3 Tips To Target International Markets

Global Markets

One of the greatest things about commerce on the web is the ability to expand your reach. You are no longer stuck trying to cater to a single demographic, and are instead able to widen your approach and present a product to an international market that might have once been closed to you. Even small businesses can now step into an arena once dominated entirely by big corporations with international branches.


World Map Parchment wallpaper (1920x1200) - outdated, 2006 mapThis doesn’t usually change your initial approach, however. Most of us prefer to start out small and slowly increase our focus to the wider web. This means of finding customers in ever expanding circles is much simpler than it sounds. It is all about knowing how to target the international market from the point of view of an ecommerce business.

Here are three tips to help you break through and get the international audience you so richly deserve.

Keep Language In Mind

Back in 2006, the California Milk Processor Board (CMPB) launched a global marketing campaign targeting people all over the world.

Andy of Translate By Humans, the company providing professional translation services shares a funny example:

The infamous “Got Milk?” slogan became multi-language, including in regions that had never heard it before, such as through Europe. But they hit a bit of a snag when it came to Spain. Since the slogan doesn’t actually translate properly, since the possessive form is somewhat different, they went with “¿Tienes Leche?” Those of you who speak the formal form of Spanish customary in Spain are probably already laughing. The direct translation of this statement is “Are You Lactating?” Not exactly the message they wanted to get across. They did change the form of possessive to a verb, with Toma instead of Tienes. However, this just means “Drink Milk?” Which lessens the impact of the slogan and was not so successful. This should be a lesson to us all about the importance properly translating anything adapted for another language. If it doesn’t properly convert, just use a different marketing campaign.

Know The Regional Laws

Did you know in some countries it is illegal to ship alcohol through customs? Or that certain items like foodstuffs might be pending approval in certain amounts? You might even be surprised to learn that an ad that is approved in the United States would probably be banned in a country like Sweden, where there are stricter regulations about comparative marketing and the claims that can be made in an ad. These are all things that you have to know before trying to reach a certain international audience. Even the smallest detail can create legal issues for your company. Especially when it comes to shipment procedures and what is and is not allowed in the country. Another example is electronic cigarettes. These are legal on a region by region basis, with many countries still banning them. This can be true of many products.

Understanding Culture

Pay Special Attention to Culture

There are some differences in cultures that can lead to serious embarrassments. These can be either with your marketing, your behavior, your product itself or even your website. Let’s say you are going to an international conference. Your first instinct upon meeting a new contact is probably going to be shaking hands, right? After all, this is a standard procedure in much of the West, and polite. But it is actually offensive to touch someone you don’t know without them initiating contact first, in certain countries. While they might opt to do so to make you feel more comfortable, touching them may invade their personal space. Or maybe your product name has a negative connotation. In Japan, Diet Coke had their name changed to Coke Light after it turned out that the word ‘Diet’ is considered embarrassing and rude.

You always have to keep in mind the differences between marketing in one region versus another. Knowing all you can about each target audience in an international market will be your best bet at making sure the expansion runs smoothly.

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