Is there really any difference between marketing domestically and internationally?


marketing internationally and domestically

marketing internationally and domestically

You’ve done the legwork and you’re ready to launch your business in a new international market. Now it’s time to get the word out!

To say that “preparing your business to expand into a new market is a lot of work” is an understatement. Now that you’ve done the hard part, it’s time to reap the rewards of your research & development through a marketing plan that will ensure your target market knows about your product or service.

At this stage, you may be wondering:

Do domestic and international markets really differ?

The answer to this question is both yes and no. The basic marketing principles employed in domestic and international marketing are the same. However, there are additional areas to consider when participating in international marketing.

Who are your customers and how can you reach them?

Although the principles of marketing remain the same, international marketing differs from domestic marketing. There are several reasons why this is the case, mostly because:

  • Getting and staying close to the customer is more difficult at long range; understanding customers from a different cultural environment with different cultural values is more difficult;
  • Surveying and understanding customers in a foreign market may be difficult or even impossible using methods normal for domestic markets;
  • Modifying or redesigning products to conform to foreign tastes and preferences could be costly;
  • Being perceived as foreign could be an added barrier that companies must overcome when marketing abroad;
  • Communicating (advertising, media, sales techniques) may be quite different in the target market;
  • Distributing goods over long distances poses an additional set of logistical challenges;
  • Providing certain features may simply not be cost effective at long distance;
  • Providing after-sales service may be more difficult; and
  • Monitoring customer satisfaction may require techniques that are different and more intricate.

Revise your strategy to reflect your market’s environment

All of these factors mean that international marketing is more complex than domestic marketing. It requires commitment, resources, a different kind of market research, and above all, a different set of strategies.

In accomplishing the international market objectives, the international marketer must also develop an understanding and appreciation of:

  • differences in industrial, economic and technological levels among countries and their varying standards, expectations, capabilities and skills;
  • cultural differences, such as languages, values and aesthetics;
  • political and legal differences;
  • differences in business practices; and
  • varying levels of competitive intensity.

Copy + Paste won’t work, even within segments of one market

Even within Canada, there is sufficient diversity to make it inappropriate to adopt a single, standard approach. Advertising programs that have been successful in English Canada may not work in Quebec. Marketers know that Quebec is different and that Quebecers have lifestyles and expectations that differ sharply from those of Albertans or British Columbians.

Such cultural distinctions are multiplied many times over once a company steps into the international arena. Conducting focused market research can identify these and other issues that impact doing business internationally.

This is not to suggest that a concept or strategy developed for the domestic market cannot be adapted to work elsewhere.

A good idea should be able to transcend borders, and there are numerous examples of successful global marketing strategies.

This is particularly important in an era of gradual reduction of barriers in international trade, emergence of global standards for a number of products, spread of international communication technology, and increasing global tastes and preferences in a number of consumer products such as clothing, footwear and convenience foods. These are possible because technology and globalization are, at least to some extent, homogenizing tastes and preferences.

In certain aspects of their lives, people are growing more alike in their wants and behaviours; for example, in clothes, technology, entertainment and even fast food. However, the language and cultural symbols used to express these wants continue to differ markedly. The international marketer is challenged to become a skilled communicator, capable of addressing both the global as well as the local nuances.

Few international marketing plans will be successful unless they are shaped by local people to reflect local realities and sensitivities. That is why companies seek the advice and counsel of advertising, marketing and communications professionals when attempting to penetrate foreign markets.

This content is an excerpt from the FITTskills International Marketing textbook. Enhance your knowledge and credibility with the leading international trade training and certification experts.

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About the author

Author: Pamela Hyatt

I am the Content Marketing Specialist for the Forum for International Trade Training (FITT). You can find some of my work on My background is in copywriting, journalism and social media. My passion lies in connecting people to the stories that are most important to them.

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