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Marketing tips for international startups

by John Saunders
30th Jul 19 1:42 pm

International startups are on the rise. According to the Harvard Business Review: “The confluence of high-speed internet, mobile devices, and cloud computing have made it possible to start and scale digitally-enabled businesses at a fraction of the cost. As these technologies have fallen in cost, they are within reach in more markets, meaning that it’s easier to create these high-growth, high-tech businesses in more cities.”

However, whether you run a full-fledged business with multinational offices, or you’re a one (wo)man-show working with freelancers in different countries, running and marketing an international startup comes with unique challenges.

If you’re at the helm of an international startup, implement these tips into your marketing strategy to level up your company’s effectiveness and branding.

Develop your brand story

Even though you’re trying to speak to different markets (and different countries) ensure that your branding and culture is consistent and strong across platforms. Focus on your company’s unique selling proposition (USP) in all of your messaging. Create a unified brand story and overall marketing approach as if there are no borders.

Research competitors

Competitor research is always useful to get a sense of other startups’ strategy and more importantly, execution. Try to find similar-sized organizations that are also international and take note on their social media and digital presence to glean valuable insights. While you might not have a similar budget or resources, you can also use big international brands as inspiration, check out this list from Hubspot to brainstorm ideas.

The reddit marketing is a hidden gem for identifying similar start-ups or connections. Remember not to use the platform as a sales channel, but rather a research outlet to better understand your target demographic and audience.

Use dynamic communication methods

When you work with stakeholders throughout the globe, communication needs to happen in real-time, and often in multiple ways. Marketing, in general, is also a constantly shifting field, you need to be ready to jump on industry updates or changes. Startups also need to be flexible so that they can effectively connect with their team members.

Martyn Milford, Marketing and Brand Director at LIV Student, explains his process, “Our team has not only international/remote workers, but we work with agencies and contractors in several different time zones. We use platforms that allow fast communication and collaboration. Whether that means communicating via WhatsApp or implementing the latest collaborative working platforms such as Zoom, we’re open to agile technical solutions that help us deliver growth faster.”

Define realistic KPIs

You can’t measure success without key performance indicators KPIs in place. Pick a few metrics to track month over month. Remember to be flexible, as you refine your business goals and marketing strategy, you might see that a certain KPI or benchmark doesn’t reflect success. To get started, refer to this list of KPIs from digital marketing guru Neil Patel.

Keep it simple

Especially with early-stage startups, marketing doesn’t need to be complex. You likely don’t have the budget or resources for the new shiny tools like Salesforce or Marketo, and you don’t need them. Take a scrappy and lean approach to marketing to help you stay on track.

George Webb, entrepreneur and author, suggests you ask yourself the following questions to ensure simplicity, “Are your sales and marketing efforts laser-focused on the most profitable tactics? Is your company culture clearly communicated for all others to follow?”

Install Google Analytics on your site

SEO is a long-term game. You might not be at the point where you can hire a full-time marketing employee or an SEO-focused freelancer, and that’s perfectly fine. However, if you do one thing, it should be to install Google Analytics (GA) on your website. You can only collect analytics once you have GA up and running, even if you don’t have the time to dive into the data, you will want it down the road to get an accurate portrayal of your journey. Watch this video for a deep dive on the process.

Remember—nail it before you scale it

A famous startup warning—nail it before you scale it—applies well to international marketing, as well. Make sure to have a solid digital marketing presence, strategy and execution, before you try to expand. Even if your business targets or works with an international audience, focus and strengthen your brand before trying to expand, or worse, over-extend your efforts. Use these tips and a flexible attitude to succeed with marketing your international startup.

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