Digital technology has changed the world of business, and it enables brands of all sizes to reach previously impossible markets in record time. Compared to even 10 years ago, the world has shrunk, and the entrepreneurial spirit has grown to fill the gap. Businesses are growing, experiencing setbacks, overcoming them, and succeeding.
The digital marketplace presents infinite opportunities to go global, connecting businesses with more people in faster, easier ways. But it also presents unique challenges, because it’s chaotic, fluid, and competitive for scarce attention. Using technologies to market your brand overseas doesn’t guarantee success – it requires time, dedication and a lot of research.
Based on my agency’s experience helping diverse clients develop their businesses abroad, I’ve summarized some key tips to leverage your online footprint to connect with audiences and take your brand global in 2020:
Know your story, and tell it well
Starbucks. Microsoft. Apple. These brands all had humble beginnings (and I can relate). Now, the story of how their companies started transcends geography – and helps boost sales.
Why? It’s because buying decisions are 20% logical and 80% emotional. Today’s world moves fast, and consumers are used to being inundated with information. People hear stats and facts, but they feel stories. Business Insider, after analyzing the top 10% of articles that get shared online, found that playing to specific types of emotion can boost a brand’s chances of ‘going viral’. When shared in the right way, stories can form deep, meaningful connections with customers. The digital marketplace allows us to tell our stories where our customers already are – online.
The challenge is saturation. Many companies are using technologies to reach similar audiences. Your story is critical to help you stand out.
The logical question is: what is your story? Chances are, if you’re looking to expand, you’ve got a solid idea of what it is. If not, consider this: your brand story is why your company exists. It’s why the business started at all, and why you get up every morning to do what you do. It’s who you want to be to each person whose life is influenced by your work. Think of your company’s values and the people who add to its narrative of growth and success to help build your story. Then, infuse that story authentically throughout everything you do online (and elsewhere).
Know your market
What works in one market may not in another. Our agency has offices in four western Canadian cities, and business talks with our clients differ greatly in each one (online initiatives included).
Your brand needs to transcend geography, but it also has to be relevant to your potential market. That means understanding the sensitivities in each, so your brand, and thus your products and/or services, are appropriate. Even spelling can make a difference.
Consider factors such as being perceived as a local company when entering a new country. If that’s a goal, you’ll want to use the local vernacular throughout all of your digital initiatives. Alternatively, if you want to emphasize that you’re an expanding Canadian company with Canadian values, that strategy will differ.
Do research into your market ahead of time, and ensure that everything you say has value.
Know your audience
Knowing your target audience, and how to genuinely connect with them, is one of the most important things to consider when entering a new market. The ‘who’ should shape everything you do and every message you share should be relevant, aligned, and informed about your audience. Find where they are online and what resonates most with them. For example, if you’re hiring oil and gas workers in the U.S., specific recruitment platforms and targeted ads may work best.
Know the rules
There are digital essentials that your business should know before launching across borders. Just in the digital realm alone, local data privacy laws like GDPR in the Eurozone, restrictions on imports/exports, and data storage practices can mean big changes in policy. In addition, marketing materials, such as your website, brochures, and social media, should be translated by native speakers to ensure a more seamless transition.
Know you’re set up for success
For success in multiple countries, you must understand each local culture and network with people who can introduce you to the right opportunities.
People buy from people they like and trust – and building that trust in different markets is key. For example, digital marketing can be extremely effective in many locations, but word-of-mouth may be better in smaller communities, meaning you’ll need on-the-ground presence to supplement your initiatives. And who knows the locals better than the locals? Hire people from areas you’re targeting to fully embrace the culture and its nuances.
To develop a strong team, properly utilize digital tools that get share communications and workloads across several time zones. Consider whether you will need different servers or separate user accounts in each region. Create a lot of internal documentation, and make it available in a collaborative software suite like Google Drive, Dropbox, or Office 365.
Also, as important as your story is, remove emotional language and potential miscommunications from all international documents, or at least have a local team review it first.
The Internet is a great equalizer that can take your brand into a global market, but there are additional complexities that require the right team behind you – IT gurus, lawyers, business consultants and digital experts – to get you where you want to go. The above tips are great starting points to help you harness the power of the digital world and grow your business beyond borders. With the right research and growth strategy, there’s no telling where technology might take you.
CEO of William Joseph Communications