The first consideration in putting together a strategy to make your product attractive for the international market is to understand the best way to market the product to the target audience.
Generally, products are characterized by three different qualities: by their associated benefits, by the attributes noticeable on their external packages or from their presentation and by services associated with their consumption or use.
Can a product or service really be globally standardized?
Services destined for export must also suit the target market. It is likely that exported services will have to be adapted to local conditions.
Consulting engineers and architects will have to take local standards and norms into account, business service providers will have to adapt to local business culture, and trainers and educators may have to adopt different pedagogical techniques.
In addition, linguistic and cultural differences will affect all service providers, perhaps to a greater degree than product providers.
This does not mean that there are no global service providers. Airlines and couriers offer their services worldwide. Many consulting companies and law firms have offices in many different countries.
Even so, such companies have become successful because they have managed to offer an international service in a way that appeals to the unique sensibilities of each market.
When dealing with services, it is essential to know the distinguishing characteristics of services compared with physical products. Companies need to focus on the following service characteristics:
1. Intangibility: Buyers of services can benefit from them, but cannot claim ownership or see anything tangible in them. There could be tangible elements of services, such as food served by an airline on its route. However, these food services only provide a basis for customers’ perceptions about the airline and nothing more.
2. Perishability: The service provided may involve the provision of a perishable product. The value or quality of the service may be associated with the product it is providing and could therefore be subject to the same risks as the product itself.
3. Heterogeneity: Services are rarely the same for all customers, even if the same seller provides them.
4. Inseparability: Some services are so closely linked to a product, or to other services, that the purchaser cannot distinguish or separate one from the other.
Adapting your product or service could have a huge impact on the strategic marketing plan
The company’s strategic marketing plan outlines its capabilities and resources. It also details how these capabilities might change over a five- or ten-year period.
The plan identifies products that are expected to mature in the company’s principal markets and sets out the intention to introduce them into other markets as appropriate.
The plan also identifies new products that the company wants to introduce and provides an overall statement of how it intends to introduce them.
The company may not want to introduce these new products into its principal home market until it is ready to do so successfully.
It may prefer to launch a new product as a pilot in a test market to iron out any problem areas before it risks its reputation in the home market.
The approach is reminiscent of theatrical troupes that tested plays in smaller cities before bringing them to New York. Smaller markets are often selected because they have key characteristics in common with the main market and are therefore a useful testing ground.
A typical product may have a five- or ten-year life cycle. This could be much shorter for technology-intensive products and much longer for common consumer goods. Effective strategic market planning can extend the life cycle of a product by phasing its successive introduction into different markets.
This has the advantage of amortizing a company’s investment in development over a much larger sales volume, achieving economies of scale and balancing revenue streams and cash flow.
An effective strategic marketing plan will balance the costs of introducing the product into many markets with the economies of scale realized from producing for a larger number of buyers. Such a plan will help companies decide which products to introduce to which markets.
Once the strategic thinking is completed, the company must use the marketing plan to implement the ideas expressed in the strategic plan.
Should you standardize your product or adapt it for local markets?
A standardized product is one that is marketed in more than one country without any modifications. A standardized strategy is based on the belief that consumers share some common values, beliefs and consumption patterns.
A company’s choice between standardizing or modifying its product or service strategy depends on many considerations. These considerations include potential demand, the cost of modifications, the specific requests of buyers, the nature of the competition and the potential profit.
Standardized products or services are key components of a standard marketing mix. The advantages of standardization include the following:
- Economies of scale in production, stock control, sourcing of components, training and servicing
- Rapid recovery of investments made in developing the product or service
- Easier organizational, managerial and control procedures
The following are some of the disadvantages of standardization:
- Loss of marketing flexibility in foreign markets (an inability to match the product or service to specific local requirements)
- Discourages creativity and innovation, especially among local personnel
- Loss of personnel because of low incentives to innovate
Does standardizing or adapting your products or services best meet your company’s international marketing needs?