3 steps to successfully market your business internationally

If your company has been expanding slowly, and you’ve finally decided to take the plunge and go international, you’re not alone.

Indeed, a quarter of UK SMEs are looking to expand internationally. This requires identifying the countries you want to target, create an overall business strategy, and conduct in-depth competitor analysis. After that, the next logical step would be to assess the marketing opportunities in your target regions.

business internationallyWhile going global is easier than ever in our interconnected world, a new marketing strategy is essential for attracting new customers from new regions. And no matter how successful they were, you can’t just rehash what you’re doing domestically. You will need to tailor your marketing efforts towards your new audience abroad.

1. Devise an international SEO strategy

The first thing you should do is develop an international search engine optimisation (SEO) strategy. You’re almost certainly aware of just how important SEO is, with over 5.5 billion searches conducted on Google every day, so earning a prominent place in your target country’s search results will help drive traffic to your site. There are many different aspects to a successful international SEO strategy, but the most important include identifying which search engines to use, which keywords to target, and localising your brand.

First of all, you need to assess which search engines are dominant in your target region. While Google is very much king in the UK, this isn’t the case everywhere in the world. For instance, Baidu is the most popular search engine in China, while Yandex is favoured in Russia. It would be a mistake to focus on Google in these particular countries, and the same could ring true for your target nation.

Next, conducting keyword research will help you figure out the keywords being used by potential customers, which you can then weave into your own content to start gaining visibility internationally. Meanwhile, localising your brand by adhering to local dialects and cultural norms will help you break linguistic and cultural barriers, and successfully get your message across to your target audience.

2. Tweak your social media approach

While you may already have a strong social media presence across different platforms, you’ll need to alter your approach when thinking to market internationally. The first step is to choose the right platforms. Although you may be able to continue using your existing channels, this depends entirely on your target market. As with search engines, countries like China, Brazil, and Russia use alternative social networking platforms to the ones we’re familiar with here in the UK, so it’s important to research into what your target market uses before starting any social media campaigns.

If you do end up using the same platforms, you either need to set up separate profiles for your target location, or geotarget content to your audience. This involves delivering content based on a user’s location—for example, Facebook allows you to specify a set location where your adverts will show up on people’s news feeds. As noted by social media experts MN2S: “Social media geotargeting can help build your presence and boost your profile where you need it the most.” Both of these approaches allow you to keep your domestic and international social media efforts separate—after all, you wouldn’t want to bombard your British audience with Spanish content, or vice versa.

Once you’ve decided on how you’re going to target people, it’s imperative that you localise your social media content in the same way as you would on your website. When it comes to deciding on exactly what kind of content to post, market research is essential. For example, people in India mainly use social networks to game and share music, while, in South America, users are keen bloggers. What is popular in your target market should inform your approach to social media content.

3. Hit the ground running with a PPC campaign

Because it can take months for your international website to start ranking against local competitors, and for your social media efforts to start paying dividends, it’s advisable to launch an international pay-per-click (PPC) campaign to get things rolling. This allows you to pay for exposure by getting ad placements on search engine result pages for keywords you’ve placed a bid on. Google AdWords, for example, can put businesses at the top of Google’s results for their selected keywords within a few hours. While PPC is potentially costly, it can be a temporary measure until your international SEO and social media efforts begin paying off.

Like with your international SEO strategy, knowing which search engine to target internationally is critical, as is localisation. It is advisable to have different campaigns for different languages if there is not one dominant language spoken in your target country. For instance, if you’re targeting people in Switzerland, you might want to set up ads in French, Italian, and German to maximise the potential for clicks.