6 marketing tips for successful exporting

When you’re planning your export strategy – identifying your targets markets, getting your products certified for local regulations, setting up distributors or local offices, agreeing pricing and stockholding etc – it’s vital that you don’t overlook a key consideration: your export marketing communications.  In other words, the techniques that get your business known; that motivate international customers to talk to you about your technologies, products and services; that generate new sales leads.

Effective marketing is essential for success in any market.  It is particularly important in new export markets, where your company is unlikely to be well known, and where you’ll be competing with established local manufacturers.

Here are six keys points that you need to consider:

1. Think marketing from the start

Marketing communications must be an integral part of your investment costs and your ongoing operating expenses in each export market. An effective programme depends on solid research, providing knowledge of your target markets and audiences, plus an understanding of industry trends, customers’ challenges and needs.  Using this information you can define the marketing messages that resonate with your audience, and that inform and guide subsequent marketing planning and activities.

2. Prioritise

Decide what’s important. Is it to win new sales, test the market or build long term brand awareness and reputation prior to establishing a permanent base?  This is an important point, as it will determine the correct mix of communication tools and channels.

3. Plan

Build a plan. Keep it flexible; test it, monitor progress and stick at it.  Set marketing goals that align with your export business objectives.  For example, if the objective is to reach a certain sales target, use your lead to conversion, enquiry to lead and lead generation ratios to create a plan that that details the most appropriate combination and frequency of marketing activities – activities that are aligned with your key messages and audience needs.

4. Be realistic about your channels to market

Don’t assume that distributors will do your marketing for you. Companies that sell through distributors or the channel often delegate this vital activity to their sales partners.  Although this approach can work, there are risks.  In particular, if your sales partner handles different product lines from multiple suppliers, or has preferential arrangements with other suppliers, you’ll find that only minimal time and effort is dedicated to the promotion of your products, or that your brand takes second place behind that of the partner organisation.  Even if there is a strong relationship with your local sales partner, you may still be required to provide considerable marketing support, in terms of sales collateral or financial contributions to ongoing promotional activities.

5. Work on the basics

Get the basics right. Your web site is crucial and should contain at least top level information in the language of your target audience.  Similarly, having sales and marketing collateral translated by a native speaker, even if this is just a simple brochure or datasheet, is also essential to demonstrate to your prospective customers that you are a serious and committed supplier in their local market.

6. Be patient

Recognise that success takes time. If you’re serious about exporting, then you have to be in it for the long term, especially if the nature of your business means that sales cycles are lengthy – if it’s true in your home market, it’ll certainly be true in export markets.

Ultimately, the success of your export business will depend of the impact of your marketing programme.  This has to be carefully planned, costed, measured and monitored.  It also requires the help of marketing professionals if it is to deliver the results you demand.

Click here to learn more about our international marketing services.

Find out more about how we work with businesses in Commonwealth countries, or visit the Commonwealth Trade Initiative web site

Nick Brooks

Nick is the founder and Managing Director of 4CM Ltd with over 35 years experience in developing powerful and cost effective marketing, media and communications programmes.