International Marketing – 4 Myths of Global Marketing

1. If we make a better mousetrap, they will buy it.

The question here is, do you think that factor alone is the necessary and sufficient condition to sell overseas? If it was always about quality, then why doesn’t everyone always buy the best product?

Many overseas buyers will purchase an inferior product from someone who has a closer relationship with them, knows their business and culture, and understands them personally.

The sales cycle can take a great deal of time, because the customer intimacy takes time to develop. Contrast this to the United States, where we often change vendors without a second thought.

English is the universal language, so we can simply sell in English.

This speaks to several issues: Does everyone in the client organization speak, read and write English? Remember, decisions often are made on a consensus basis, and your marketing materials may travel quite a bit within the clients’ firms and sit on many desks.

And even if everyone in the company is comfortable with English, why not take the extra step and make it easy for them to buy (instead of easy for you to sell)? Translating materials is one of the simplest and most effective ways to show investment into a market, and will differentiate you from your competitors, who make no effort at all. Speaking the local language (at least enough to apologize for not speaking it) will help greatly.

2. Our labor cost is too high to market our product overseas.

This myth can be refuted with one statistic: Fifty-five percent of Japan’s trade surplus with the United States comes from industries where their labor cost is higher than ours. If labor cost was the deciding factor, then how on earth could Germany possibly sell anything abroad? Why aren’t we simply buying everything (from automobiles to wine to satellites) from Zimbabwe, where the labor cost is among the lowest?

3. Our price is too high for overseas markets.

Are you intending to compete only on price? Many commodities (oil, wheat, cement, corn) are price-sensitive, but the vast majority of international successes aren’t. Ipod is successful around the globe (and certainly not the low-cost option), as are Mercedes, BMW, Coca Cola and Tanqueray. In many cultures (e.g. Japan, Korea), service would be the differentiator.

4. Our skilled marketers can take on overseas markets.

If we define marketing as awareness, understanding and belief, we need to ask:

Do my marketing people know how to make overseas markets aware of the product? Do they know how to explain the products, attributes and benefits in terms that make sense to the locals?

Can they convince overseas buyers of the merits of working with your company? Do they understand how markets are organized and how buying decisions are made?

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