International marketing: what is it and why make a plan?

In this article you will find

What is international marketing and what differentiates it from classic marketing activities that companies carry out in local markets?

Around the concept of international marketing there is a lot of confusion and much theory that is of little use to companies.

Recently, the term international marketing has been joined by the term international web marketing, the latter born on the wave of the digital world that now pervades our society and our companies.

In this article, we will take a concrete look at what international marketing is and how to adopt a winning international web marketing strategy.

What is international marketing?

This is how international marketing is commonly defined today:

The term international marketing refers to all activities set up by a company with the aim of entering, growing or repositioning itself in a foreign market. The ultimate goal is the growth of the company’s profits.

Marketing and the internationalisation of companies are therefore today two concepts that are profoundly linked, also and above all due to the advent of international web marketing.

We can therefore say that international web marketing is the set of digital activities implemented by a business that intends to develop foreign markets.

Going into detail, some of the currently most effective digital tools and techniques in an international web marketing plan are the following:

    • SEO in language and focused on long-tail searches.
    • Copywriting in language to create meaningful articles.
    • Direct e-commerce or via relevant marketplaces if you want to sell abroad online directly.
    • Paid advertising campaigns (in the local language and geo-localised) on relevant search engines (e.g. Bing for the USA, Yandex for Russia, Baidu for China and of course Google for most EU and non-EU countries).
    • Paid advertising campaigns (in the local language and geolocalised) on social media popular in the country of reference (Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, TikTok etc.). Attention! Some countries use different social media than the most popular ones on an international scale.
      Organic and B2B activity on Linkedin or similar platforms in the target country.
    • Mailing lists and newsletters in the local language.
    • Network of foreign brand ambassadors.
    • Network of foreign Influencers.
    • In-language storytelling with user generated content.
    • Technical or co-marketing partnerships.

Differences between international marketing and national marketing

International marketing differs from domestic marketing in that the strategies and actions undertaken must be strongly related to the specificities of the target market (customs, purchasing habits, psychological barriers to entry, stereotypes, terminology and much, much more).

Thinking of implementing on the foreign market a marketing strategy similar to the one adopted on one’s own market often proves to be a strategic error that slows down or compromises the company’s foreign growth.

Therefore, before defining any marketing strategy for internationalisation, it is essential to be clear about the main characteristics of the target market and to identify foreign buyers and user personas.

If you do not know this information, our suggestion is to find it through the support of an SME internationalisation consultancy to a specialised company.

Why is it essential to have an international marketing plan?

The tools available today for implementing an international marketing plan are very numerous, especially if one includes digital tools for internationalisation.

However, it is important to emphasise that only some of these tools will prove suitable for achieving the sales target the company has set.

Precisely because the tools for internationalisation are numerous and rapidly evolving, it is necessary to draw up an international marketing plan that is able to identify and exploit the strategies and tools suitable for the specific foreign market.

Today, even small and medium-sized companies with ambitions to develop in foreign markets understand why it is essential to have a well-structured international marketing plan right from the start, optimising economic investment and performance.

Below we will look at some concrete examples that will show why having an international marketing plan helps to avoid mistakes that could have a negative impact on growth.

piano di marketing internazionale

Five concrete examples of international marketing plan issues

A marketing plan for commercial entry into international markets should never be blindly based on marketing already in use in the domestic market. Domestic marketing can certainly be a valid cue but copy – paste strategies should be avoided, we will now see why.

Here are some real-life examples that illustrate how the international marketing plan should be adapted to the target country.

1) The problem of names that work in one’s own country but sometimes not abroad.

As we know, each country is characterised by its own language.

At the level of branding and naming, it is therefore essential to pay attention to whether product names in the Italian language do not have different or negative meanings in the language of the foreign target market.

It seems an obvious consideration, but in reality, the case history of incorrect product names is very long and multinationals have often been the victims.

In addition to the simple ‘grammatical’ verification and the meaning of the term, it is useful to flank a verification linked to the spoken language (abbreviations, nicknames, idioms) to avoid the brand or product name being interpreted incorrectly.

2) The question of the rebate approach (30% + 10% + 5%) not applicable in North America.

Another relevant example is related to the understanding of prices and the perception of discounts on a specific foreign market and in a specific sector.

In Italy or Switzerland, the discounts that manufacturers apply to distributors are often built on a series of cumulative discounts that are calculated on the retail price. Although in the domestic market these dynamics have worked well for years, in the American and Canadian market it is preferable to work with MSRP (Manufacturer suggested retail price) and then directly with net prices to the distributor, avoiding the dynamics of cascading discounts.

The substance does not change, but unfortunately in the Canadian and US market, simplicity and immediacy of the message is often sought.

3) Do not take anything for granted in terms of product explanation when selling abroad.

On foreign markets, the simplicity of the message and its comprehensiveness pay off commercially. Too often companies, accustomed to selling their product for decades on the local market, overlook the importance of explaining in detail all the advantages and features of the product, taking nothing for granted.

In addition to this aspect, it is also useful to try to tell the product through the eyes of the user in the foreign target market. In this way, communication becomes targeted and one speaks with the same language as the interlocutor.

There are numerous cases in which companies have seen the revival on foreign markets of products that were obsolete or sold poorly on the local market.

4) B2C as B2B communication leverage: Plan B for international marketing.

When a company attempts to penetrate a saturated and established foreign market, it not infrequently faces great difficulties in approaching and convincing the classic B2B distribution network actor (foreign importer, multi-brand distributor, retailer, etc.). In this case, it can be very useful to adopt an international marketing plan based on an initial B2C strategy which then flows into an international B2B marketing strategy.

Leveraging the end consumer, where the conditions exist, is a strategy that is effective in foreign markets when the product being proposed has real added value, be it technical-functional or emotional.

In this specific case of working on the end consumer, in order to contain costs, international web marketing with all its digital tools will come into play.

A well-reasoned international web marketing plan based on Growth Hacking concepts for foreign markets will accelerate the learning curve of the foreign market and at the same time create at low cost the brand awareness necessary to activate classic distributors.

5) Brand repositioning opportunities in the new foreign market and related storytelling.

If the company or/and its product is not a leader in the domestic market, it may not be so in the foreign market. For various reasons, a specific product or brand may be a leader in one market and not in others. This often happens even to large international brands that, while dominating some markets, sometimes come to be unknown or have very small market shares in other foreign markets.

Even in this particular circumstance, it is imperative that the marketing plan for internationalisation is tailored to the specific market and objectives of that country, avoiding copy-paste internationalisation strategies.

This list could go on for a long time but we will stop here for now so as not to confuse the reader.

In summary, to approach and generate growth in foreign markets, the first step is to develop an international marketing plan designed on the specificity of the foreign reference market, questioning the status quo and listening to the new market, trying to understand its peculiarities, especially those related to one’s own market niche.

Contact us to understand how we can together develop an international marketing plan aimed at growing your company in foreign markets.


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