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Developing an international marketing plan

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I often get asked the question: "How do you develop an international marketing plan?" Unfortunately, there isn't always a quick answer. I have helped many companies establish their business offshore and I usually take a very simple approach to this by working with them to answer the following questions: Why go global? What is the organisation trying to achieve? Is it 'hard' benefits (e.g. more revenue, customers, profit, scale, diversification) or are there 'softer' benefits (e.g. more excitement, travel, challenges, culture) that drives the organisation? It is easy for entrepreneurs to get caught up in the excitement of travelling overseas: sometimes my job is to stop them jumping on a plane and persuading them to stay at home to do some research first! Where should you aim your business? This is often the hardest question. With so many countries clambering to get hold of your unique product, service or capability, where on earth do you go first? Do you start with established markets like the US, UK, Europe or Japan, or do you look to the world's emerging markets, notably China and India, with the biggest populations? You need a dispassionate, objective and sound approach to choose one country over another and this often takes time and research to do properly. What are you exporting? What product, capability or service are you going to export? How will this have to be adapted for new markets? How can you build a value proposition in a new market? How scalable is it? Will you be a niche player or do you need volume to make profits? You must understand all of this before going any further. How will you approach the overseas market? What do you know about the markets you are developing? What are the factors that will lead to success or failure? How committed are you to success in new markets? How much do you know about some of the cross-cultural aspects? What else will you need to learn to be successful? Who is involved? What extra support, resources and financial backing will you need to succeed offshore? Who do you need to involve, both internally and externally? Who can you go to for capital if you need it? Who will you appoint to develop your offshore business? Is it one of your top people? How will this impact on your domestic business? When will you go global? How and when will you launch offshore? Will you do one major launch or a series of soft launches? How will you ensure you are fully prepared? What happens if you achieve more than you expect? Can you cope? As you can see, there are many issues, challenges and points to be addressed, and all of them take time to research, review and assess properly. Like all things in life, having a plan before you get started is a good idea!

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