International marketing can be a great way to grow a company, but it also entails risk. Any entrepreneur looking forward to expand into foreign markets must first gather information, prepare an export plan and make a series of key decisions.

1) Gathering information: It is essential for exporters to have a clear understanding of the culture, customs and economic conditions of the country where they want to do business. To that end, research is needed and an online search is a good place to begin. Still, nothing takes the place of visiting the target market yourself. On-site, you can talk to potential buyers and learn everything you need to know about the competition, local rules and distribution channels. Attending trade shows and events specific to your industry in that country can also be helpful. While at the shows, take ample notes of products and services, competitors, and packaging and labelling of similar products.


2) Preparing a marketing plan: Before starting up your export operations, be sure you have marketing plan similar to a business plan but focusing instead on strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats your company would face in a foreign market. This marketing plan should help you define your objectives clearly so that you can use the right tactics to reach your goals. This will give you more credibility with lenders who will ask you to prove your capacity for exporting.

The plan should spell out the countries you are targeting, what opportunities exist there, who your competitors are and how you will market and distribute your products in each location. It should also state whether you will need to adapt your products for the foreign market, how you will determine your export sales price and how much time will be required to meet your objectives. Spell out the staffing strength needed to implement the export initiative, as well as how you will reach your market through distributors or an onsite sales team and how you will evaluate results to modify your plan when needed.

One key issue to be resolved is how you will enter the foreign market. Some of the most common entry strategies involve using distributors or sales representatives, or selling directly to end users.

The third option, direct sales, involves selling your products or services directly to consumers in foreign countries. You may do this online or act on a lead from a government source. Finally, you can use foreign distributors. These merchants purchase goods from an exporter, often at a substantial discount, and resell them for a profit. This can be a cost-effective strategy for small and medium-sized businesses. Not only do you save costs by forming strategic alliances with local people, but you can also rely on their distribution and marketing knowledge.


3) Make the right strategic choices: Penetrating foreign markets is a long-term commitment that demands a lot of time, effort and money. Your management team must be committed to your efforts and understand the impact that the venture may have on operations. Exporting should not be considered a short-term fix for sluggish domestic sales. Be sure to talk to businesses that have succeeded in your target market. Contact your local economic development agency to find these companies, and consider forming alliances with companies in your sector so as to reduce market penetration costs.

Do not spread yourself too thin. Successful companies almost always concentrate on one area at a time. Once you have succeeded in your first market target, you can attempt to enter others.

You may have to adapt your product, price and promotional campaigns to reflect conditions in the foreign market, including cultural influences (such as religion and traditions), language, laws, buyers, preferences, engineering standards or product regulations. Your pricing strategy needs to be taken into account, market demand, competition and costs such as tariffs, custom fees, currency fluctuations, value-added taxes (VAT), transporting and insurance.

Finding a foreign partner is much like recruiting a new employee. You want someone who matches your company profile and represents you well. Be specific about the geographical area that you want your partner to cover. Determine if you want an individual or a company to represent you. And generate a list of potential partners or customers who would be most likely to handle your products or services in your target market. An online telephone directory for the country and international associations with foreign representatives may be good places to start from.

You may also want to consider placing a newspaper advertisement. In some countries, specialized companies can find a suitable representative for you for a fee. Using an intermediary is also very important if you do not speak the language of the target market.

Make sure that you are not competing with your partners and that they have complementary products that may give you a competitive edge. Define your partner’s responsibilities and expect to take a lot of time at the beginning of the process to develop a business relationship. Be sure too to specify the commission you are willing to pay and the sales volume you expect your partner to deliver.



Planning involves where the organisation would like to be and how to get there, which in turn involve goal setting and strategy determination. Planning involves three main activities:

  • Situation analysis: Where are we now?
  • Objectives: Where do we want to be?
  • Strategy and tactics: How can we best reach our goals?


Planning gives a number of advantages:

  • Gives rise to systematic thinking.
  • Helps coordinate activities.
  • Helps prepare for exigencies.
  • Gives activity continuity.
  • Integrates functions and activities.
  • Helps in a continuous review of operations.


Entering a new country’s market is very much like a start-up situation, with no sales, no marketing infrastructure in place, and little or no knowledge of the market. Despite this, companies usually treat this situation as if it were an extension of their business, a source of incremental revenues for existing products and services.

Whether you are planning on entering new markets or expanding the existing markets, there are plenty of challenges that need to be faced. This is more demanding than growing in your home market, where you understand the market and it is relatively easy to respond to changes. Understanding which markets and which market segments to target is critical.

Companies that operate in international markets must take into account local differences in language, culture, legal and regulatory requirements and distribution channels. Offering standard products in all territories can lead to failure if the product does not meet local market standards, requirements or regulations. Adaptation enables company to succeed in individual markets by developing a thorough understanding of local requirements and modifying different aspects of your marketing strategy.

The following are reasons why marketing plans is important in international marketing:

  1. Planning makes sure that all the key players (international marketers) are on the same page. This is important for budgeting and productivity reasons. People will know if something is feasible before they spend too much time on it, want to know the budget, and team members will likely want to make decisions so as to move forward if they understand the context of the strategic plan.
  2. Planning ensures that the marketers understand how they are going to accomplish the bigger business goals in the country. Effective marketing is not accomplished if every objective is done individually or as a need arises. Yes, this can happen and be accomplished, but it should be an exception to the rule.
  3. Planning provides greater flexibility. It is easier to evaluate new opportunities and concepts in the context of a long-term plan than it is to determine the exact value of each individual opportunity at hand. You can adjust to market trends because you have greater understanding of where you are currently, and why.
  4. Planning generally confirms allocated funds. Many businesses come up with ideas and see if they can afford them, but many never do because they do not have available funds. The greater number of success is served by effective and planned marketing.
  5. International marketing plans pave way for great results.


When planning to market internationally, the following should be taken into consideration:

  1. Products: Successful international products meet local tastes, price levels, technical and safety standards, regulations and cultural preferences. To reduce product development and adaptation costs, utilize a platform strategy, creating a core product with different versions customized for individual territories. A platform strategy enables you to adapt to local needs without developing different products. Electrical equipment, for example, may require adaptations to power supply,safety requirements and compliance with local regulations. In the software industry, developers incorporate changes such as time, date format, currency, display colours and navigation systems.
  2. Product Information: Product information on the packaging and in the documentation also must reflect local requirements. Choose a translation agency that understands the technical aspects of the product to ensure that product descriptions and operating instructions are accurate in local versions. Packaging graphics and colours must conform to local cultural preferences. Keep in mind that certain colours or images may cause offense in local markets, creating barriers to acceptance.
  3. Marketing Communications: Adapting your marketing communications to local conditions ensures that your creative work incorporates relevant messages, images, offers and creative treatment while retaining the value and strength of your brand. If you are entering markets where your product is unknown,your communications should focus on market education. Working with local agencies or marketing professionals who understand local customer needs help you adapt your communications program. Where budgets are allowed, adapt your most important communication tools, including email, newsletters, advertisements, direct marketing, publications and customer magazines.
  4. Marketing Channels: Businesses who sell products via a sales force in the domestic market are unlikely to have the resources to sell directly to customers in international markets. Choosing a different channel to market helps you to enter new markets and grow your international business. Local distributors or agents provide you with local market knowledge and contacts to speed up market entry. You also can market products via a website, backing up your Web presence with a local marketing communication program.



There is no doubt that if an organization wants to deal with international markets, he should be familiar with their laws and regulation as they pertain to marketing. This is imperative and it should be taken seriously. It is important to understanding the law of the country where you launch your campaign.

Marketers must know and observe the regulations and laws of the country in which they operate. All advertising should be legal, decent, honest and truthful. Before launching a campaign in international markets, you should learn all the prohibitions and laws of this country, so that you do not have problems and complaints about your advertising or marketing actions.

To determine international advertising standards, you must be aware of the advertising laws, rules and regulations of each nation. For example, in the area of sales promotion, one should be aware that certain promotion mechanics which are wholly illegal in some countries may be completely acceptable in another. A free prize draw, for instance, is a common form of promotion in the UK for incentivising customers, resellers or distributors, or as a data capture mechanism. But in Norway and certain other countries this mechanic is not permitted.

A supplier may wish to put in place an incentive scheme in some countries to reward employees or distributors or resellers for reaching certain volumes of sales or achieving other goals. However, in Germany, for instance, it is not generally possible to structure the scheme to reward those employees directly. This is seen as contrary to German ‘unfair competition’ law.

On top of this, the tax treatment applicable to rewards varies from country to country.


Country-specific laws

Some countries have specific rules governing the marketing of particular products. France has the Loi Evin, which places strict restrictions on where and how alcoholic products are marketed. Sweden has banned TV and radio adverts aimed at children under the age of 12. Obviously, these are consumer marketing examples, but they illustrate the point that rules vary.