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5 Things to Consider for an International Digital Marketing Strategy

Sean Hopwood
Updated Jan 23, 2023

Follow these steps to market your business to an international audience.

Digital marketing uses online technology to promote products and services. It involves producing materials to be distributed across multiple online channels to garner attention for your business. These online channels include email, websites, blogs, social media and games, as well as audio and video streaming. 

Digital marketing is inherently an international advertising strategy, since there are few restrictions in distributing digital marketing content to audiences worldwide. Physical geographic borders generally aren’t a factor online. Still, you should develop a specific plan to ensure your marketing efforts succeed.

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5 steps for executing an international digital marketing strategy

Below are the steps every business owner should take when pursuing an international digital marketing campaign. While it’s possible to rush out online ads or social media to reach out to prospective customers in other countries, the results may not be optimal if you don’t do the following.

1. Find the most effective methods.

Your first step is to choose the most appropriate digital marketing strategies for your needs. There are many possible methods, and the effectiveness of each one depends on what you’re trying to achieve. However, two methods are considered fundamental, meaning they should always be employed regardless of the type of business you’re running. These are search engine optimization and social media marketing.

Search engine optimization (SEO) is a must for all businesses that seek to establish an online presence. It’s not just about topping the rankings for search engine results. It’s essentially about putting up the right information about your company online to inform both search engines and human viewers about what you’re offering.

Social media marketing is also considered fundamental, given the role it plays in the consumer market. Almost every potential customer has a social media account these days, so it’s an excellent platform for delivering your marketing messages. Other methods to consider include content marketing, email marketing, video advertising and affiliate marketing. [Find out why every brand should have a YouTube channel.]

TipTip: When getting started with SEO, focus on high-volume keywords that are easy to rank for.

2. Establish the scope.

Don’t try to reach all or too many international markets at the same time. Going international with your digital marketing campaign doesn’t mean you have to simultaneously target all or most countries. Identify the top markets that will most likely give you the new customers you need, then focus your marketing on them. Realize that targeting numerous markets at the same time is going to be extremely costly and risky.

If you want your international digital marketing efforts to succeed, you can’t just throw out a one-size-fits-all campaign. Different countries or regions require different localization projects and teams. Likewise, they most likely need custom marketing strategies that appeal to different cultures. Digital marketing campaigns that work in Scandinavian countries, for example, are unlikely to work in China or Indonesia. [Read related article: International Business Etiquette from Around the World.]

It is advisable to start small, then expand as you see fit. Study your options to determine the next moves for your product expansion. Let the success of your initial promotional campaigns guide you to the next target countries or regions gradually. If your marketing efforts don’t seem to pay off in Asian markets, for instance, maybe you need to focus your efforts in more receptive places.

3. Develop flexibility and scalability.

Create an adaptable digital marketing strategy. The international market is never homogenous. That’s why you need to customize your approaches depending on the situation on the ground. Additionally, your plans must adapt to changes or unexpected developments. What do you do, for example, if the government in your target market releases a statement that the main ingredient of the mosquito repellent solution you’re marketing is ineffective? You would need to swiftly react by citing other authoritative research or advisories to counter the local government’s assertion.

Moreover, your marketing plan needs to be scalable depending on the conditions of the market. Avoid creating a plan that is too anchored on certain personalities, places, pop culture references or competing products. Make it easy to expand your plan by not necessitating major changes in your product pitch or the functions of the people involved in implementing the plan.

4. Build relationships.

Emphasize customer connections. International digital marketing may sound like an enormous and generalized venture, but it should feel as intimate as possible. Your goal is to make customers feel special so they are compelled to buy your product or subscribe to your service.

Be responsive to inquiries and always aim to improve your customer service. Address complaints or questions as soon as possible. If you’re trying to attract new consumers, don’t make them feel taken for granted or like one of many people your business deals with impersonally. Invest in a multilingual customer service team. Customers are more likely to buy something that’s pitched in their language, and prospective customers develop a more positive first impression when their inquiries are addressed in their mother tongue.

5. Monitor and evaluate.

Document the implementation of your international marketing plan and measure its performance. Keep up with everything that is happening with the plan. Record your progress and assess whether or not your efforts have achieved what they were meant to. Develop performance metrics and evaluate whether your business is getting something out of the endeavor.

The money you spend on online ads, social media promotions and other forms of digital marketing should translate to something palpable. That could be in the form of increased brand awareness or a bump in sales. Based on the results, either maintain or tweak your strategy, and continue to revisit it periodically to ensure your methods continue to pay off. You’ll also want to keep up with digital marketing trends to maximize the opportunities to reach customers.

FYIFYI: Regardless of whether you’re targeting domestic or global markets, you need to define your target audience and know what you want to achieve. From there, you can build the specific strategy that will help you accomplish your goals.

Digital marketing mistakes to avoid

Digital marketing is vital for businesses of all sizes, but it can be tricky. If you’re using outdated or ineffective strategies, you could end up wasting time and money. Here are the biggest digital marketing mistakes to avoid when targeting a global audience.

  • Lack of focus: A lack of focus is one of the biggest problems. It’s impossible to create an effective marketing campaign if you don’t know what you’re trying to accomplish. Concentrate on finding the right marketing techniques for your desired audience and create measurable goals to track over time. If you don’t stay focused, you won’t achieve your objectives. 
  • Not understanding your audience: If you don’t know who your audience is, you could end up targeting the wrong one. This can result in no sales or cause you to attract customers who aren’t the right fit for your company. Building customer personas can help ensure you direct your efforts toward the right market.
  • Not optimizing your site for mobile: Most people own a smartphone, and you can bet they’re searching the internet using their mobile devices. That means if your website isn’t optimized for mobile, you’re missing out on potential customers. It’s critical that your site is functional regardless of what device a person uses to access it and where they are based.
  • Not using social proof: Potential customers want to see what kind of experience others have had with your company. Testimonials and case studies help your company build trust and credibility with new consumers. User-generated content (UGC) can make your business stand out too.
  • Trying too many things at once: Email, social media and SEO are all effective marketing techniques. But if you’ve never tried any digital marketing strategy before, mastering even one of these methods will be a challenge. If you try to conquer all of them at once, you’ll set yourself up for failure. It’s vital to find the best method for your objective and proceed slowly, scaling up over time.

Jamie Johnson contributed to the writing and reporting in this article. 

Image Credit: weedezign/Shutterstock
Sean Hopwood
business.comb.
I am a polyglot, the President of Day Translations, Inc. and its sister companies, World Interpreting, Inc. and Your Spanish Translation. As a child I was already fascinated with languages and different cultures, which later developed into a much stronger passion, something I nurtured and worked hard for. Eventually, I found success when I established Day Translations, Inc.