5 Fatal Mistakes in Global Marketing Strategy for Small Businesses

Global marketing is no easy task, but it helps significantly when you’re aware of possible mistakes that you can easily avoid. Here are five.
Global marketing is no easy task, but it helps significantly when you’re aware of possible mistakes that you can easily avoid. Here are five.

Reaching out to a new global market can be a daunting experience. This is especially true if it’s a business’s first time to do so.

Most small businesses don’t have the know-how yet to build an effective global strategy. They have limited resources and thus less room for mistakes.

Global marketing is no easy task, but it helps significantly when you’re aware of possible mistakes that you can easily avoid. If that’s a concern for you, then read on!

Challenges in Building a Global Marketing Strategy

Engaging with an international consumer audience always presents a challenge for businesses of any size.

Businesses need to pay attention to different factors in their global marketing strategy, ranging from the more pragmatic ones such as production and logistics or country-specific restrictions to more creative aspects such as culture and language considerations.

In broad terms, most mistakes can be avoided by keeping the following best practices in mind:

  • Do proper market research.
  • Adapt to the target market’s preferences.
  • Be flexible in business strategy.

These are things that most experienced marketers are already aware of.

However, for small businesses that are just starting out on their global expansion journey, it helps to be aware of the mistakes that could sink their efforts as soon as they start. So let’s get started on the most common ones:

#1: Using the Wrong Channels

A fundamental principle in marketing is that marketers must meet consumers on the latter’s own terms.

The first line marketers need to consider in planning their global marketing strategy is whether they are reaching out to potential customers in the right places. Even the best material will fall flat if not delivered through channels that the target audience actually uses.

For example, China’s primary social media platform is WeChat. Thus, any social marketing strategy targeting this audience needs to be built specifically for it. In many countries, Facebook has a thriving eCommerce environment. Audiences in other countries might prefer Instagram or Twitter instead.

#2: Not Paying Attention to Language

Language can make or break a marketing campaign, and failing to take it into account can have disastrous results.

One well-known brand blunder is HSBC’s “Assume Nothing” campaign. In several countries, this tagline is translated as “Do Nothing.” This message was counterproductive to the bank’s mission and ended up costing a $10 million rebrand.

Large companies like HSBC may have the resources to recover from such marketing disasters. However, for small businesses that could be a significant percentage of investment down the drain!

Taking language into account isn’t just about avoiding translation disasters as well. The quality of language in marketing is an important factor in attracting consumers. Good language builds trust in your business. It not only reflects the quality of your product but also tells consumers that you are taking them seriously.

#3: Not Accounting for Cultural Differences

There’s more to language than simple translation, however.

Marketing efforts need to take culture into account as well. Marketers may be tempted to take the easy way out by trying to appeal to all audiences at once. But in doing so, they end up appealing to no one at all.

Consumers gravitate to something that resonates with them on a personal level. As such, businesses that take cultural nuances into account to deliver a personalized brand experience will always have the advantage over those that don’t.

The best global marketing strategy is one that is fundamentally local.

#4: Spreading Yourself Too Thin

As mentioned earlier, trying to appeal to all audiences with one catch-all global marketing strategy won’t work.

However, trying to develop individual marketing strategies for all markets can be just as unfeasible. It can be a pain on the budget, especially for small businesses that may not have the resources.

Focusing on broad segments of a market — say, for example, “Asia” or “Latin America” — may sound like a good compromise, but even this is not enough. Such market segments will still have a wider variation in terms of culture, behavior, and preferences than marketers are able to make use of.

Once they shift focus toward the level of countries, it’s only then that marketers will be able to glean adequate market data that can actually be useful.

There’s no shame in starting small. Choosing one or two specific countries can be more manageable and help marketers craft targeted, high-quality campaigns that have a higher chance of success.

#5: Ignoring Local Perspectives

When it comes to building a global marketing strategy, the most valuable resource really is insight from people on the ground.

Locals have a deeper understanding of the audience they are part of, which can help marketers better navigate their target market and increase the chances of success. They are also more likely to catch any mistakes or non-optimal decisions early in the process, which helps save time, effort, and resources.

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