Local Groups Key to Overseas Success

The rapid growth of wireless communication users in the Asia Pacific region and Europe, the growing penetration of Internet use worldwide and China's entry into the World Trade Organization have opened a new playing field for international e-mail marketing.

E-mail is quickly becoming an attractive, cost-effective alternative to traditional international marketing methods.

South Korea, Australia and Singapore rank among the leading Asia Pacific countries in Internet penetration.

New e-mail users have not yet become jaded regarding e-mail from advertisers, making them responsive to offers.

China's membership in the WTO has opened access to 1.3 billion potential customers and 15.2 million Internet users.

The slowing economies in many countries are causing many companies to limit international travel, so corporations are looking to the Internet to provide alternatives for communication, education and marketing. E-mail marketing efforts have facilitated online attendance for Webinars, training sessions and sales presentations.

Even before the recession-induced budget reductions, corporations were discovering that they could leverage e-mail marketing technology to reduce the cost of international product launches and shorten the time it takes to achieve results from their marketing campaigns.

E-mail marketing is the perfect solution to leverage these opportunities internationally. Marketers can avoid the expense and delays related to coordinating printing from afar, shipping printed materials overseas and varying degrees of reliability from local postal services. However, before dashing off to conduct an international e-mail campaign, take the time to make the proper preparations.

The most important factor in an international e-mail marketing campaign is no different from a domestic campaign. Marketers must understand their target markets in each country. But it is virtually impossible to do this as a non-native.

Three key factors help ensure successful international marketing:

Use local e-mail marketing organizations in each country. This can save you time, effort and expense. A local organization will be familiar with how best to comply with customs regulations. It also will have a good feel for appropriate incentives, timing and other factors that can enhance success.

Local organizations also can assist in creating messages that accommodate the region's technology infrastructure. In China messages need to be composed for a double-byte system, but can be single byte if they support kanji characters. Many major cities such as Seoul, South Korea, Tokyo, New York, Chicago and London have high-speed connectivity options, such as T1 lines, cable, DSL and ISDN, that support fast load times for graphics and large e-mail messages.

However, in much of the world, connectivity is largely through dial-up at 28.8 KBPS, so creative has to provide messages that load quickly.

In places such as Finland, Sweden, Singapore, Hong Kong, Taiwan, South Korea, Japan and Australia, accessing e-mail via wireless phones is becoming more prevalent, so messages should be tailored for this segment.

Obtain high-quality opt-in e-mail lists from local organizations. In most markets there have been few problems with opt-in list brokers. However, in a few instances, list owners used demographic profiles to extrapolate what types of information they think the addressees might be interested in rather than keeping them solely on the lists they opted in to receive.

For example, a person with a high income who has opted in to receive golf-related information should not be added to a list for vacation home offers just because of his income profile. Always double-check how addresses are obtained and categorized to guard against poor results and to avoid alienating potential customers.

Use a linguistics expert from the native country. Always use native speakers to aid in the creative writing of your message. In some countries, you also will need speakers for the dialect of each region. In Belgium, you would want to use both French Dutch and German Dutch, depending on where the recipients live. You can sort e-mail addresses by postal code to determine which dialect to use. Not using a linguistics expert may bring a loss of brand identity, loss of credibility and an overall loss of sales due to the lack of professionalism.

International opt-in e-mail marketing campaigns can be precisely targeted, completed much faster, produced at a lower cost and generate fast, dependable results compared with many traditional marketing activities.

While launching an international e-mail campaign can seem daunting, the returns can be great. By using experts and resources in each of your target markets, you will be taking the first steps toward a successful campaign.

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