Last Updated on 2 years by Christopher Jan Benitez
Old or new, B2B or B2C, every modern company can benefit from content marketing. Done well, it can drive remarkable brand growth, spreading the word about everything your company brings to the table with a degree of detachment that allows your message to hit harder. Conventional ads can be direct to a counterproductive extent, after all. When you focus on providing value through your content first, it’s much more reasonable to expect some in return.
There are many different ways to approach content marketing, though. You can seek primarily to entertain or focus on providing vital information. You can stick to text-based blog posts or target videos as your format of choice. Most notably here, of course, you can stick to your nation or attempt to expand your marketing operation across national borders.
There’s an undeniable appeal to that last option, isn’t there? More countries mean more people to reach, which should mean more opportunities for a profitable business. It’s much easier said than done, though. So can you take a truly international approach to your content marketing using various tools? Let’s consider what you’d need to make that happen and see what’s worth trying.
The localization process can be extremely challenging
Every country is unique in countless ways, which is why the process of localization is so important. In other words, you need to adapt various facets of your business model to accommodate those changes. Maybe you’ve typically run ads that rely on local pop culture references, for instance. Barring major cultural overlap, those references won’t make any sense in foreign ads, making it vital to strip them and come up with a fresh creative direction. Understanding your audience is the first rule of writing website content, after all.
This may sound simple enough, but it really isn’t. If you want to target several countries, you might need several versions of your ads — and the language barrier is an obvious issue. Not only do you need to figure out what to say, but you also need to ensure that you’re saying it in a way that makes sense. So much else can go wrong, too. Your brand name can mean something else in a different language, or one of your business partners may have an awful reputation in a certain region for whatever reason.
You might not need to adapt that much of your model
Now, it’s possible that you won’t actually need to adapt much of your creative approach: while it isn’t ideal to pick a hook that’s somewhat bland, that choice does offer safety. Saying some version of “This drink is delicious and refreshing” is viable in any culture. And if you vet your brand name before launching fully, you can ensure that it doesn’t mean something profane in a foreign language. So what parts of the process can’t you avoid?
The biggest obstacle is website localization, of course: in today’s world, targeting new markets will primarily come down to implementing multilingual functionality for every part of your website (all the way from the homepage copy to the navigational elements). And if you’re able to lean on automation through services and plugins, adapting your website for different markets can be as simple as clicking a few buttons, paying a reasonable fee, and making some minor edits.
There’s little sense in marketing where you don’t sell
If you could snap your fingers and make your biggest blog posts perform well internationally, would you? It’s a nice idea (who wouldn’t want more promotion?), but it has some problems that are easy to overlook. Most notably, you probably don’t sell everywhere. If you don’t operate exclusively online, why bother talking up your business in places where you don’t have any premises? And even if you do operate only online, you likely don’t ship everywhere.
It’s far from uncommon for companies to market themselves too successfully and be unable to meet demand and expectations, leaving them in big trouble. Before you embrace international marketing, then, you should be absolutely certain that you can handle the interest.
International shipping is easier than ever before
What if you could ship everywhere? At this point, it’s not even that hard to achieve. There are plenty of convenient courier services out there that maintain worldwide distribution networks and can deliver wherever you need. Factor in the existence of simple payment services like PayPal (when was the last time you gave a second thought to paying in a foreign currency?) and you have an easy recipe for international sales success.
There are problems here, naturally. Customer support can be a huge source of frustration for international sellers: returns are highly complicated, and overcoming the language barrier is far easier for sales copy than it is for nuanced discussions of customer issues. But given that most sales won’t lead to support tickets, there’s no reason why you can’t start shipping everywhere.
Every nation has a fresh range of competitors
Before you step up to the plate in a new playing field, you should have every reason to believe that you can win. You’ve shown that you can succeed in your native land (if you hadn’t, you wouldn’t be thinking about operating internationally), but localization isn’t the only thing keeping you from foreign success. You also need to think about regional competitors.
Plenty of great companies have excellent business models but simply don’t want to sell overseas because they make enough money locally. To put it in another way, the fact that you haven’t heard of a similar company from another country doesn’t mean that you can compete. Your bigger international brand can end up crushed in a market that’s already been cornered by a thriving local company that has the outstanding infrastructure and social support.
You don’t need to hit it big in every country
Do you really need to worry about dominating in every market, though? Going international should be about supplementing your income, after all. You can’t realistically expect to make as much money in a foreign market, but you don’t need to hit it big everywhere. You just need to bring in profit. However modest it may be, and however small the margins get, profit is profit.
So if you can take your marketing and your sales platform into another market in a way that’s safe (won’t risk your reputation) and economical (won’t sap your resources), you might as well give it a try. If your products don’t take off elsewhere, well, you won’t have lost much of anything. And if there is interest, then you can take advantage of it.
Wrapping up, then, you can take a truly international approach to your content marketing, but the complexities of culture and language make it exceptionally difficult to do it effectively. If you want to give it a shot, go in with modest expectations. You’ll only be disappointed if you expect to replicate your current success throughout the world — but if you view it as supplemental, you can make a lot of progress.