Nike. McDonald's. Airbnb.
What do these three brands have in common?
All three have developed a strong global presence. It's why you hear about the Whopper in Spain, or spot Nike Jordan's on the streets of Indonesia.
Fortunately, global marketing isn't just for big corporations anymore — nowadays, technology has significantly shrunken the 'cost per entry' when it comes to developing an international brand.
With social media and search engines closing the information gap between countries, I'm willing to bet some international consumers have already stumbled across your business' website.
But the question remains: How can you properly market and sell to international audiences? And how can you ensure product-market fit with communities outside your own?
To investigate how startups and small businesses can scale their marketing efforts for a worldwide audience, I sat down with André Barrence, Head of Google for Startups LATAM.
Keep reading to learn Barrence's tips for how startups can effectively sell to international audiences.
Let's dive in.
4 Tips for Globalizing Your Marketing Strategy
1. Start with an understanding of your global user.
When developing a global brand, you want to start by identifying the most important factor: To whom are you marketing?
Your user(s) might vary in preferences or lifestyle from country to country, but their challenges — and how your product can meet those challenges — will remain consistent cross-globally.
In other words, how your product can help a user in the U.S. likely mirrors how your product can help a user in Europe or Asia.
As Barrence points out, "What is always a good first solution is to start understanding who your user is, and who your user is everywhere, you know?"
Barrence adds, "I think that startups begin building a product with a specific user in-mind — and startups operate on this idea of serving on a match need, or serving some particular challenge that hasn't been sold yet. And I think the beauty of technology is that you can basically serve the entire world at this point."
At this stage, using highly effective analytics tools is key to ensuring you understand your global target persona.
Additionally, you'll want to use data to determine which region(s) seem most interested in your products or services. This information will help you select a few countries for which you want to create a targeted, localized marketing strategy.
2. Figure out which stories appeal to different audiences globally.
While your product might serve the same needs across the globe, the stories you tell to highlight your product's key benefits will vary significantly.
As Barrence puts it, "Once you've formed a hypothesis on who your user is and why they're searching for your product, you'll want to build a marketing strategy that is locally relevant, because the worst experience is when you're trying to solve for a local need of yours, and for something you're facing in your own country — but the product that you're searching for is built for a different experience entirely."
This is where it's vital to build credibility in local regions.
Credibility, Barrence adds, is a critical component that is oftentimes forgotten in the hustle of scaling a startup. Startups are often driven by performance — such as traffic, or user acquisition — and building a brand is usually an afterthought.
This is a mistake, particularly when globalizing your business.
"Startups are great at a performance mindset," Barrence says, "but each time you're attempting to reach new markets, you want to make sure you're building a brand, as well."
Barrence adds, "Once you test a few ways to position your brand in a local market, you'll want to start developing a more robust strategy for acquiring those users or creating stronger relationships with them."
3. Pay attention to local flavors when taking your product to the market.
There are a few key factors Barrence encourages every startup to take into consideration before expanding into new, international markets.
First, it's critical your marketing team understands how to position your product in a new regional space.
As Barrence told me, "It's very hard for a startup to easily take a position in the [Latin American] market, for instance, because startups in LATAM already understand the user, and they know how to communicate with them and position themselves in the market … So ignoring the local flavors in how you take your product to the market is a big mistake."
While he acknowledges this doesn't have to be perfect, Barrence does tell me the bare minimum requirements when marketing to new international audiences includes:
- Designing a localized version of your product — including language, user interface, and experience.
- Translating your materials into the local language, and using more relevant, local examples or references in your marketing messages.
- Offering support in the local language so users can access help easily when they have questions.
If you don't have the time or resources to follow the above tips, you might want to reconsider whether it's a good idea to globalize — since without these fundamentals, your users will have a poor user experience and your brand value will suffer.
Which leads me to my next point …
4. Know when globalizing isn't a good idea for your business.
There are plenty of startups and small businesses that likely have untapped potential in markets outside of their native countries … but there are still others who should focus their efforts locally, at least for the time being.
So — how do you know which category your business falls into?
Ultimately, Barrence says it comes down to whether or not you have a strong foundation. As he puts it, "One big mistake startups make are scaling prematurely; and the second big mistake is ignoring the signs that you haven't found product-market fit."
If you try scaling prematurely, he warns, you risk compromising your existing user's experience and the health of your entire company. So it's better to be cautious here.
He continues, "I think testing the waters and making sure you know how to navigate not only the market, but also how to navigate your product and operations within that market, is key."
Barrence advises, "Not having enough strong evidence for product-market fit is the potential dark side of globalizing your marketing efforts … [If that's the case], you should focus on building a successful business within your own country first."
As the world becomes increasingly connected, you'll want to dive deeper into your analytics to determine whether there is already a demand for your product or service outside of the U.S. — and, if there is, how you can address that demand with fresh, localized content or even revamp your marketing messages to ensure they're global-first.
Ultimately, the decision to globalize your marketing efforts isn't an easy one, but it could have big pay-offs in the long run. Among other benefits, globalizing your marketing materials expands your consumer-base and provides you with more opportunities to reach — and sell — to more customers.