Allyson Stewart-Allen is the Founder & Director of International Marketing Partners in London, United Kingdom, and a member of the committee for final judging of the management awards categories in The 2012 International Business Awards, the world's premier business awards competition. (The final entry deadline for the 2012 IBAs has been extended to July 18. Get your entry kit today.) Here Allyson shares advice on ensuring brand success in the international arena.
Internationalization in a recession can be done—it just takes thorough planning and confidence. Instead of listening to the constant stream of headlines about brands that have failed overseas, let’s replace those with some success stories about the companies that have done it right, that have been methodical, that have adapted and made great profits.
Plan for Success
Research the structure of your target international markets and your competitors. It is critically important that you know the potential challenges ahead. Through your research, identify key editorial and press opportunities that can help you become known in your growth markets.
Consider a tradeshow and arrange meetings in advance with potential buyers.
Identify cities for growth that will attract your target clients/customers and focus on saturating those. Focus is the name of the game.
Measure the Market:
If the USA is your target market for expansion, even if the “English” used seems to be the same language as that used in the U.K., it’s important to understand cultural differences. Try our quiz: Are you ready to work with Americans?
Your expansion will be more likely to succeed if you’ve recognized which aspects of your brand travels well—we call it BrandTravel™—and can adapt to local markets when necessary. You might want to consider hiring local marketing experts with on-the-ground knowledge.
Here are my top 7 tips to help ensure your brand will succeed in the international arena:
1. Manage “local” and “global”: Managing this dilemma well separates the winners from the mediocre. It is possible to obtain economies of scale while delivering local services or products, as global food and drink brands have learned so well. Zara is one of the few companies in the fashion world to have created ranges specifically for their southern hemisphere markets rather than just selling them past season’s wares from its northern stores.
2. Transfer knowledge: To ensure innovation and profit when opening stores in a new market it is important to transfer what’s been learned from the culture, consumer behaviors, and preferences in each market. Tesco’s Fresh & Easy small-store format in the United States had some costly merchandising hiccups at the start because of the company’s failure to apply the localization lessons gathered from similar expansions into Asian markets.
3. Be resilient: The ability to change processes and manage costs in turbulent economic climates is an essential skill for operations teams and retail business leaders. Some setbacks are to be expected as part of the process of aligning a business to local cultures and tastes.
4. Assume difference: Making assumptions about a target culture is a mistake, as Best Buy, Starbucks, Disneyland Paris, and many others have learned at great cost. Starbucks recently attempted to market its Trenta size (30 oz) drink in the UK—larger than a full bottle of wine—and this was seen as an overly indulgent American “super-sized” product not fit for European tastes. Coach, however, brought only the US leather goods ranges it knew would appeal to customers at its recently opened Bond Street, London store, while leaving behind the “wristlet” (a small zip wallet with a carrying strap for the wrist) that is so successful in the U.S. market.
5. Innovate through insight: Involve consumers and supply-chain partners in identifying which new technologies, materials, designs, and services can change the business model. Crowdsourcing not only lowers the R&D costs, but also engages your target markets with the knock-on benefit that they will use social media to promote your foresight and engagement.
6. Build the brand: Most consumers are unfamiliar with soon-to-land-here trans-Atlantic brands. Seize this opportunity to (re) position the retailer in a new geography, as Abercrombie & Fitch has so successfully done in the UK. A blank canvas gives a retailer permission to seize a space it might not have been able to in its domestic market. Victoria’s Secret, the mass-market lingerie brand, will soon be launching in the UK and will have a great opportunity to position itself with new customer segments.
7. Assume success: Approach new markets intentionally, not just by licensing or franchising, but also by incorporating this approach as part of the long-term corporate strategy. Too often, expanding businesses treat international growth as a project rather than as a core part of their long-term evolution, choking the initiative of critically important capital and leadership resources. Confidence in an international foray—based, of course, on the thorough research and evidence that supports it—means it will be properly funded and given the management attention it deserves.
About Allyson Stewart-Allen:
Allyson Stewart-Allen, founder of International Marketing Partners, is an internationally recognized marketing advisor, author, speaker, and broadcaster who helps companies grow internationally by guiding them on localizing their brands, behavior, and businesses. An accomplished speaker, broadcaster, and author, Allyson is a frequent guest expert on CNN, CNBC, BBC, and Bloomberg, and Sky News hosted her four-year slot as “The Muse of Marketing.” Allyson is a regular keynote speaker at business conferences and is a judge for The Stevie® Awards in the U.S. and the U.K.’s Women in Marketing Awards. Originally from Los Angeles, where she earned her MBA under the direct tutelage of Dr. Peter Drucker, Allyson has been based in Europe for more than 25 years and is the co-author of bestselling book Working With Americans. She remains involved in the academic world via her work as an Associate Fellow at Said Business School, University of Oxford.
About International Marketing Partners:
Founded in 1991 by Allyson Stewart-Allen, International Marketing Partners Ltd. was born on the back of clients asking not only for general advice on how to grow the quality and number of customers in their home and international markets, but also specifically how to localize their products and services so they would be relevant and viable in those markets. Finding clients who were most interested in the know-how of its consulting team members meant the company could, in its early days, draw on the experience of recognized experts in Allyson’s network. International Marketing Partners today still uses this successful model: hand-selecting the right mix of consulting experience to match the goals, strategies, and culture of its clients’ businesses. For more information, visit www.intermarketingonline.com.