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How to make International marketing plans & segmentation

Whether marketing to Bangalore or Berlin, the fundamental questions that a marketing plan must answer remain exactly the same. A marketing plan should enable a business to understand where it is currently at, where it wants to go and how it might get there. That is however where the similarity ends. Planning for international markets is far more complex than planning for your domestic market and as a result several additional elements need to be included to make the plan viable. Let’s take a look at some of these complexities and the additional planning required.

Objectives must not be set in isolation. In any international market there are multiple factors that you cannot control such as politics, economics, competitors, culture and customer expectations. Any objective must be set in light of these factors as they can dictate whether you succeed or fail.

Contingency plans are essential. In an uncomplicated home market it’s possible to survive by reacting quickly to new situations whereas being overly reactive in international markets is usually wasteful on both opportunities and resources.

Flexibility is key. Plans must be sufficiently flexible to cope with unfamiliar cultures, changing scenarios in local politics, economy and competitor activity plus any unexpected event that might affect the company.

Pay attention to multiple stakeholders. Allow time to identify the companies and individuals who have a stake in your company and plan to avoid potential conflicts which could stop you getting results. International stakeholder management is more complicated because there are usually a higher number of stakeholders.

What’s more they may be distant from you both physically and culturally. Consider the expectations of your shareholders, employees/agents in the country, customers, domestic and local government, etc., and the balance to be struck to keep everyone happy.

Set broader measurement parameters. International marketing needs time to get results. Often it may form part of a longer term strategy too. You may, for example, wish to find a distributor in Spain to later provide an entry route to the Latin American market. In addition to revenue, factors such as brand and relationship building, market insight and staff

development are all viable measures of success.

Other additions to the plan

Other international extras to a standard marketing plan include detailed country analysis to assess risk, profile and potential, a consideration of whether products or services can be launched in their standard format or whether they need to be adapted for market acceptance, and finally, international market segmentation.

There is no one-size-fits-all scenario in international market segmentation but it is crucial to the success of any marketing plan. Segmentation enables a company to divide markets into groups of customers who seek similar product/service benefits or who behave in the same way. Targeted marketing messages are then used for each group to achieve maximum sales. To increase marketing efficiencies and to avoid national stereotyping in international markets, segments can be formed by grouping countries with the same values and communicating a single message across country borders. Segments can be identified by studying decision maker characteristics and/or country infrastructure and demand. Alternatively the world can be viewed as segments rather than countries. In this case branding tends to be global but the messages communicated are personalised for the local market.

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