Top 5 international marketing tips straight from the experts


4 people talking to each other through hand drawn megaphones

4 people talking to each other through hand drawn megaphones

Chances are if you’re in business, you need marketing. And we all know that marketing is all about planning and communication. This is a challenge for best of us, in markets where we share a culture and a language.

But when we take our products and services on the road to international destinations, suddenly we need to market effectively to people whose social behaviour, norms, language and experiences differ greatly from those we are accustomed to communicating with.

There have been countless, often amusing, examples of companies getting international marketing very, very wrong. Many of the major international brands have taken major wrong turns in their international marketing campaigns, including MacDonald’s, Coors, eBay, Best Buy, HSBC, Coca Cola and KFC, to name but a few.

We’ve gathered 5 tips straight from the experts to help you avoid the pitfalls and set your company up for success in the transition from domestic to international markets.

1. Revise your strategy to reflect your market’s environment

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 the FITTskills International Sales and Marketing course, one of the first things you’ll learn is how to approach global markets differently than international markets, and what that means for your overall marketing strategy.

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.

2. Create an excellent first impression

Ennio Vita-Finzi, CITP, is an expert when it comes to international sales and marketing. Over his decades long career he has had the chance to hone his skills and test his knowledge as a trade commissioner, NAFTA negotiator and consultant. Now, he teaches international business courses in college classrooms and on stage at major events. Ennio stresses the importance of establishing trust early on with your new client base.

Research shows that trustworthiness is established in the first 8 seconds of a meeting.

“In that short time, the potential client makes a subconscious decision: they will either listen politely and then dismiss the proposal, or trust what they have seen in those first seconds. What they feel and hear in those few seconds will be the basis of a future relationship with the consultant.

So how can consultants make sure they create an excellent first impression to potential clients? Work backwards to understand how to first attract a client’s attention. We all know that a product is used, impersonal and tangible, but a service is experienced, personal and intangible.

So what does it take to sell and get acceptance for an intangible concept in a foreign market?

Ultimately, you need to create an image in a foreign contact’s mind that will appeal to them and lead to being hired to provide that intangible service. Explaining the first step to selling an intangible idea internationally comes down to how that relationship is built. In the world of relationship-based sales, there is an adage that says one must seduce first and sell afterwards.

You can’t sell until you persuade, you can’t persuade someone until you have their interest, and you can’t have someone’s interest until you’ve attracted their attention. With so much riding on catching attention early on, the initial visual image is vital to the success of the steps that follow.”

3. Invest in relevant content

The business world started hearing about content marketing a few years back. International marketing experts like Kathrin Bussmann have since mastered how to take this marketing strategy and develop it for international audiences.

Be prepared to connect with them on their terms: use their preferred digital channels and communicate in their native language.

“Yes, this means investing in the translation and localization of your content. You may even consider transcreation, which is the creation of entirely new content for a particular region.

Chances are, your business is already producing content of some sort. Whether it’s blog posts, a podcast, YouTube videos or image galleries, ideally, the format you’ve chosen reflects your audience’s content preferences. From that main platform, you can then share your content strategically via digital channels: email, social networks, messaging apps, etc.

Done well, content marketing can be the most effective way for your business to find, convert and retain customers. In turn, global content marketing can grow your business to the next level – as long as you understand the importance of adapting your content for each regional market.”

4. Ensure your messaging and ideas translate accurately

Sandra Cravero is a certified literary, scientific and technical translator specializing in Spanish language services. She knows better than anyone how translating ideas is about more than just text. Here are her tips for accurately transferring your marketing and branding ideas to a new international audience.

If international businesses want to avoid intercultural blunders overseas, their marketing teams should work together with translators.

As transcreators the two disciplines should compromise and meet in the middle, in pursuit of the same goal – that is meeting the client’s expectations.

The backbone of the idea behind the message should elicit certain emotions from, and resonate with, the target audience. It may contain visual, verbal or non-verbal, auditory, olfactory, tactile elements, requiring skills beyond simple translation, focused on results and benefits to persuade consumers to change their perception about a product or service.

For the purpose of transcreating these elements, expert translators will take the key elements of an idea and creatively adapt them across media, whether printed or digital. You may find especially useful Rachel Weissbrod’s article ‘From Translation to Transfer’ to understand how transcreation works its way from the literary field into the film-making and computer games, among other media.”

5. Your marketing framework needs to be both sustainable and scalable

Becky DeStigter, FIBP|CITP, is an international business consultant who has made a career out helping B2B companies become more globally competitive. Her apt advice below drives home how important it is to have a clear, cohesive marketing framework that can grow with your company.

“Recently I was analyzing an international software company’s marketing program. The company had been steadily growing and entering new international markets.

But when I examined its marketing program, it was clear the company’s marketing tactics, programs, partners, etc. were inconsistent. In some places, the local distributor or sales office had marketing responsibilities, while in others the responsibility rested with the headquarters’ marketing department.

There was lots of confusion about who should be doing what, and lots of wasted resources. It was very disjointed and hard for marketing staff to manage, not to mention inefficient and far from optimized.

It’s like adding rooms onto a house every time there’s a new family member instead of working from a master plan.

Your marketing framework needs to be both sustainable – a program your current and future resources can maintain AND scalable – a program that still works as you continue to expand in new and current markets. Without a framework, the marketing house eventually crumbles… along with the company. What this company needs is a framework for their international marketing that can grow with them in both new and existing markets.”

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the contributing author, and do not necessarily reflect those of the Forum for International Trade Training.

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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