International marketing takes place when a business directs its products and services toward consumers in a country other than the one in which it is located. While the overall concept of marketing is the same worldwide, the environment within which the marketing plan is implemented can be dramatically different from region to region. Common marketing concerns—such as input costs, price, advertising, and distribution—are likely to differ dramatically in the countries in which a firm elects to market its goods or services. Business consultants thus contend that the key to successful international marketing for any business—whether a multinational corporation or a small entrepreneurial venture—is the ability to adapt, manage, and coordinate an intelligent plan in an unfamiliar (and sometimes unstable) foreign environment.
Businesses choose to explore foreign markets for a host of sound reasons. In some instances, firms initiate foreign market exploration in response to unsolicited orders from consumers in those markets. Many others, meanwhile, seek to establish a business to absorb overhead costs at home, diversify their corporate holdings, take advantage of domestic or international political or economic changes, or tap into new or growing markets. The overriding factor spurring international marketing efforts is, of course, to make money, and as the systems that comprise the global economy become ever more interrelated, many companies have recognized that international opportunities can ultimately spell the difference between success and failure. "The world is getting smaller," concluded E. Jerome McCarthy and William D. Perreault Jr. in Basic Marketing. "Advances in communications and transportation are making it easier to reach international customers. Product-market opportunities are often no more limited by national boundaries than they are by state lines within the United States. Around the world there are potential customers with needs and money to spend. Ignoring those customers doesn't make any more sense than ignoring potential customers in the same town."
While companies choosing to market internationally do not share an overall profile, they seem to have two specific characteristics in common. First, the products that they market abroad, usually patented, are believed to have high earnings potential in foreign markets. Second, the management of companies marketing internationally must be ready to make a commitment to these markets. This entails far more than simply throwing money at a new exporting venture. Indeed, a business that is genuinely committed to establishing an international presence must be willing to educate itself thoroughly on the particular countries it chooses to enter through a course of market research.
INTERNATIONAL MARKETING FACTORS
Although firms marketing abroad face many of the same challenges as firms marketing domestically, international environments present added uncertainties which must be accurately interpreted. Indeed, there are a host of factors that need to be researched and evaluated when preparing an international marketing strategy. Key aspects of any potential foreign market include: demographic and physical environment; political environment; economic environment; social and cultural environment; and legal environment.
Demographic and Physical Environment. Elements that needs to be assessed that fit under this category include population size, growth, and distribution; climate factors that could impact on business; shipping distances; time zones; and natural resources (or lack thereof).
Economic Environment. Factors in this area include disposable income and expenditure patterns; per capita income and distribution; currency stability; inflation; level of acceptance of foreign businesses in economy; Gross National Product (GNP); industrial and technological development; available channels of distribution; and general economic growth. Obviously, the greater a nation's wealth, the more likely it will be that a new product or service can be introduced successfully. Conversely, a market in which economic circumstances provide only a tiny minority of citizens with the resources to buy televisions may not be an ideal one for a television-based marketing campaign.
Social and Cultural Environment. This category encompasses a wide range of considerations, many of which can—if misunderstood or unanticipated—significantly undermine a business's marketing efforts. These include literacy rates; general education levels; language; religion; ethics; social values; and social organization. "The ability of a country's people to read and write has a direct influence on the development of the economy—and on marketing strategy planning," observed McCarthy and Perreault. "The degree of literacy affects the way information is delivered—which in marketing means promotion."Attitudes based on religious beliefs or cultural norms often shape marketing choices in fundamental ways as well. As Hiam and Schewe noted,"cultures differ in their values and attitudes toward work, success, clothing, food, music, sex, social status, honesty, the rights of others, and much else." They observed that even business practices can vary tremendously from people to people. "For instance, haggling is never done by the Dutch, often by Brazilians, and always by the Chinese." The company that does not take the time to make itself aware of these differences runs the risk of putting together an international marketing venture that can fail at any number of points.
Legal Environment. This includes limitations on trade through tariffs or quotas; documentation and import regulations; various investment, tax, and employment laws; patent and trademark protection; and preferential treaties. These factors range from huge treaties (North American Free Trade Agreement-NAFTA, General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade-GATT) that profoundly shape the international transactions of many nations to trade barriers erected by a single country.
Political Environment. Factors here include system of government in targeted market; political stability; dominant ideology; and national economic priorities. This aspect of an international market is often the single most important one, for it can be so influential in shaping other factors. For example, a government that is distrustful of foreigners or intent on maintaining domestic control of an industry or industries might erect legal barriers designed to severely curtail the business opportunities of foreign firms.
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