5 Questions To Determine If You Should Be Marketing to Local, Domestic or International Prospects Allie Wolff Finding your target audience is one of the most challenging—and fundamental—parts of marketing. Part of that includes researching basic demographic information, including how old your ideal clients are and, yes, where they live. While parsing that data can lead to new insights that ultimately inspire a domestic or international expansion, you always have to be careful—any wrong move can quickly sink a growing business. So how can you figure figuring out if your small business should be marketing to international prospects? There are a few questions you can ask yourself to figure it out. 1. Who’s buying your product? You’ll need to dig into your company analytics to learn this one. Obviously, if you’re starting small, your audience will be local, but your specific demographics can be more revealing—and hint at places you could market. If you’re running an online store, dig into that demographic information to see where people are visiting from. If you’re selling to a broader or more international range of customers than you realize, that’s the easiest (and most obvious!) indication. But subtler cues can be revealing, too. Finding demographic information, as well as how those customers are using your product, can reveal other sources of inspiration. If you know that your brand is popular among liberal-minded males in the metropolitan U.S. East Coast, you can find similar areas that might respond equally well, like Toronto, Berlin or Austin. This can be a bit hit and miss, but you’re likely to make solid inroads into new markets, particularly domestically. 2. Can you handle marketing in multiple languages? This should go without saying, but marketing internationally—and sometimes domestically, depending on which market you’re targeting—will require language skills. Communication is language. If you’re marketing to a Spanish-speaking audience, it’s about more than just writing good ad copy in Spanish. You should have a Spanish language customer support network, a Spanish website and Spanish onboarding resources for your product or service. You may need to start Spanish accounts on Facebook and Twitter, too. Marketing is making a promise. If you’re making a promise, you have to be prepared to follow through. 3. Are you legally able to sell abroad? Advertising laws vary from country to country. Pharmaceuticals, for example, are strictly controlled by the government in several countries around the world—the rules in Canada differ greatly from the United States, even though the markets are generally regarded as similar. Various other marketing techniques, from contest rules to website regulations, will also vary from country to country, and even within provinces or states. The European Union’s infamous “cookie law” is one example of a website requirement you’ll have to take into account. And all this precludes the product development itself, which may be subject to packaging and material transparency in various ways across the world. 4. Are you in a position to work with locals who know the market? If the answer is “no,” you’re straightaway in a bad spot. Nobody would expand into a Chinese market without Chinese expertise on their side. One great example of this is search engine marketing. While Google is the leader in North America, Yahoo, Bing and specific niche engines rule across the world. (Naver in South Korea, Baidu in China, etc.) We sometimes forget that domestic industry leaders are not universal. SEM will be tricky because you can’t simply translate your pre-existing keywords into another language. You’ll need to work with local marketing experts to localize your marketing concepts and the direction of your brand and work with their software. A good start to all this is to ask yourself how comfortable you’ll be working in the country and with locals. If you have any native language skills or a keen and genuine interest in the demographic, that’s the best way to start the conversation. 5. Do you have the time to invest in researching all of this? This, ultimately, is the biggest question to ask yourself: Do you have the time to spare? Marketing internationally can require far more research than simply evaluating shipping costs. A good rule of thumb in all of this is to start small. When targeting a new market, don’t invest big dollars and expect big results. It’s best to start small and grow once you have enough evidence that your plan will actually succeed. Without enough proper planning, this whole operation could go belly-up. Assuming something will work abroad simply because it works domestically—or even that it will work domestically simply because it works locally—is always a mistake. These decisions require research and months, if not years to accomplish. Weighing the pros against the potential cons is a decision only you can make.