Planning Your Communications for International Markets

When developing communications for international markets, most marketers take a “reactive” approach — focusing on creating lots of new content in English and then panicking about how to get it translated for other markets quickly. A better approach is to have a clear, well thought-out international marketing communication and positioning strategy from the beginning. Translation, when “reactive,” can cost too much, take too long, and lead to poor quality, damaging a brand in the process.

Instead, be prepared! Here are seven tips for building a better international marketing communication plan:

  1. Remember that “international” is not a single strategy, but a roll-up of many country-specific factors. Each market is different, and while you can repurpose some communications, you need to start with a mindset of “local” vs. “global.” What should your message be for China? How does it need to change for Germany? How many local versions of your content will you need?
  2. Gain a clear understanding of your markets’ needs. What are they, and how do they differ? This doesn’t have to be extremely complicated — just talk to your salespeople or marketing staff in those markets. Or, if you don’t have staff, ask your international marketing agencies for advice on how to adapt or create something new for each market. Get close to your customers! Listen to their feedback. They’ll help guide you.
  3. Push for integrated marketing communications. It’s always better to collaborate with your colleagues in local markets when building a broader international marketing strategy. A series of one-off translation projects doesn’t help anyone move the integration needle forward; in fact, it just makes things more confusing and scattered. Gain buy-in and input from your international counterparts early in the process about how and what to translate. Once you’ve all agreed to a plan, it will be much easier to ensure your multilingual communications are being developed in a timely fashion, meeting the needs of your international markets consistently. For help with this, check out our marketer’s guide to translation.
  4. Get your baseline data. What data do you have access to that you can use to create clear goals? And what data can you track to ensure you’re making progress? Identify the percentage of revenue, the number of leads, or whatever other metric matters most in each of your target markets. And make sure you’re measuring these things as you go. Always let data inform changes to your strategy.
  5. Create goals accordingly. Your goals should reflect the relative importance of different markets to your business. Does your executive leadership team want to move into Japan? Or increase your company’s presence in the US Hispanic market? Vet an initial list of goals with your colleagues and boss to ensure your plan is aligned with your company’s higher-level financial goals. Make sure each goal is time-bound and measurable.
  6. Build a detailed plan. Now that your goals are clarified, create specific communications tactics and projects that map to those goals. Identify how you will work to achieve each one.
  7. Execute! Your international marketing communications strategy is ready. Rally your team members, leverage your in-country folks, and overall, keep all of your stakeholders in both marketing and sales (and your boss!) informed about progress toward your goals and how they will move your company’s global market penetration strategy forward.


The bottom line is that communicating to international markets doesn’t have to be hard. With thought and planning, and a smart translation management system to make things even easier, you can build and deliver on a strategy that appropriately meets the needs of your company’s diverse markets and helps your company meet its growth goals — all while making you an international marketing rock star!

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