|The Internet, mobile technology and an increasing international demand for goods and services is creating the perfect storm for small business to take the leap from mom and pop shop to global enterprise. After all, the potential of overseas markets – through exporting, importing or outsourcing – remains largely untapped. It’s a fact that 95 percent of customers and 73 percent of the world’s purchasing power lie outside of the U.S. What’s more, as the world’s economies continue to recover from a recession, business growth will continue on an upward trend over the next ten years—87 percent of this growth will occur everywhere BUT the U.S.Launching an international brand is no small feat. Consider these nuggets for tips to succeed. Be sure to check out the Going Global Blue Paper®, too!|
Top five tips for your international brand launch
- Research the markets that hold the most potential for your brand. Seem obvious enough? Maybe — but it’s easy to take for granted that the fastest growing economies such as India and China are a sure bet for your brand. A little research may indicate that Eastern Europe would be more fertile ground for your initial launch. Consider hiring an international marketing specialist to conduct a feasibility study to gauge the business potential in a certain location.
- Get to know your target customer in these markets. What language do they speak? What are their likes and dislikes? What are their cultural beliefs and customs? Who are the influencers? What are their hobbies? Where do they shop? How do they shop? Consider reaching out to these potential customers with an introduction that speaks to them—like a letter tucked in a logo’d journal or business card clipped to a coffee cup wrap.
- Establish your international brand voice. You have your U.S. voice. Is it casual, formal or somewhere in between? Determine what you want your international voice to be and if you would like the tone to vary from country to country as a function of local communication norms.
- Conduct a global brand assessment study. To avoid losing your business in translation, learn from the pitfalls of other brands. Triangle Manufacturing, the nation’s top producer of Lazy Susan bearings, for example had to create alternate language for its most popular product. In creating an international website, the company discovered that “Lazy Susan” didn’t translate directly into Portuguese to refer to cabinetry, instead it simply referred to a woman named Susan who didn’t do anything. Or take the British telecom company, Orange™, which many in Ireland argue takes a religious connotation that is unfavorable to Irish Catholics. Conduct due diligence to make sure your brand names and slogans translate accurately and positively. If they don’t, consider a name change for the global release. Also, take a look at your logo and visuals and consider how the colors, shapes and font choices (typography) will be perceived in other cultures. Could any of the shapes in your brand elements be confused with cultural symbols? Try to see your brand identity through the eyes of a local.
- If necessary, work with a designer or your marketing department to refresh your brand in the context of the new global stage where your products will have a multicultural following.
- Consider asking the locals directly—how do you perceive our brand? Offer incentives, like USB drives or coffee mugs in exchange for their feedback.
- Keep one logo for all countries but vary your slogan if necessary.
- Leave your brand name in English if the words are not crucial to the message your brand communicates.
- Give your corporation a local face. Interview C-suite members on topics of local interest and post the interviews on your website with photos of the officers. Demonstrate an understanding and appreciation of the local culture in all that you do. Make local customer service accessible and easy. Put your local address/contact info on the website. List local events you are participating in. Write locale-relevant press releases in the local language and release them on your website and through in-country online wire services. Keep your content fresh and dynamic. Consider identifying local promotional products that are trending in that country and different from your home country, perhaps like luggage tags or mini soccer balls.
Moving from national to international is a big deal—but with the right planning, you can do it and do it well. Good luck!
“Think International.” Virginia SBDC Network. Web. 01 May 2011.