What is international marketing? A guide to global marketing strategy

International marketing is about getting to know a potential international audience that your brand is interested in reaching, understanding the value of international marketing, and investing consistently in global marketing and advertising. With a bit of marketing management and attention to your distinct audience, international marketing won’t feel too different from the work your business does domestically.

International marketing can help bring your business to the global stage, revealing opportunities to reach customers that your brand has not engaged yet. In this overview, you’ll find the tools and tips for beginners, including information on international marketing research and product marketing, international marketplace segmentation, and why international marketing is more important than ever in today’s business world.

What is international marketing?

International marketing is the marketing of products or services outside of your brand’s domestic audience. Think of it as a type of international trade. By expanding into foreign territories, brands are able to increase their brand awareness, develop a global audience, and of course, grow their business.

Aeroplane in air with clouds

The complexity of international marketing comes in the details. While domestic marketing takes place in the same country, international marketing is anything that happens outside that nation’s boundaries, with a focus on the nuance of speaking to that international audience and trying to understand the culture, language (where applicable), and customs that may not be familiar to your brand.

When expanding to international markets, brands must understand the right ways to reach audiences in those regions with their messaging. That may come in the form of a language barrier, or even something as nuanced as a cultural norm that may not be applicable to your domestic audience. The important part of international marketing is intention and research. Doing international marketing research up front and developing international marketing strategies specific to the new audiences your brand is engaging with will make all the difference when it comes to whether your foray into international marketing is successful.

An important part of that process involves international marketplace segmentation—or the identifying of aspects that will help inform your marketing campaign. The geographic, economic, and cultural factors of any given audience will help to guide your brand positioning, as well as your marketing management and communication strategies. When developing a strategy, an important question to ask is where your product or service fits within that given audience’s needs. Think of that cliché about “selling sawdust to a lumbermill.” There is no need for sawdust there because the lumbermill already has all the sawdust it could want. That’s the mindset that should be taken when considering international business: what do they need and how do they need it marketed to them? Marketing segmentation will also help identify the messaging and communication style. Idioms, references, or even simple translations (like that sawdust one, actually) can lose meaning in translation, or worse, change meaning entirely and alienate audiences who do not share your native culture.

Why is international marketing important?

International marketing is important because it opens your business to larger, international audiences.

On a brand level, international marketing is an opportunity for wider exposure, product awareness, and increased sales. Opportunities abroad are countless and tap into a wider audience than a business has access to if it conducted business domestically and nowhere else. But a larger aspect of international marketing is the implications it has for globalization and free trade.