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INTERNATIONAL MARKETING: The international dimension: setting your sights overseas

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INTERNATIONAL MARKETING: The international dimension: setting your sights overseas

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Amanda Alexander, managing director of B2B media planning and buying specialists Whichmedia, offers guidelines for those considering their first international marketing campaign

Amanda Alexander, Whichmedia

There's no magic wand for instituting your first international campaign – just a practical and efficient approach to information gathering, with meticulous attention to detail, an openness of mind to acknowledge and embrace the business and cultural differences and a willingness to research the new marketplace(s) carefully, rather than opting for an unsatisfactory quick fix.

Don't assume that whatever works in one country can automatically be rolled out internationally. A template-based approach isn't sufficient, so research your creative concept to see how it is received internationally.
Whilst you will be prepared for considerable international marketplace variances within your sector, in large countries such as the US, the media and marketplace can differ significantly from state to state.

Proper preparation

Whether you take on the task in-house or appoint a specialist media planning agency with international experience, the best starting point for all concerned is thorough desk research relating to the new countries and marketplaces that you'll be targeting for the first time.

The research process should take in everything from the most basic of checks, such as ensuring that your UK brand name is appropriate in target countries, to investigating the industry sector or sectors and finding out just how they operate overseas.

Web-based research is invaluable as a starting point, but is no substitute for actually talking to impartial people and organisations operating in the countries you are targeting. Identify helpful 'neutral organisations', such as trade bodies and the local government department of trade, who can offer useful marketplace data and point you in the right direction regarding the other information that you'll need. If you are approaching trade bodies, federations etc. in target countries, be sure that they are truly impartial.

Although international media databases exist and can help to focus research, remember they are just one part of the research process. Source hard copies of trade media titles too, so you can study them carefully – downloading a media pack just isn't enough.

Once you have established who your competitors are, check out what sort of marketing activity they are doing (both country-specific and international operators in your marketplace). Take pains to find out the B2B advertising medium favoured in specific target countries. For example, in India, B2B poster advertising is much more common than it is in the UK.

Language issues

Whilst many publications will have English-speaking members of the sales team, it is also useful to check if any of your colleagues are fluent in the mother tongue of the country you are targeting – just in case you need to call on their services.

Of course, you'll need to make a decision on the language of the advertisements and other marketing communications. Whereas some markets and target publications are truly international and advertisements in the English language are acceptable, others stipulate that the campaign needs to be produced in the mother tongue of the target country.

If that's the case, then it's important to identify a high quality translation house to ensure that the advertisement conveys the correct messages and your investment in marketing in a new country isn't hampered by translation issues. Above all, don't cut corners and try to do it yourself using online dictionaries!

Production procedures

Be aware of the various issues that you'll need to bear in mind when you are liaising with the target media. These include the fact that negotiation on advertising rates is much less likely overseas than in the UK. Similarly, production schedules tend to be much more rigid in Europe and the US than in the UK, so requesting media deadline extensions are not a 'given' – assume that the quoted deadline is the actual deadline at all times.

On the up side, international titles often offer creative ad opportunities – e.g. creative tip-ons, middle of page advertising etc.


Although it's a subject that's regularly in the news in the current economic climate, do remember to bear in mind currency conversion fluctuation and agree with the media when you'll be invoiced.

Online media

Online media is worldwide and by its very nature so tends to be more straightforward. However, when targeting different countries, be sure to research web access/usage as some countries have a surprisingly low penetration of web access even now.

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