000/year, it would be difficult to sell a laptop that costs more than $1000 in this market. 

If you are selling high-end products, you have to ensure that the country you are marketing to has a high per capita income. 

Note that you don’t need everyone in the country to have a high per capita income. If at least 1-10% of the country can purchase your product comfortably, then you are good to go.

7. Supply and demand: 

To determine if a foreign market is the right place for you to sell your product, you need to look into supply and demand. If there is no demand or need for your product in a foreign market, it would be difficult to achieve success. You would need a very expensive or exceptional marketing campaign to convince the locals to purchase your product. 

8. Class structure:

You need to consider the class structure of a country when marketing a product internationally. These usually change widely from one country to another. The three main classes are upper, middle, and lower classes. And in each country, there is a huge difference in the numbers within these classes. 

For example, the US has a high proportion of people in the middle class. While a country like Nigeria has a lot of people in the lower class. If you are selling a product that is a bit expensive, you would want to market to a country with more people in the middle or upper classes. 

9. Financial transactions:

You need to put into consideration how you would get paid for your product or service. In more developed countries it is easier to get paid. Customers can make use of credit cards, debit cards, and other online payment processors to make cash transactions. In less developed countries, it is harder to make monetary transactions. When developing your marketing strategy, these are some of the things you need to take into consideration. 

Additional reading: Hosting a podcast show is a good way to reach an international market. These are the best podcast hosts to help you get started.

Political and legal factors

10. Laws:

The laws of a country can affect greatly how you run a business in a particular country. For example, in Thailand, they have a law that states that no foreign entity can own more than 49% of a business in Thailand. That means for you to run a business in Thailand, you would need to have a local partner.  Some important laws you should take into consideration are laws that determine how you can market or advertise a product. 

11. Taxes:

Taxes play a huge role in determining how much profit you get when selling in a foreign market. When engaging in international marketing, the taxes would determine how you would develop your marketing strategy. For example, in the US, there are high tax rates. This high tax rate can make it difficult for small or medium-sized businesses to market here.

12. Licensing and permits:

In some countries, the only way you can do business is by giving a company in that country a license or permit to sell your product or service. Some governments do this because they want a large percentage of the income received from sales to remain in the host country. For example, the only way Pepsi could market in the Netherland was by giving Heineken the license to bottle and sell Pepsi products. 

13. Fees:

Most times, before you can market to a foreign country, you would be required to pay certain fees. These fees might be a one time only payment or they might be recurring. Depending on the kind of items you are planning on selling, the fee prices also change. 

14. Tariffs:

Tariffs are a very important aspect of global marketing. Host countries put tariffs in place to protect the local companies in the country. They do not was the host companies to lose business to foreign competitors. For example, China placed a tariff of 105.4% on chickens imported from the USA. This would make the cost of chicken imported from the US to be more expensive than local chickens. This high tariff would push local citizens to purchase their domestic chickens instead. 

15. Currency:

Currency prices can cause a business to lose a lot of money in a matter of hours. You would not want your money to be tied up in a foreign country. For example, between September 24, 2012 – October 2, 2012, the Iranian Rial lost about 60% of its value. This caused significant loss for companies with businesses in Iran. 


Technology is opening up the world to new possibilities. The barriers that hindered international marketing are becoming smaller every day. Products and services can be effectively marketed from one country to another easily. To achieve success, you need to ensure that you have a solid campaign strategy. You can use the tips and strategies detailed in this article to get started. 

Which tips or strategies did you think I should have added that is not in this article? Leave your thoughts in the comment section. Let’s have a conversation!!

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