Breaking into international markets brings undeniable benefits. As well as enhancing your brand profile, it allows you to grow your sales base and ultimately your profits. It can also help to protect your business from economic downturns in particular countries, giving you greater stability and helping to safeguard your organisation’s future.

The potential rewards may be great – but, when it comes to international expansion, success is by no means guaranteed. There is a range of issues you need to consider when you’re planning to enter a foreign market.

Anticipate the challenges

Underestimating the differences between domestic and international markets is a key factor in the failure of many brands to broaden their reach. Breaking down the language barrier is just one small part of getting to grips with the challenges you’ll face when expanding into other countries. Some of the other important areas of difference can include:

Culture – Simply translating your marketing material into the relevant languages isn’t enough. Your content needs to be culturally on point in order to resonate with your target audiences. The perfect sales pitch for UK consumers might completely miss the mark elsewhere. If you’re not careful, you also run the risk of transgressing social or religious norms with your marketing campaigns, which could seriously damage your reputation.

Technology usage – Differences in technology usage can pose a problem for your campaigns. One example of this is the fact that in China, email has nowhere near the same level of reach as it does in many other countries. Consumers there tend to favour instant messaging apps. So, pouring resources into email marketing in China is likely to be a big waste of money.

Taste and dietary preferences – Appealing to consumers overseas can mean reformulating or in some cases completely rethinking food and drink products. Starbucks is a classic case in point. From its green tea ‘matcha’ frappucinos in Japan to its bacon butties in the UK, it adapts its food and drinks to suit local tastes.

Consumer behaviour – Shopping trends and consumer habits can differ dramatically between countries, and if you don’t do enough market research on the areas you’re expanding into, you could struggle to know how, where and when to target people with your products or services.

Government regulations – You will need to make sure you’re aware of all the relevant laws and regulations in the countries you’re targeting. This includes everything from taxes, to employment laws, to consumer protections.

Infrastructure – The quality and reach of countries’ transport and communication networks will have a major bearing on how easy it is to operate in them. This could affect the viability of breaking into certain markets.

Draw on expert local knowledge

Being aware of the potential problems you face is the first step. The second is planning how you will overcome these challenges.

A big part of this is deciding on the best marketing strategy. There’s often a temptation to stick with a domestic marketing agency for international campaigns because there’s an existing relationship in place. These agencies may then pair up with translation companies. For a whole range of reasons, including those listed above, this non-tailored approach can fail to deliver the desired results. While international marketing operates along the same basic principles as domestic campaigns, it differs in some fundamental respects.

Instead, you can turn to brand specialists with international experience. Look for organisations that have partners in locations around the world who understand the relevant customs, regulations and cultures and are therefore well placed to help you to adapt your campaigns to really engage with the consumers you’re targeting. You should be translating your entire offer to consumers, not simply your ad copy. This means taking into account everything from colloquialisms to cultural sensitivities.

Bringing in an expert third-party to take care of this can help you to achieve the results you want as cost-effectively as possible.

Alternatively, you might decide to handle these campaigns in-house. If you do this, bear in mind that it may require a greater investment of both time and money to make sure that you have the best people on board to do the work. Whichever approach you go for, it’s vital that your campaigns are specifically adapted to meet the demands of international marketing.

Ceuta International can help you to launch and develop your brands in over 100 international markets, with trusted partners globally who understand  local markets, cultures and regulations, and experience with large multinationals through to smaller innovative brands in the health, beauty and grocery sectors. Contact us today to find out how we can help to grow your business.