In the past couple of decades, the increasing globalization and the penetration of new technologies have completely changed the way we do business. And the way we do Marketing. With these changes, companies are facing challenges that are completely different than what they used to be. Today, we will see the top International Marketing challenges in 2020, and how we can overcome them.
International Marketing challenges
According to Statista, in January 2020 the global digital population of active Internet users was the astonishing 4.5 billion:
This is more than 59% of the entire global population!
But of course, the penetration of the Internet and its increasing use in our daily lifestyle is not the whole picture. Today, we have emerging technologies such as Big Data, the Internet of Things, Cloud computing, and Artificial Intelligence.
In the meantime, companies like Google, Amazon and Facebook are fundamentally changing our society. On Amazon, you can order a product from the other corner of the world, and get it delivered in just a few days. The same distance that would take months just 100 years ago.
The point is, we have globalization and digitalization really changing things around. And, with this in mind, let’s see what are the new International Marketing challenges for businesses in the 21st century:
1. Increased competition
When we talk about competition, we are not talking about an increase in the number of competitors. Of course, this is also possible, but this is not the main issue.
The thing is, businesses that are operating fully or partially on the Internet have an easy access to new markets. This means that if a physical business can only operate locally, a digital one can access hundreds of new markets.
However, the access to new markets also means exposing yourself to more competitors. After all, if you are trying to reach the audience in a new country, you still have to “fight off” its local competitors. This translates to not only having specific local competition in each new country, but also more overall competition for your business.
Which, consequently, is something that not all companies have the resources to face successfully.
You can approach this issue in multiple ways.
First, the most obvious and reasonable approach is to expand gradually. If you are a small company with very limited resources, trying to access multiple new markets at the same time will probably end up in failure. Because you don’t have enough resources to penetrate them successfully while fighting off competition.
In this case, the best you can do is only select one new country to expand to. And then, once you’ve built a successful ground on it, you can move to the next one.
Second, you have the option to look for local partners to help you expand in each country. They already know the market and the audience, resulting in faster growth. However, this option might still require resources that many small businesses just don’t have.
2. Inefficient Campaign segmentation
Next on our list of International Marketing challenges is diluting the focus of your campaign segmentation.
You see, a lot of companies are trying to reach their potential customers with generic campaigns. They create a set of display ads or search ads, and hope that every user will be as equally attracted by them.
The problem, again, lies to a certain point with trying to reach a wide audience with the exact same approach. Which is almost never successful because people want to feel that your product was made for them, and their particular needs and desires.
The solution to this challenge is to get as specific as possible with your campaigns. Let’s say that you want to launch a campaign with a budget of 1200€ targeting 3 different countries. Instead of doing this, I highly recommend that you launch 3 small, separate campaigns with 400€ each, for each of these countries.
This way, even if you have smaller budget per campaign, you will be able to get more specific with both your segmentation and your creatives. Additionally, your budget will not dilute as much, and you will get more precise performance data to analyze later so you can optimize.
Let’s look at this banner ad from LinkedIn:
Instead of launching a generic campaign saying that they have over 560 million professionals on LinkedIn, they got much more specific. They created a separate campaign for India, stating exclusively the number of Indian professionals on LinkedIn.
This way, your audience will not only get more attracted by your ad, but will also feel that it was made exclusively for them. And will resonate much more with it.
Here is another ad example from Uber:
This creative gets even more specific by breaking the geographical point down to a single city. In this case, New York with its airpot John F Kennedy. This is even a better example for making your audience feel that your product or service is tailored to their particular needs.
3. Lack of resources
Undoubtedly. one of the biggest International Marketing challenges is the lack of resources to cover all markets. This is true not only when it comes to advertising budget, but also for human capacity. Even if you had enough budget for campaigns, you still need to have enough people to manage them.
But this is not the whole issue. If you are expanding digitally, you need to evaluate the distribution of your resources. Are you going to hire people within your own country to manage campaigns for foreign markets? Or try to hire people directly in the new market?
Of course, the solution to this challenge is not easy, and will definitely vary between businesses, markets, and products. Especially if the problem is a lack of Marketing budget.
There are a couple of approaches that you can undertake in this case:
- Expanding only one country or region at a time – this way, you will have enough time and control to look at each new market with enough attention. And decide what would be the best case for each country.
- Outsource your human resources – in some cases, it is better to outsource your human resources to companies in the foreign market. They already know your client better than you do, and will be able to make a better use of your budget.
Additionally, there are a lot of free Marketing tools to save you money if you are on a budget. You can learn more in my article 27 Must-have Free Marketing Tools for Small Businesses.
4. Brand awareness
Brand awareness is very important when it comes to International Marketing, and just Marketing in general. The challenge comes with the difficulty to achieve a good level of brand awareness on a global scale. The typical situation is that you have more brand awareness in your country of origin, but not so much outside of it.
Another issue comes with making Marketing campaigns for brand awareness. You see, the thing is that they are designed to make your brand more recognizable, but not for generating quick results such as bringing more leads or prospects.
So, if you are a small company that wants to increase brand awareness in new target markets, you will need a lot of budget. That you probably do not have. So, what can we do in this case?
Of course, this alternative solution is not a substitute for brand awareness campaigns. However, if you are struggling with the budget, it is a good option.
The best way to approach this is by building a good “digital word of mouth” strategy. And that is, by using content and social media:
- Create valuable content for your audience – including blog posts, ebooks, whitepapers, infographics, etc. Make sure that you provide value way beyond your product, and your audience will be delighted to share the word around.
- Build communities on social media – by sharing your content, but also by interacting with your audience. Respond to their comments, questions, feedback, and give a shout out to those who are the most active. And remember, do not try to be everywhere, choose the channels where you are most likely to find your ideal target audience.
Once you have started growing your community, you can make social media competitions for your followers. This is a great way to spread the word and increase your brand awareness.
5. Difference in performance data
Another issue when it comes to International Marketing online is how performance data varies by country. And more specifically, Costs per lead and Costs per click, among other metrics. These are the key metrics that advertisers use to measure how efficient their campaigns are in terms of return on investment.
The challenge is that, depending on the competition for your segmentation, some countries will have much higher CPL and CPC. Which, consequently, means that doing campaigns in certain countries will require much more budget for the same results compared to other countries.
Just how much Costs per Lead and Costs per Click you will have to pay in a certain country will depend on the segmentation. Depending on how you configure the target audience for you campaign, you might have more or less competition.
Countries like the United States and United Kingdom will almost always have a lot of competition, in practically any niche. When more competitors are trying to reach the same audience as you, you will all end up increasing your bids in intent to outbid each other.
For this reason, if you have a limited budget but want to reach multiple new markets, I highly recommend that you do your research on how much budget you will need for that. In that sense, some Campaign Managers are more helpful than others.
For example, LinkedIn’s bidding options allow you to see a range of how much advertisers are bidding for a specific country and segmentation. Before you even launch the campaign! Other advertising networks, such as Google, can also give you insights although not as easy.
The key for this challenge will be to find out the combination of countries and segmentation that will bring you the most results for less budget.
6. Engagement differs across markets
Our list of International Marketing challenges continues with engagement. When you are doing multiple campaigns to multiple countries, you will notice that their engagement with your campaigns differs.
This happens because:
- Some countries recognize your brand more easily than others;
- There is less overall competition for your product, so you look more interesting;
- You don’t know your audience well enough, so your campaign does not resonate with it.
We already discussed brand recognition, brand awareness, and competition. And offered some solutions on how to approach them.
However, a challenge we have not discussed yet is ensuring that both your segmentation and your creatives resonate with your target audience. If you are targeting the right audience with the wrong message, they will not respond to it.
And, if you are using the right message but targeting the wrong audience, practically the same will happen as well. Here are some steps you can take to move this in the right direction:
- First, start defining your target audience. A lot of companies think “my product would be great for everyone”, so they will try to reach everyone as well. This is not the right strategy. Try to be specific, and I highly suggest that you create your buyer persona/s beforehand. You can use this free tool from Hubspot.
- Now that you have your target audience, you will have to adapt your campaign and creatives. Try to think from the users’ perspective. If I were the target audience, would I get captivated by the ad? Does it offer me a solution to an existing issue I have? If the answer is no, you might have to do some modifications.
7. Language barriers
Next on our list of International Marketing challenges is the existence of language barriers. If you are trying to reach new markets, the chances are that they do not speak your native language.
In this case, you will have to decide if you should make your campaigns in English, or the native language of your foreign target market.
The solution to this challenge will depend entirely on your capacities to handle multiple languages. And of course, we are not talking only about the language of the campaign.
Let’s say that you are a US-based company that wants to reach Spain or Latin America with campaigns in Spanish. Of course, you could hire someone to translate the 2-3 phrases of your Google or LinkedIn campaigns. This is not going to be an issue.
However, what happens when the user goes past your campaign? If they saw your ad in Spanish but arrived to a landing page in English, the majority of your audience will leave. So, you will have to translate your landing pages in Spanish as well.
But even this is not all. Is your customer support capable of providing help in Spanish? Does the product itself support Spanish? As you can see, the issue goes much beyond just your campaign language.
Of course, a campaign in a person’s native language will almost always have higher engagement, but you must keep in mind all the implications and resources that come with it.
8. Compliance & GDPR issues
This challenge, although not directly related to the creation of Marketing campaigns, is definitely not to be underestimated. After all, it has a direct relation with the leads that you generate from your Marketing campaigns. And of course, the way you communicate with them afterwards.
When you open Marketing campaigns to new markets, make sure that you are in compliance with the local requirements. Of course, the majority of advertising networks are already compliant with the biggest international laws such as the GDPR for countries from the European Union.
However, what happens to the leads after they leave the advertising network will be up to you. So, do your research, and make sure that all your processes are compliant with data privacy laws.
9. Local channels
Next on our list of International Marketing challenges is finding where your customers live on the Internet. Many times, we assume that advertising networks such as Google, Facebook or LinkedIn are the perfect “portals” for reaching everybody.
Depending on the country, this may or may not be the case. Yes, Google, Facebook and LinkedIn are great networks for reaching many users. However, if you want to make campaigns targeting bigger countries such as Russia, China or India, these are definitely not your only options.
And not necessarily the best ones.
For example, Yandex is the biggest Russian search engine, and one of the most popular in the world. It could be a great way to reach your Russian audience apart from Google.
On another hand, think of China. You are probably more likely to find your target audience on Baidu instead of Google. Or on WeChat instead of Facebook. I think you get my point! Many countries have their own platforms and applications apart from the big, international ones.
And this is all from me, folks! Thank you for taking the time to read my article on the biggest International Marketing challenges for businesses, and I hope to see you in the next one! If you have any questions, do not hesitate to let me know in the comments below.