Combining tried-and-true with fresh marketing strategies and tools can give your brand a push in export markets. Cameron Bayley talks to experts in the field and finds 10 crucial points to consider when working out the best marketing strategy for your exports.
1. Marketing Importance
It may seem obvious, but not all exporters recognise the importance of marketing. "Australians don’t always take marketing as seriously as their product development or their product quality," says Kylie Hargreaves, Austrade’s senior trade commissioner in Los Angeles. You can’t just have faith that your product will sell itself, she says, and your marketing strategy should have the same time and brain power devoted to it as to developing your product or service.
Tim Jones, from branding and marketing specialists, Jones Davis BBN, says placing the right emphasis on marketing is crucial. "It should be seen as an investment," he explains. And like any investment, business owners want to see a return, so good research, consultation and preparation can make it less of a grey area and give some perspective to what is required, he adds. "Marketing often isn’t sold effectively to the financial side of the company."
2. Marketing Tools
The humble business card still plays as big a role as ever when meeting potential buyers and clients, says marketing consultant (and former trade commissioner) Rowan McClean. "Business cards are probably one of the most important marketing tools into any country," he says. "There are a lot of things you can do with it."
For many markets it’s important that you have a title and as much information as you can. "You won’t get to see the top people unless you’re a top person yourself," he adds. "Have your picture on the card. Have some sort of summary of what your product or service is." And McClean says the etiquette around business cards can be quite precise. For example, it’s offensive in Japan to write on someone’s business card, so it’s worth investigating things like this beforehand, as well as cultural attitudes about certain colours. If you’re targeting a foreign language market it might pay to have some information in that language on the other side of the card.
Brochures also continue to be effective marketing tools, he adds. "For products it’s essential, and for services it’s impressive. You want to leave somebody with something that reminds them of what you’ve got."
3. Become An Expert
Positioning yourself as an expert can give you an edge over competitors in the international marketplace, says Hargreaves. If there’s any way you can offer your services as a speaker at trade events, it can give added kudos to your brand. "It’s always worth three times as much to be seen as a speaker or an expert in your field rather than someone seeing your ad, or someone walking past your trade show booth."
Ben Richardson, one of the founders of FreshView, a company which provides email marketing software to web design companies in more than 50 countries, says the company’s number one marketing tool is the company’s blog. As well as broadcasting new features for their software and displaying promotional material, it incorporates educational material on various topics relevant to the company’s customers, a move which has gone down very well in the blogging community. "That’s seen us get good traffic within the blogosphere," Richardson says. The business has seen other blogs link to their articles which not only increases their immediate exposure but affects the company’s search engine optimisation. The more links to the site, the higher it ranks in internet searches. It’s been so successful the company has pulled back some of its spending on advertising, and put this into commissioning content for the blog.
4. Niche Marketing
Targeting web design companies only has allowed FreshView to focus its marketing techniques, Richardson says. "We’re getting more traffic and more new customers than ever, because it’s targeted at the right people," he explains. "One of the things that has made it easy for us is that we have hit that niche and we are just targeting web designers."
In the same vein, Hargreaves says it’s also worthwhile to focus on specific high-profile customers, or "reference sites". A medical company might target a prominent hospital, so that they can then leverage their future marketing off being a supplier to a prestigious client. "You’re better off spending your limited resources trying to land that sort of account because after that you can reduce your marketing spend," she says.
5. Alternatives to Traditional Marketing
Don’t assume you’re limited to standard forms of marketing. "What we’re finding now, particularly in the more sophisticated markets, is that those old techniques still work to a degree but your ‘bang for your buck’ can be significantly increased through alternatives or non-traditional marketing," says Hargreaves. This new approach is often called guerrilla marketing, she explains. Austrade recently organised a concert for Australian musicians on the virtual community website Second Life, which currently has around three million US subscribers. The stunt cost nothing, and can be considered a success even if it only attracts a small percentage of Second Life’s subscribers, explains Hargreaves.
Sending a product to a celebrity and asking for some response (and including a self-paid envelope inside) is a technique that can work really well for consumer products. If they send through a positive reply, "suddenly you’ve got your marketing collateral for 12 months, if not longer," she says. Companies who have used this angle include Flat Out Bear, who forwarded their products to actress Sarah Jessica Parker, and Austrade recently co-ordinated a basket of baby products for new mum, actress Mariska Hargitay from TV’s Law and Order. Other companies have supplied products for the goody bags given to Academy Award nominees on Oscar night.
6. Networking with Clients
Meeting clients in any market is an important way to get your brand into new countries. "There’s no way you can say face-to-face meetings have gone out the window," says Hargreaves. However, with the noise in the marketplace getting louder, exporters need to be more creative about reaching potential buyers in order to set up a meeting. And once you’ve got that face-to-face you need to be fully prepared to impress and move forward. "They don’t want to know that you just wanted to see what they thought about your label."
Jones says educating your team and having everyone in line with your marketing message can strengthen any client meetings at events such as trade fairs. "Often it’s the internal branding and internal marketing that is as important, sometimes more important than the external marketing."
7. Marketing Budget
There’s no fast rule as to how much you should spend on marketing. Hargreaves gives a ballpark of around $30,000 but says it’s almost impossible to pinpoint a figure. "If you look at the textbooks it’s supposed to be somewhere between 4 and 10 percent of your sales turnover." This becomes almost meaningless for small businesses though. "If you’re making $3,000 profit a month, why even bother calculating what 10 percent is?"
Her advice for any business with a limited budget is to investigate guerrilla marketing, look into viral marketing (creating word-of-mouth campaigns), invest heavily in your website and internet marketing, and form links with other partners. "What can you do that gets you reference sites, that articulates your competitive advantage really fast, that can get you some potential endorsement? Then just work that really hard." Richardson says in the software field, it’s popular at the moment to issue t-shirts to satisfied customers. "We’ve noticed other companies have
found this has created a really passionate group of customers, who’ve become almost like evangelists, who you don’t even have to pay for and who will help spread the word about your product."
8. Cultural Consultants
Did you know shaking hands with a Pakistani woman might offend men in the room? McClean didn’t, but found this out before going to Pakistan to conduct some workshops. "I sought out the president of the Australia Pakistan Association. Found a lecturer who was Pakistani," he says. "We’ve got ‘nationals’ here from most markets, so you can normally find someone to help you."
For many markets, such as the Middle East, forging relationships comes before making a transaction, he says. "You’ve got to be acceptable. Somebody who’s not aggressive and causing embarrassment, or adopting behaviours that are inappropriate."
Australia is fortunate to have bilateral organisations providing links with many of our overseas markets, with most easily located via an internet search.
9. Consider Co-Marketing
It can be worthwhile to investigate who you can work with in your chosen market to give your marketing (and budget) a boost. It can be as simple as making sure your distributor on the ground is perfectly suited for your business, and it can extend to working in partnership with complementary Australian or foreign businesses. Hargreaves says Australian businesses can be hesitant to do this, as it can seem uncompetitive. However, working together at trade shows is one example of where it can work. "Think about complementary companies active in your target segment and see if you can work together to create a bigger impact," she says. "When you’re talking about such small marketing, you really have to be creative about working with others."
You may even find a partner in your chosen market. "A lot of software companies team up with partners in Japan who know the local industry a lot better and help you out, telling you the best way to tackle it, and often repackaging the entire software in a way that’s more suited for that market," says Richardson.
10. Marketing Help
With each market a case in itself, it’s always a good idea to get some help when wanting to market your goods into a specific market. Branding and marketing consultants who have experience in marketing brands internationally are good places to start.
Austrade has some useful tips on exporting marketing on the ‘how to export’ page at www.austrade.gov.au, and http://www.exportingonline.gov.au is a government initiative which has advice for e-businesses, including marketing online.
While Austrade is an important resource for exporters, and should always be used as a sounding board, Hargreaves says it’s not a marketing specialist and exporters should also look further afield to PR agencies and industry associations.
Money For Marketing
One of the areas where Austrade can assist in your marketing is via its Export Market Development Grants (EMDGs) scheme. Under the program, exporters can claim up to 50 percent reimbursement for export marketing expenses above $15,000. Exporters can claim for such things as expenditure on overseas representatives, marketing consultants, market visits, promotional literature and communications. Austrade offers telephone assistance and coaching sessions for those wanting to lodge an application. For 2007, applications must be received between July 1 and November 30. For all information on EMDGs click on ‘export grants’ at http://www.austrade.gov.au