International Direct Marketing


Marketers are always looking for new revenue streams and expansion or growth in their markets—whether that market is B-to-B, B-to-C or both. Markets outside of the U.S. are viable targets for growth—not for all businesses, but for many; especially these days with the ever-increasing sophistication of globalization.

The intricate question of whether or not to expand globally is not something that can be completely answered for every company in a single article. For some it is a great opportunity, and for others, not a viable option. If you’re considering it, here are some realities and opportunities to keep in mind:

The Markets
Determine first and foremost what markets are available to you. Which regions/countries/cultures will want or need your product or services? Are there local competitors? If so, why would your product/service be more desirable to that market? There is much more to research before making a final determination, but this is your starting point.

The challenges to international marketing—to say nothing of the logistics—are many: language, culture, laws, privacy and cost (list rental in foreign markets can cost up to three times as much as we are accustomed to) to name a few.

However, the main issue many American marketers face when they approach a foreign market is that they tend to believe that the world mirrors the U.S., and will often strategize exactly as they would here. While several countries, such as The United Kingdom or Australia, certainly have an affinity to the U.S. market, these are only two out of some 200 accessible foreign markets. In addition, gone are the days of the world desiring or preferring “Made in America.” American Imperialism, or the perception thereof, has affected the world markets and must be taken into consideration.

Before you decide which countries to market to, decide who your target market is and then determine the viability of reaching that market worldwide. This will determine the direction of your marketing strategy from here on. The selectable demographics are indeed different for each country/region and must be taken into consideration for a successful marketing effort. Here are three examples of target markets:

1.English-Reading BusinessPeople: This market is global, and one could indeed reach these demographics easily by seeking worldwide lists and data.

2. Affluent Consumers in Europe: While some data sets address this target market, consumers are more likely to respond to direct marketing in local language. Therefore, you could use this data with local language, or better yet, obtain data locally from each country. A list owner in France, let’s say, is likely to have more precise data than one who is addressing multiple countries.

3. Asian Consumers: This is a limited market as the availability of this data is limited (as opposed to Europe). For example, data is simply not available in some countries, such as South Korea.

Choosing Lists and Providers
The next major challenge is selecting the right professionals to work with. This is the area that often leads to failed campaigns. If you ask your domestic vendor if it can handle international, most will say yes, especially if they have had some experience with Canada. Therefore, to make a better decision, you must get into the specifics: What client? What countries? What processes? If they cannot give you detailed answers, you’re looking in the wrong place. Here are a couple of examples:

1. Lists or Data Companies: Many American list brokers will tell you they can prepare an international plan, assuming that all data is maintained in U.S. databases like mIn or NextMark. While some foreign list owners do include their data in these, most do not. As I mentioned, the world does not base its business on the U.S., and to limit research to this is wrong.