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Five steps to marketing a product abroad

E-commerce and social media have made marketing a product abroad easier and cheaper than ever before, with exciting growth opportunities for businesses of all sizes. But where do you begin? We’ve put together a quick-fire checklist to help you build a strategy for marketing your product overseas.

1. Develop your strategy

Developing and documenting a clear strategy, including your goals and objectives, is your starting point. It begins with market research and, where possible, should involve your overseas distributors, agents, resellers or joint-venture partners.

Carry out in-depth market research

Market research is key to successfully launching a product overseas. It may be tempting to assume that your original research will suffice, but your target market will have different competitors, perceptions, values etc.). You can enlist the help of a market-research agency in the target country or attempt to do it yourself. If you’re on a tight budget, an inexpensive way to test the water may be to attend international trade shows and exhibitions. Gather as much info on the following as you can:

  • Customers and their needs and expectations
  • Competitors and what they offer
  • What regulations you need to comply with
  • What transport and logistics solutions are in place
  • What payment methods are available and trusted by your customers

Remember to share not only your strategy, but also your goals and objectives with your overseas partners.

2. Choose your sales channels

Whatever products or services you are launching overseas, you have a number of options to choose from in terms of sales channel.

  • Direct from  your website (localised into your target langauge)
  • From  a local office or branch – this will require significant invesmtent but will give you more control over your processes, marketing, customer service etc.
  • Through a local distributor – a distributor usually buys your products to sell them on to the end customer. This can be the fastest way to a new market but you lose some control over marketing, customer service etc.
  • Through an agent – this can be a low-cost way to market your product abroad (you pay them a sales commission) but you are responsible for marketing.
  • Joint-venture/licensing arrangement  – this is where a local business markets and sells your product. They may even have your product manufactured locally. Choosing the right partner and coming up with a watertight agreement is key here and can be time-consuming. However, you share the risk with your joint-venture partner and have a degree of control over marketing, customer service etc.

3. Establish and manage overseas business relationships

Establishing and maintaining the right business relationships depends first on setting clear expectations and having these documented in formal agreements.

  • Put in place clear agreements with business agents, distributors, joint-venture partners etc. (covering the agreed sales channels, customer service standards, remuneration, territory and other restrictions such as exclusivity etc.).
  • Ensure that both parties agree on how long your business relationship will last, and how it can be terminated. Some countries and regions impose significant penalties on anyone terminating a contract early.
  • Get legal advice on key issues (intellectual property, compensation etc.) and draw up a written contract.
  • Maintain regular contact with your partners on the phone or even face to face. Remember to discuss any relevant developments, market conditions, competitor activity, customer feedback etc.
  • This is also a good opportunity to monitor and discuss their performance, solve any problems and answer any questions they may have for you.

4. Market and sell internationally

  • If you’ve already done your market research, you’ll have a good understanding of your customers, their buying habits, cultural preferences, how they perceive your product, values and so on.
  • Check local product requirements, which may be very differerent.
  • Make sure you know how people do business in your target market, down to the smallest detail. Germans, for example, pride themselves on being well-organised and punctual.
  • Consider the various different options for reaching your target audience. This may include specific trade missions or exhibitions.
  • Find out which media channels will be the most effective in your target locale and focus on just one or two. Don’t try to spread yourself too thinly.
  • Remember to take into account local advertising standards and laws.

Tailor your message

The most important element here is to tailor your message because local customers are likely to perceive your product differently. For example, the Made-in-Britain factor may be a real asset when marketing a product abroad. A good international copywriting or translation agency will help you create, localise or transcreate your message to have maximum impact.

5. Provide excellent customer service to overseas clients

At every level of your business, you need to to bring down barriers and make it easy for people to buy from you. This is especially true when marketing a product abroad. Here are just a few pointers:

  • Adjust goals to meet local customer expectations
  • Monitor stock and anticipate demand
  • If you use intermediaries to sell your products, decide if you want to maintain direct contact with your customers
  • Where possible, have customer service agents in the local market – people that know not only the local language, but also the local customs
  • Plan how you will deal with problems in advance (delays, faulty products etc.).

Regular visits to your agents, partners, distributors or even customers will help you maintain high customer service standards, and will also help to assess the market.

Further support and resources:

The British Chamber of Commerce (BCC) has an international trade hub to support British global trade

Your local Chamber of Commerce may also be able to help.

Find your local international trade advisor here.

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