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The three I’s behind a successful international product launch: Identify, Inspect, Influence

No matter the industry, product or customer segment, a company’s brand is its single most important asset. However, building a brand successfully in one market doesn’t always translate to success in other markets. 

One of the biggest mistakes organisations make when expanding internationally is repurposing the same campaigns, promotional offers, messaging, and customer understanding from their primary market to each new market and expecting the results to be transferable. While on paper this can help improve speed to market and drive some initial headwind, the business and marketing challenges faced in new markets are complex and are unlikely to mirror your primary market. 

In addition, you risk missing the mark by overlooking cultural nuances in new markets, where your positioning isn’t compelling, or worse, can cause offense or even irreparable damage to your brand identity.

Read more: Let’s Talk: The Export Essentials

With no two markets being the same, business leaders must tailor their go-to-market strategy to each new market. A ‘test and learn’ approach is a great place to start. This involves prioritising and experimenting with different channels and messaging to see what is most effective at driving new customer acquisition and awareness, and then relentlessly focussing on the few key initiatives that deliver the best results. 

Where this gets tricky is measuring and reporting on ROI, which more times than not it’s difficult to quantify. Marketing leaders often default to investing in areas that generate short-term, measurable and often ‘vanity’ wins, including clicks, views, likes, shares. However, these are not necessarily the best indicator of long-term success and too often, provide an incomplete picture of how your brand is interacting with new customer segments. This is where the three I’s can help. 

Identify: Who needs to see and hear about you?

The key to success in new markets is having a strong understanding of your customer. For B2C products for example, Instagram is one of the most effective sales channels to leverage because:

  • It’s visual, making it brilliant for showcasing products
  • Its users are making purchases (Instagram has the second highest average order value of all social channels, following Pinterest)
  • It’s continually adding new features that are commerce-friendly, for example, Instagram Live shopping.

Does that mean you should use Instagram to target your new market? Short answer: no. 

Here are three key steps to help you determine the right channel for your launch:

  1. Define your ideal customer persona: Create a fictional persona with as much detail as possible. The clearer your Ideal ‘Customer Profile’ (ICP) is, the easier it is to find people on social media in your target market. 
  2. Survey your existing customer base for insights: It’s likely that ideal customers in your target market have similar profiles and are located across similar online channels. 
  3. Do your homework: Tap into the expertise and experience of those who have successfully entered new markets before you. This can be through desktop research on customer behaviour or networking with similar organisations that have launched successfully into new markets. 

It’s also worth noting, your homework must not end after the launch has begun. With markets fast-paced, and customers ever-changing, it’s important to regularly reassess your strategy to remain competitive. 

Inspect: Keep a close eye on performance marketing

Testing your products, offers and messaging with performance marketing channels (for example social media, display ads and search marketing) can be a quick and effective way to see in real time what is and isn’t working. It also provides a quick feedback loop that you can use, not only to improve your campaign performance, but understand what messaging and positioning is resonating the most. This feedback can be used to achieve product market fit in new markets.

Influence: Find the right voice to champion you

Leveraging influencers and user-generated content is still one of the most effective ways to get eyes on your product in 2021. Audiences are more discerning than ever and working with relevant influencers can help build trust and authority in new markets. 

A successful influencer partnership doesn’t mean blowing the budget to access millions of followers. Micro-influencers are becoming increasingly popular and effective. They may have a smaller follower base, but their audience is often more engaged and receptive to sponsored content. Local influencers understand the cultural nuances and customer demands in their region and can help package your product effectively, making it one of the easier ways to crack a market unfamiliar to you. 

Similarly, user-generated content – customers sharing real, positive, and relatable experiences – is a powerful and cost-effective lead generator in a new market.

Launching in a new market can be daunting for any organisation. By using local influence, inspecting performance metrics and identifying market and customer characteristics, organisations can improve their go-to-market strategy and build strong commercial traction on a global scale. 

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Neil Luo

Neil Luo

Neil Luo is VP, Global Head of SME at Airwallex, leading the company’s international growth and user acquisition strategy. He has over a decade’s experience working across marketing, strategy, technology and data science, previously holding roles at SEEK, Hotels.com, Expedia and The Boston Consulting Group.

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