Going beyond site translation in new foreign market entry

When preparing for new foreign market entry, localization creates the best perception of your brand and maximizes opportunities. Learn tips and strategies here.


For companies intent on growth, international market expansion offers many opportunities to reach new customers and establish a global presence. However, successful expansion relies on the right entry strategy and messaging that resonates with local customers.

Translating your website copy and hoping for the best isn’t enough. In increasingly competitive market conditions, your marketing materials, website, and mobile products must look and feel like a local brand.

Today, we’ll cover the basics of developing a new market entry strategy, from choosing an entry method to fine-tuning the experience to suit global audiences.

  • What is a foreign market entry strategy?
  • Market entry strategies for international markets
  • Benefits of new foreign market entry
  • Tips for entering a new foreign market successfully
  • How Smartling makes new market entry easier

What is a foreign market entry strategy?

A foreign market entry strategy is a business plan to bring a company’s products and services to a new consumer market. Effective strategy-building requires understanding the risks and opportunities of entering the new market, as well as the differences between the domestic market and potential expanded markets:

  • Cultural and regional differences: How will new customers perceive your products and services?
  • Business regulations: What are the rules for foreign trade in your target country?
  • Taxation concerns: What taxation and reporting requirements exist?
  • Cost structures: How much will it cost to establish a presence and expand?

The ultimate goal of a market entry strategy is to identify sustainable opportunities for international growth and expansion while minimizing entry risks.

How do companies choose a market entry strategy?

The first step in developing a successful foreign market entry strategy is researching the target market and how your products or services fit within the competitive landscape. This includes understanding the needs and preferences of consumers in that region, recent developments in politics or economics, shipping and logistics considerations, and other factors that may affect your business decisions. It’s essential to study current competition in the target market and develop insights on differentiating from existing players.

Once the team completes appropriate market research, they can determine the viability of entering a new prospective market and the strategies necessary to succeed.

How you enter a different market will depend on the above factors and the level of direct investment available for the expansion. Asking these questions will help define the opportunity, associated costs, and other considerations:

  • How well is our current product or business model aligned with the new market?
  • What is the saturation level for similar products and services?
  • Are there strong local players that have a corner on the market?
  • Do we have existing partnerships to ease the new market entry?
  • What is the appetite for setting up local offices and manufacturing?
  • Are we in a position to comply with regulations for the new market?
  • Would using an agent or distributor have advantages over other methods?

Conducting an in-depth business analysis that considers these questions will clarify how you enter the new market and what game plan you’ll need for a successful transition.

Market entry strategies for international markets

There are a variety of ways businesses break into new markets and countries. Companies can export new products and services, invest in joint ventures, or set up overseas operations. Each method has unique advantages and disadvantages, so companies should evaluate each strategy carefully to find one that aligns with their goals.

Direct export

Direct export involves selling products or services directly to customers in a foreign market without setting up offices or other forms of local presence. This form of international trade allows businesses to quickly access new markets and benefit from economies of scale. Direct export can be done through various channels such as direct mail, ecommerce, and telemarketing.

Indirect export

Indirect exporting moves products into a market with the help of a third party, such as an agent or distributor. This intermediary can help businesses navigate foreign regulations and customs, reducing business risk. Third parties can assist with verifying proper translation and localization for the local market.

There are multiple ways to accomplish this:

Buyer agents Buyer agents are specialized representatives who search for potential buyers in a foreign country on an organization’s behalf. They reach out to these buyers, negotiate prices and terms of sale, and manage all aspects of international engagements.

Distributors Distributor-driven indirect export is a popular method for entering foreign markets, providing access to an established local network. Companies can appoint an agent or distributor to represent them, negotiate contracts, promote products/services, and secure sales. Success depends on finding the right partner who understands local dynamics and business needs.

“Piggybacking” This strategy works by partnering with an existing local company in the target market. By partnering with a well-established non-competitor, companies take advantage of established brand recognition, reduce the cost of entering the market, and expand their customer base more effectively. Low capital requirements make this an attractive option for SMBs and startups, but even larger companies can benefit. Piggybacking is an exercise in relationship-building and research, requiring strong alignment and mutually beneficial conditions.

In-country production

It’s sometimes expedient to establish operations right within the target market. This involves setting up manufacturing facilities and service offices with local equipment and staff. Localizing operations gives companies access to cost savings and a skilled workforce that understands local culture and regulations. It also allows for quick response to changes in customer demands, regulations, or tariff rates. Although this route is potentially expensive, customers may prefer locally produced goods. The key is to successfully translate the marketing materials for your products so they have the look and feel common to local businesses.

Franchising and licensing

In a franchising relationship, the brand owner (the franchisor) grants another business permission to use its trademark, logo, and assets. The franchisee operates the business independently under the franchisor’s brand name. Franchising is a popular market entry strategy for expanding into foreign markets due to lower risk and cost than in-country production or direct export. It also has lower risks than starting with an independent brand, as the franchisee takes advantage of established marketing, training, and procurement contacts.

5 benefits of new foreign market entry

When approached at the right time and with the proper due diligence, new market entry can greatly improve the financial prospects of an organization. New customers, expanded sales, and better market share are all compelling reasons to expand the corporate footprint.

Companies that enter a new foreign market with a strong localization plan enjoy these important benefits:

  1. Increased market opportunities: Entering a new foreign market often increases access to a customer base and potential growth in that region. New market entry also allows companies to reach broader segments of the population with their products and services with optimized offerings.
  2. More profitability: New markets create opportunities to drive revenue while optimizing costs. Companies can find cost savings with economies of scale and wider distribution channels. Multinational companies also benefit from potential local government incentives, which reduce costs and operating expenses.
  3. Better cost control: Localizing operations simplifies manufacturing and distribution, improving efficiency and cost. It also reduces currency fluctuations and taxation risks and gives companies access to local talent pools at lower labor costs.
  4. Competitive advantage: Entering a new market with a strong localization strategy ensures that marketing efforts meet local customers' cultural preferences, needs, and expectations. This helps differentiate themselves in the market and maximize the expansion opportunity.
  5. Risk diversification: Operating in a single market is equivalent to having “all your eggs in one basket.” Entering new markets dilutes business risks and creates resiliency in business planning.

Tips for entering a new foreign market successfully

When harnessing the benefits of new market entry, there are many ways to make the process easier and more lucrative. That old adage “well begun is half done” definitely applies to market expansion. Embrace these tips and best practices as your organization prepares to enter a new territory:

Research consumer behavior, customer needs, and preferences

Customer behavior research involves gathering and analyzing data to uncover patterns in attitudes, opinions, and behaviors. This can be achieved through paid market research, interviews, surveys, focus groups, and online tools.

Leveraging research helps companies understand the needs and preferences of their target market and develop effective strategies for success. Researching customer behavior enables you to tailor your products, identify market gaps, and position your brand ahead of competitors. Understanding consumer behavior also helps develop accurate pricing strategies aligned with your target customers.

Analyze the competitive landscape and identify advantages

Before entering a new market, organizations must carefully analyze the competitive landscape to determine potential advantages and pitfalls. By researching competitors’ services, products, pricing, and customer preferences, businesses can gain valuable insights that may be used to inform their new marketing strategy.

Doing this due diligence before expansion is essential for determining where the organization stands regarding its competition and what strategies it should employ to stand out. Additionally, analyzing the competitive landscape will help identify potential partnerships or other opportunities that could bolster a foreign market entry plan.

Build partnerships and collaborations

Partnerships make expansion easier. These essential connections provide access to local knowledge, resources, and contacts unavailable when entering a foreign market alone. They can also help you gain visibility and credibility in the market by having a local partner already established in the region.

Developing these partnerships requires careful consideration of each party's different interests, motivations, and risks. This includes examining the potential costs or benefits of partnering with one another and understanding how to manage the relationship over time. It also involves researching potential partners, evaluating their capabilities, negotiating agreements, and ensuring compliance with relevant regulations or laws.

Invest in localization, not just translation

When preparing for a new market entry, there is much more to prep than just translating marketing materials and your site into the local language. Where translation works well for certain aspects of your product and marketing materials—for instance, technical specs or user manuals—localization goes beyond the linguistic aspects of translating the text to address cultural adaptations of your content for the specific preference of the region or country. Localization is crucial to adoption in a new market. Over 75% of shoppers prefer to buy products with information presented in their own language. Further, 40% will never buy from a site in a foreign language.

Here are some examples of comprehensive localization:

  • Website and marketing visuals/graphics
  • Text length and text direction appropriate for local readers
  • Currency, date, and time formats
  • Appropriate colors to reflect local preferences, meanings, and tradition
  • Resonant and relevant slogans for the local market
  • Creating relevant audio, videos, and images to appeal to local preferences

Localization may also involve rewriting certain pieces of content to ensure the message resonates with the target audience. Localizing creates an authentic connection with the local customer base. It also avoids potential corporate faux pas that come along with direct translation for a new market.

With Smartling, you can enter a new market with ease

Successful new market entry relies on clear communication with consumers. Smartling allows organizations to present well-crafted marketing content in fluent, native languages for every market.

Beyond simple translation, Smartling’s AI-powered localization platform ensures your content will be accurate and aligned with the cultural nuances of every locale (at least, every locale you’ve set your sights on). Smartling also gives organizations access to localization experts and human translation professionals to ensure accurate, cohesive presentation in global markets.

Want to see how Smartling eases your entry into new markets? See us in action by viewing this short demo.