Marketing to an international audience.

By Lance O'Grady

Last week I discussed the key considerations any brand should think about before pushing into the international market. The one component I left off was how to grow into new international markets. It’s a big topic, and there’s no easy answer, but there are a few strategies that retailers can start with when marketing to an international audience.

Location is important. When you open a retail store, you’re associating your brand with that area. Those associations tie to the type of people that live or shop there. Are they right for your brand? High-end stores tend to be in high-end places, because they know their customer base is going to be there. There’s no point launching a high-end retail store in a ‘bad area’, because you’ll be painting a completely incorrect picture of your brand.

The same concept stands true when trying to push internationally. With e-commerce, you aren’t tied to any location – but you should be. You need to identify a specific place – down to the street – where you can successfully target the customer you are looking for. With over 350 million people in the US, for example, targeting them all is a waste of time and money and won’t get you anywhere. Targeting New York is still too broad. Targeting the New York suburb of Williamsburg is getting closer. Targeting Bedford Avenue, just around the corner from Juliette’s, is perfect.

Now you know the exact area and type of person you are trying to get in front of. Naturally, we aren’t going to just target that area, but defining the area helps us identify the types of customers you want, and takes your target audience size from 350 million down to a few hundred thousand (to start with), decreasing the initial cost of marketing, as well as ensuring you’re targeting the right type of people.

Once you’ve nailed the area, think about what you want to tell them about your brand. The considerations in my last article need to be addressed when the customer actually gets to your site, but what are we going to tell them to get them there?

Promoting your brand (vs. product push) is the logical first step, and it’s definitely the right one. How do you give the brand context to their market? They’ve likely never heard of it at all. Never seen it. Never had anyone tell them about it. So you need to really think about what you want to get across that will make them take action (hence the reason of getting very specific with your location). What works for people in that area? Can you draw parallels to something they would see every day, giving your brand context for them? Adding an element of familiarity will help people relate, and as a result, they would be more likely to take action and check out what you’re doing.

Social media is the easiest way to achieve both location and context. Do research on the customers you’re targeting and work out what they like, what they talk about, what they do, where they go, and what they don’t like. Target your advertising, and put some media spend behind it. Measure it a few days later. Did it work? Yes, great, expand it out a bit more. No, try something different until you start seeing results.

This is hardly the most comprehensive guide to marketing to an international audience, because the reality is, there is no right way to do it. This is simply the first recommend steps to getting a good handle on your customers. And instead of merely setting your location targeting to “US” and hoping for the best, you’re at least being strategic about who you’re getting in front of, just like you would for a retail store.

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