If you run a small business, the idea of “going global” is as likely to be as scary as it is tempting. In theory, the internet allows you to reach a broader audience than ever, but scaling your marketing efforts to this level can be daunting.
At SmallBizDaily, we’ve long been a champion of helping small brands take the plunge and find overseas audiences and customers. Over the last few years, we’ve shown you not just how the internet can help you reach a global audience, but also how certain digital tools can take the stress out of going global.
If you’re still undecided, we’d like to help you out. In this article, we’ll take you through the opportunities that global marketing can present and how to overcome the challenges.
Global vs. Local
First of all, let’s get one thing out of the way: you’re not going to be able to take all of your marketing to a truly global level. Nor should you. Language, trade, and business barriers mean that – unless you run a company the size of Google or Amazon – you’ll never reach ALL potential customers in ALL potential markets. That’s true no matter what the size of your marketing budget.
So right out of the gate let’s get it straight that “going global” doesn’t mean you try to get a marketing pitch in front of the entire 63.2% of the global population that goes online. That’s a little silly to attempt and doomed to failure.
Instead, “going global” with your marketing should be seen as an extension of the kind of process you’ve likely already completed when scaling your business to this point. Think carefully about where your audiences are and what you can offer to them. There’s no point advertising in Myanmar, for instance, if you can’t ship your products there.
A great place to start when it comes to thinking through potential audiences, and to keep a balance between the global and the local, is to examine the real estate market. Successful real estate agents run truly international businesses. They advertise all over the world. Yet their marketing remains inherently local. Research indicates that this works: 53.6% of real estate agents think adding more locally-focused content to their real estate website will make it more appealing.
This is another way of saying that you shouldn’t just take your existing branding and start buying ads in new regions. Marketing to new audiences is only likely to be effective if you simultaneously keep local needs in mind. Target your research on what potential new customers will want from you based on what you’re already providing other customers.
How to Go Global (for cheap)
This said, there are some pretty effective, off-the-shelf strategies to expand outside of your home region. Here are our tips:
- Think about your budget. It’s unlikely that you are going to be able to spend the same amount in a new region as you do in your home region. Instead, think of each region as having an individual advertising budget – one small enough to experiment with – in order to find out what works.
- Scale your tools. If you use analytics tools to measure the success of existing campaigns, it won’t take much effort (or extra investment) to expand them to global campaigns. This is about getting the most out of existing tools.
- Hire local agencies. As a small business, there might not be the budget to hire a local ad agency to design a complete, custom campaign. But that doesn’t mean you can’t take advice from them.
- Maximize existing content. If you’ve taken our previous advice regarding video content creation, you may have invested a significant sum into video. The good news is that this can be localized and re-used. Again, the best approach is to get the most out of what you already have.
Despite these techniques being fairly easy to scale, they are not without challenges. This is why it is important to conduct research in every new market you want to expand into. Keep these general warnings in mind as you do:
- First, remember that ad costs vary by location. It might seem like it would be cheaper to place online ads in countries where incomes are not as high as in the US, but this is not the case. Research by companies like AdEspresso shows that the average CPC or CPM are at least twice as much in some countries than others.
- Second, don’t scale so fast that your ads get marked as spam. Ads that have been poorly localized (i.e. translated badly) are often marked as marked as malvertising by spam filters. This can end up costing big bucks in missed opportunities.
- Third, recognize that not all your marketing and branding will translate well into other cultures and languages. If you are use AR in advertisements, for instance, this is unlikely to work well in countries with slow internet speeds.
- Finally, get local advice on the advertising regulations for your chosen new audiences. Marketing laws can vary a lot from country to country. Laws may be stricter around certain products, like supplements or alcohol and may vary on things like contest regulations. Make sure you investigate these differences up front.
The Bottom Line
Ultimately, it’s more than possible for even small businesses to take advantage of the global, on-demand economy, but it’s important to take things slow. Make sure to treat your new, international audiences just as you would a new market sector at home: do your research, work out your strategy, and then decide whether the market is worth devoting a portion of your advertising budget to.
Brian Skewes is a technologist into deconstruction. Over two decades of self-employment, he has accumulated a wealth of inadvertent real-world lessons related to building, running, and preserving a small company.