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SMEs seeking to venture into new territories overseas, may find their first steps daunting. With due diligence and concerted business planning, it needn’t be so. Imperative factors to consider include:

  • Assessment of company’s readiness for overseas expansion
  • Clarify funding structure and operating model
  • Analyse capabilities gap and build capabilities to bridge the lack
  • Accelerate acquisition of relevant knowledge to manage expansion risks

Since great ideas don’t market themselves, digital marketing is not only necessary but can also serve as a prelude to your overseas venture – without having to be physically there. Digital analytics can be leveraged upon, to do a pre-assessment on your brand’s target demographic needs. This is not to say that we can oversimplify the complexity of it all, but incorporating digital marketing to your business can certainly value-add.

Let us illustrate how:

  1. Insights on Consumers Behaviour

Buying preferences and habits in one culture does not translate universally. In a case study for Walmart, the mistake made in choosing locations for China that were near Industrial Parks proved to be detrimental. Consumers preferred shopping closer to home instead of work. Insights derived from demographics can help you understand local purchasing behaviours and average consumer expenditure. Your company may need to expand into offering new products based on regional market demands, such as the famous KitKat Green Tea Matcha, where a traditional drink made from powdered green tea that has been enjoyed for centuries in Japan, combined with smooth white chocolate.

  1. Enable Market Analysis from Multiple Perspectives

Market research through digital campaigns can help a company understand a particular country or region’s norms and trends, on a deeper level. Businesses can custom reports to analyse gaps and other blind spots that may exist between the company’s products or services and local needs. Digital analysis is also effective in measuring return on investment. Rely on available and reliable digital reports such as by We Are Social or you can can engage a market research agencies to obtain specific data required.  By looking at the statistical data (such as the number of consumers owning smartphones or having internet access), businesses can figure out what kind of infrastructure is in place. There are many emerging markets where a company could possibly thrive, but are digital dead zones.

Global Digital Report_We Are Social

Global Digital Report_We Are Social

  1. Go Local – Understanding Language and Cultural Nuances

Marketing is more than translating words and phrases – it’s about bringing local flavour and meaning to your pitch. Brands and companies entering a new market may think they are being culturally sensitive or aware of how consumers may view their products, but you can’t really beat hearing it straight from customer’s mouth. Discover vital insights within the billions of conversations happening online every day through social media monitoring tools such Brandwatch. Through digital analytics, you can get first dips by analysing consumers engagement on social media platforms. Companies can cheaply test concepts, improve them based on feedback and scale launches in local, native languages. The local social media channels that you can use includes; WeChat, Kakao, Weibo among those international ones; Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram.

  1. Translation Matters

There are 3.1 billion global internet users. Two-thirds are non-native English speakers. A consumer survey shows a staggering 90% of Japanese consumers, 79.5% of Germans and 82.5% of Italians prefer to shop online in their native languages. While its easy to install a Google Translate plugin on your website, machine translations are not always accurate. The software literally translates (word for word) the text which often results in grammatically incorrect, if not completely incoherent, text. Remembering that your website is the public portal to your organization; what you’re really saying with a sloppy or erroneous translation is that you don’t care much about your clients who speak those languages.  A better approach would be to ensure that the public image your organization is portraying to your foreign target audience is just as flawless as your corporate image in your home country. You would want to connect with your audience who speaks other languages and to build trust and confidence in your company.   Do it right and invest into a professional custom translation of your website content. It will open up to new markets. In other news – a product name in one language may translate into an embarassing misstep in another. French cheese brand Kiri, changed its name to Kibi because the former means ‘rotten’ in Farsi.

  1. Brand Positioning

Good brand positioning includes truly understanding your competition and evaluating your competitive advantage locally. Who are the providers of similar products and services in the country that you’re venturing into? It is imperative to understand how people shop and how your brand will fit into that mix. Successful global businesses do everything necessary to retain customers and keep them happy. Leverage on content marketing (scaled to local flavours and lingo) to create brand awareness through blog posts, e-books, whitepapers and infographics. With valuable content, you can also increase SEO and optimize your company’s website to rank higher in search engine result pages – increasing the amount of organic leads.

As we’ve iterated, venturing into new markets is not an easy feat. Other factors or possible challenges, companies need to consider include finding the right local partner, recruit the right local hires and build capability for future expansion, having sufficient financial resources and the ability to navigate in a foreign environment where regulatory compliance, business practices and cultures are different from your home country.

All the best in your future endeavours!

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