On November 1, Katie Blair, author of the below article, passed away from an unexpected medical condition. In honor of her two young daughters, PAN Communications has established a GoFundMe page to help ease the burden of this incredible loss to Katie’s family. Link to GoFundMe found here.
Growing a technology business is no easy feat. Taking that business to international markets is even more of a challenge. From laws and regulations that vary by country to variances in payment methods, going global brings a whole new set of considerations that shouldn’t be taken lightly.
In fact, a study conducted by Harvard Business Review of 20,000 businesses in 30 countries showed that, “companies selling abroad had an average Return on Assets of minus one percent as long as five years after their move.”
|This article is featured in O'Dwyer's Nov. '19 Technology PR Magazine.|
Now, layer in the challenges of developing the right communications strategy for building awareness in your new market. Several factors come into play, including messaging and positioning, leveraging key spokespeople, carrying customer voices into a new market and establishing trust with an entirely new audience.
It takes guts, determination and a clear business plan to initiate global expansion and tap into benefits such as new revenue, access to fresh talent and foreign investment opportunities. When making the leap abroad and into new regions, the coordination of a global marketing and communications plan should be first and foremost to maximize business impact.
Getting to know the local landscape
It goes without saying that opening your brand to international markets means opening the gates to new competition. To begin, do your research and study your competition in each of your new regions. The brands that you’ve come to know and compete with in the United States may be entirely different than your competition in APAC. This is especially true for emerging growth businesses looking to make a name for themselves in new regions that are brimming with well-established brands.
There is a certain an “underdog mentality” that comes with entering a new region. You’re no longer the hometown team. Will buyers, customers and potential employees respond positively to your brand? Dedicate time to understand the local power players, research trends and offerings specific to that market and outline your brand’s key differentiators.
The B2B tech space is crowded, there’s no way around it. Leveraging the research that you’ve done about the local market, consider these five steps as you begin your international growth journey:
Build a listening and monitoring platform to evaluate key brands, overall market positioning and competitive voices driving the conversation. In order to insert your footprint into this new market, you need to understand it entirely. Marketers have access to tools like Trendkite and Netbase, designed to monitor your brand’s earned and social media presence in relation to your top competitors. With today’s technology, there’s no excuse for ignorance.
Activate appropriate awareness strategies based on your findings. Keep in mind, this isn’t a one-size fits all model. After all, localization is the key for globalization, and this includes ensuring that your valued marketing assets—mainly your website—are tailored for each local audience and that your content utilizes appropriate language.
It’s also important to think about your new customer base and what makes them tick. Is your new target market already familiar with your technology, brand and service offerings? If not, it’s best to start at the ground level with general education on your technology’s value. Ask yourself: how does the need to educate your audience impact your side of the buyer’s journey? The answer is the development of strategic, top of funnel content like news releases, social sharables and blog posts that familiarize them with your brand and its value proposition.
Select key spokespeople who will develop and support a thought leadership program. Expanding to a new region means re-establishing the same trust and credibility that you built in your original market. Thought leadership initiatives such as speaking opportunities, bylined articles and events are ideal for framing your brand as a credible resource as you expand internationally.
Create a VoC program that can scale globally. Customer experience must be top of mind throughout your expansion journey, or you’ll risk retention of current customers and fail to attract new ones. Buyers expect that their experience will be highly tailored and when conducting business internationally, this includes varying cultural norms. According to Microsoft’s State of Customer Service Report, 61 percent of respondents indicated that they’ve stopped conducting business with a brand due to poor customer service.
To avoid this, engage with local partners to help carry the brand forward. This can range from distributors to hiring local managers that know the regional culture. It’s important to ensure that you have the right infrastructure in place to support your VoC efforts.
Measure globally. You can no longer look at your share of voice across a single market. Make sure you are including the changes you’ve made to your messaging—personalization, tone, style—and measure that impact through a global lens. Monitor the influence—or lack thereof—that your subject matter experts have made on building awareness in the region, but also on a global scale. Remember to compare your successes to that of your competitors in each market. How are your programs performing? Be ready to adjust by country but prepared to look at a unified view of the brand globally.
While there’s no simple formula or one-size fits all model for scaling a B2B tech communications strategy into a new territory, doing your diligence to understand the market at hand can aid in setting you up for success. Strive to set yourself apart from your competitors in all markets with localized messaging, culture-specific awareness strategies and a customer experience model that resonates with all customers. Over time, your audience will begin to recognize your brand as an international mark of success.
Katie Blair is Vice President and General Manager at PAN Communications.