The culmination of an international marketing program is the development of a plan of action to succeed in potential international markets. The planning process is complex and can mean the difference between success and failure for a product or service launch. While there are similarities when comparing the development of a domestic marketing plan and an international one, there are also differences.
The Research Process
Developing an international marketing plan includes the following:
- Identify the target market for the product or service.
- Identify potential countries and/or regions to sell the product or service.
- Conduct market research to identify target countries that have market participants with similar needs as the host country’s target market
Once a set of countries has been identified, the next step is to qualify the markets through additional research. Even though a market segment may exist in a target country, needs may differ further from market to market.
Market research is essential to the development of a marketing plan. The first step in the market research process is to identify the type of information that needs to be gathered. This may include statistical data on the local population and economy. It may also include data on cultural, linguistic, religious, legal and regulatory, or political issues. Depending on the product or service, marketers may also want to gather data through the use of questionnaires, interviews, or focus groups with members of the target market. Research methods have to be established and mechanisms put in place to verify data integrity, validity, and quality.
Some sources of data may include but not be limited to the following:
- U.S. Department of State
- U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA)
- The World Bank
- International Monetary Fund (IMF)
- International Chamber of Commerce (ICC)
- Export-Import Bank of the United States (Ex-Im)
- Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC)
- Target country’s embassy or consulate.
- Country or regional desk at the International Trade Administration (ITA)
The Marketing Mix
The next step is to determine what approach to use for the marketing mix. There are three general approaches in international marketing driven by the type of product and the nature of the target market:
- Ethnocentric: No changes are made to the domestic marketing.
- Geocentric: The marketing mix is standardized on a worldwide scale.
- Polycentric: The marketing mix is customized for each market.
Developing the Plan
The final step in the process is to develop a plan for market penetration. The plan lays out all phases of the process from market penetration to sales models. Marketing plans are living documents. This means that while they establish the approach to the market, they also need to be flexible enough to deal with change. One important factor is to establish clear and objective metrics within the plan to gauge success and feedback mechanisms to identify points for required changes. The plan is essentially the business plan for the move into a new market. It is considered to be the blueprint for market expansion.
The basic international marketing plan should include the following components:
- Mission Statement
- Value proposition for the target market.
- Identification of the segment and groups being targeted.
- Development of a pricing model based on the local economy.
- Development of a promotional program that may include advertising and public relations.
- Creation of a distribution and sales strategy and identification of specific issues around sales and distribution in the target market to include potential partners.
- Critical success factors and related metrics to measure the ongoing progress of the program and the success of the plan.