Today, businesses can expand internationally faster than ever before: The barrier of entry is lower, thanks to the internet and global supply chains, and the wide variety of marketing tools available to help with the process.
According to a study by Equinix, 72% of surveyed organizations were planning to expand to new cities, countries, or regions in the next 12 months, with companies in the Asia-Pacific region and in the Americas the most confident about their global expansion, 82% and 78%, respectively.
So, if you want to seize the opportunity and grow your business in international markets, you’ll have plenty of resources and tools you can use – along with examples of successful and unsuccessful business expansion strategies to draw lessons from.
Website translation services like Weglot also play a role in this transformation, as we can make it easier for businesses to:
Localize their websites and reach a wider audience without spending tens of thousands of dollars on translation services
However, even with the right tools, international expansion requires careful planning. Creating and deploying a global marketing strategy for multiple markets at once is a dream project for many marketers, but also one that needs to be expertly managed, as there’s a lot that could go wrong.
In this guide, we’ll go over the things each marketer needs to do to enable the global expansion of their organization. We’ll also look at the most common mistakes marketers should avoid and give you actionable advice on how to prevent each one from capsizing your global marketing strategy to ensure a successful market entry.
But first, let’s look at the benefits of global expansion.
The benefits of global expansion
A global expansion can offer a number of important benefits to businesses of all sizes. Here are some of the key advantages:
More sales: This one might be obvious (and it’s probably the number one objective behind most businesses’ expansion plans), but that’s exactly why we need to mention it. Getting exposed to a wider audience (especially in markets with untapped potential and fewer competitors) will bring new sales opportunities and, if you play your cards right, new revenue streams.
New products: Not all overseas expansions are related to selling more of the same product; you might discover that branching out into new products makes more sense for specific markets.
New partnerships: Expanding your network of partners is a precondition for a successful global expansion; joining forces with others might open the door to new opportunities, beyond the ones you can currently envision (or for which you have the resources).
Access to global talent: You don’t necessarily need to hire new talent in each country where you want to establish your presence, but expanding past your local market enables you to grow and potentially gain access to a global talent pool, which can be instrumental in future-proofing your organization.
Risk management: If you expand to new countries, you’re no longer dependent on the economic situation of a single location, nor do you need to fear that a single local competitor could destroy your business overnight; a global presence means your business becomes more stable and resilient and you diversify your market share.
Cost control: Scaling your business gives you access to new opportunities to cut costs. For example, producing more of the same product can help you lower production costs, while larger shipping volumes enable you to negotiate better deals with logistics companies.
A Step-By-Step Guide to Creating a Global Expansion Strategy
Growing a brand internationally can be exciting and rewarding, but it’s also a daunting challenge. To make your life easier, we’ve created a step-by-step blueprint for creating a global expansion strategy, angled specifically for marketers.
Ready? Let’s dive into the exciting world of global marketing and entering foreign markets.
#1 Research Your Market and Ideal Customer(s)
The first step in expanding internationally is researching your market and ideal customers in each foreign country. For this, you need to:
Identify your target market: Identify your target market, competitors, and ideal customers. Get as specific as possible and zero in on the details: geographical scope, demographics, purchasing power, and more.
Gather secondary data: Collect data from existing market reports, industry publications, and government research.
Do your own research: Conduct primary research using surveys and interviews to gather first-hand information from potential customers and partners and discover who your customer base really is.
Analyze the data: Identify important patterns, trends, risks, and opportunities.
Define your goals and strategy: Use the insights to inform your goals and marketing strategy, including product development, pricing, distribution, and promotion channels.
#2 Identify Key Pain Points and Opportunities
Once you have an idea of who your customer base is in each market, work on identifying the key pain points they’re struggling with and how you can help.
Here are some questions that might help you with this:
What are the existing solutions that your new customers are currently using?
How does your product or service compare to them?
What are the gaps in the market that your product or service can fill?
What are the unique cultural, economic, and social factors that may impact your target market’s pain points, needs, and expectations?
How can you position your product or service (with the help of social media, organic reach, or Google Ads, for example) to provide relevant solutions at the right time?
Is there a particular way all local competitors are addressing the target audience’s pain points? Are there alternative approaches you could experiment with?
There’s another major factor you need to consider: Some companies can expand faster and easier than others, simply due to the nature of their business. Examples include:
Companies offering digital services
Companies offering products that are easy to ship
If your business is among the types listed above, you might be able to expand to new markets with relatively limited resources; keep in mind, however, that you still need to build a solid global marketing strategy for your expansion to really take off and cement your competitive advantage.
#3 Build a Network of Partners and Suppliers
A strong network of partners and suppliers is the backbone of any successful global business. You, as a marketer, won’t be concerned with all aspects of your international operations, such as logistics or supply chain management, for example.
However, marketers also need to build strong networks in new markets, especially with:
Other marketers, including local marketing agencies (even if you don’t plan to hire them, or at least not for the moment)
Market research and consultancy companies
Local trade show and event organizers
Consider this: Your local contacts will have invaluable expertise and knowledge of the market; through networking, you’ll be able to gather important insights on how to best conquer a new market. Building a global team and network can help ease your growth strategy with insights you can’t always get from your home country alone.
When you think of content marketing, think globally: Plan how to localize your website content to reach your target audience is an essential part of the expansion process and language should always address cultural differences.
Consider language targeting for ads: Use local online ads that are displayed only to users that speak a specific language
Leverage the power of AI: Plan to use multilingual chatbots to assist local customers in their own language in different parts of the world
Consider social media content: Think about social media content and decide how you’ll adapt it to different markets; this might require creating new profiles for different markets or using social media ads strategically. And don’t forget to consider different time zones and that will impact your posting strategy.
#5 Build Your Local Presence
Once you define your strategy, it’s time to start building your local presence.
This might mean creating a physical presence or a local business entity, or it might simply mean creating an online presence for each local market, i.e. a localized version of your website.
Translating and localizing the content of your website is an essential part of a global expansion and in particular an area of the process the marketing team is usually responsible for.
Traditionally considered a time-consuming process, website translation can be completely automated with the right website translation software.
With Weglot, you can do that easily by allying machine and human translation, which enables you to translate even very large volumes of website content, into multiple languages.
We also take care of displaying that content, meaning marketing teams can translate a website independently of their IT and developer teams. A quick, simple installation allows you to have a multilingual website up and running in minutes. Plus, with a technical multilingual setup, full translation editing control, and automated content syncing, Weglot automates the whole process.
To capture local traffic, you’ll also need to handle technical aspects on your site that contribute to your international SEO. This is an extension of localizing your content and ensures you’re actually discoverable in different countries and impacts the global growth of your website and company. You need to:
Translate all website metadata (meta titles, meta descriptions)
With the launch of your product, you also need to launch localized marketing campaigns to capture the attention of your target country and ensure business growth. For this, you might use:
Local Google Ads
Local social media ads and content
Localized website content
Website content produced specifically for your new target audience
Aim to build coherent campaigns on 2-3 key marketing channels rather than trying to be present everywhere (more on that later).
#8 Analyze Results and Look for Improvement Opportunities
No market strategy is complete without the last step: Analyzing your results.
Performance marketing is a strategy that increasingly more marketers are adopting, as it enables you to see what actually works and how to optimize your marketing efforts to boost conversions.
Collecting key data and looking at it methodically takes the anxiety and guesswork out of marketing, so make sure you have the right systems in place to track results, such as GA4, a CRM platform, the right campaign management tools, and more. For a detailed list, check out point 5 of the next section.
Top 6 Most Common Marketing Mistakes When Expanding to New Markets – And How to Avoid Them
A global expansion comes with several risks you need to take into account; if you fail to do so, you might not only put in jeopardy your international growth but also your entire business, if you use up too many resources.
In this section, we’ll look into some of the most common mistakes businesses make when expanding internationally and give you our advice on how to avoid them.
#1 Poor Market Fit
Poor market fit is the first danger that lies ahead of you.
According to CB Insights’ analysis of the 101 startup failure post-mortems they collected (and continue to collect), a poor market fit is the top reason why startups fail, with 42% of companies failing to correctly assess market needs. (While not all startups try to grow internationally from the get-go, many do.)
In short, if you fail to meet the needs or preferences of the target market with the product or service you’re offering, this might lead to a poor sales performance. Or, otherwise said, you’d have wasted the resources you invested into your expansion.
How to Avoid a Poor Market Fit
Before you launch your product or service, research your market thoroughly by collecting and analyzing data on each target market’s needs, preferences, behaviors, and trends. In step 1 from the previous section, you’ll find tips on how to do market research in new locations.
#2 Poorly Translated Website or Marketing Materials
One of the cornerstones of multilingual marketing is the correct and culturally appropriate translation of your website content, ads, and other marketing materials.
If you don’t translate your website or other marketing assets into local languages or do a poor job at it, you risk harming your brand image, looking amateurish, and even offending and alienating potential customers.
How to Avoid a Bad Translation
Thankfully, there are many tools and website translation plugins that can help you with the translation of your website, Weglot being among the most comprehensive solutions out there.
Choose the right translation method (machine or human translation, or, ideally, a mix between the two)
If you just translate your website but fail to take care of your international SEO, it might simply not be correctly indexed for each language, which could have a dramatic impact on your visibility in search results.
How to Build a Solid Multilingual SEO Strategy
Multilingual SEO uses the same key principles as “standard” SEO in your home market, i.e. you need to analyze your target location, keywords, search volumes, and always strive to provide content that is useful, well-structured, and satisfies the users’ intent.
#4 Trying to Be Present Everywhere
Launching instantly in multiple markets is a risky endeavor, but the same can also be said for being present on too many marketing channels. This can dilute your efforts and not build a recognizable presence anywhere.
How to Avoid Spreading Your Marketing Strategy Too Thin
Concentrate on 2 to 3 marketing channels and work on growing these. Overall, you have the choice between:
Your blog (driving organic traffic)
Your newsletter (growing an international audience list)
Different social media channels (pick one or two at most, especially in the beginning)
The best channels to choose depend on your target audience and where your ideal customers spend their time, the networks and social media channels that are the most popular in your target market, and also on your experience with each channel.
#5 Not Tracking Results (Or Not Using the Right Metrics)
Measuring marketing performance might be notoriously difficult but you need to do it if you want to make sure you’re investing in the right marketing initiatives. If you don’t track results, how do you know if your success is a fluke or the result of the right strategy? And most importantly, how do you replicate it across markets?
How to Make Sure You’re Tracking Results the Right Way
Define KPIs and make sure you have the right systems in place to track them. Those include:
Google Analytics and Google Search Console
A customer relationship management (CRM) platform like Salesforce, HubSpot, Zendesk, etc.; most CRM systems double as campaign management tools
Email marketing tools like MailChimp, ActiveCampaign, Klavyo
Social media and search engine ads’ tracking systems
#6 Not Taking Into Account the Specifics of Each Location
Each market comes with its own specifics that you must learn to navigate, and those expand beyond the language.
The Brazilian market won’t be the same as the Portuguese one, for example, and if you fail to take this into account, your mistake might cost you dearly.
How to Avoid a Cultural or Commercial Misalignment With Local Markets
Whenever you’re adapting content to a local market, make sure you take into account the cultural and linguistic specifics of it.
For this, you might need to use the services of local proofreaders or marketing agencies; sometimes even just speaking to local partners can help you see your mistakes.
Make Sure You’re Prepared to Grow Internationally by Using the Right Tools and Global Strategy
The success of your global expansion will depend to a large extent on your marketing strategy, so it’s easy to see the central role that marketers play in cross-border growth.
If you’re armed with the right tools, however, international marketing becomes considerably easier – and one of the key components you need is a comprehensive website translation solution. That’s exactly why we’ve built Weglot: to help you easily create a multi-language website for your business, build your local presence anywhere in the world, and sell across borders effortlessly.