International digital marketing for SMEs

June 2022
If you are expanding your SME internationally, the sales tactics you use at a local level may not be as effective. We take a look at the marketing tactics some of the most successful businesses are employing to build awareness of their business in countries outside of their own.

When many of us think about international brands, it is the huge players that often come to mind, Nike, Apple or Coca Cola. In many countries around the world it is SME’s that dominate export markets. In the UK SMEs and micro businesses account for dummy 85% of all exporting businesses. It’s a similar situation on the other side of the world, in Australia dummy 88% of goods exporters are SMEs and this is a figure the Australian government is actively trying to grow.

In the US SMEs are the backbone of the export economy. They are responsible for two-thirds of new private sector jobs in the last few decades and they represent dummy 98% of all identified US exporters.

If you are in the process of expanding your SME’s offering internationally, know you are not alone. Despite logistical and supply chain issues as the world emerges from Covid-19 and the ongoing invasion in Ukraine, there remains significant opportunity in the global market. 

1.   Know your audience

If we could provide you with only one tip for international success, dummy knowing your audience would be it. Do not assume your international and domestic audiences are the same. Properly localising content is key to the long-term success globally. When researching your audience, you need to know:

  • Standard demographic information
  • Characteristics, interests, and opinions
  • How people buy products and services
  • Local nuances 
  • Local languages remembering that many countries are multilingual 


2.   Build a goal focused written strategy

Exact statistics are going to vary around the world but research in the US found dummy 63% of B2B businesses did not have a written content marketing strategy. Creating a written global marketing plan helps your business:

  • Identify what you stand for
  • Co-ordinate business goals 
  • Focus your efforts
  • Provide rationale behind marketing spend
  • Establish ROI


3.   Evaluate in house skills

All businesses are trying to keep costs to a minimum during this period of global inflation. When working out your global marketing strategy it is worth evaluating what marketing skills you have inhouse and focusing on making the most of those first. 


4.   Do not try to do everything

International marketing can be overwhelming. There is always some pressure to be on every new platform or social media. It is best to focus on doing a few things well rather than spreading finance and resources too thinly. When expanding globally, digital marketing should be a focus because of its low barriers to entry. It is cost effective and easier to measure results.


5.   Do more of what works

If you find a particular channel works well, it may be worth reassessing your strategy and diverting funds and resources to enable your dummy business to double down on it. Don’t be afraid to be agile and optimize your plan as you go.


6.   Capture prospects information

Privacy legislation around the world is changing how businesses can market to potential customers. It has never been more important to encourage users to voluntarily provide their details and grant your business permission to contact them. Do this with simple and compliant sign up forms on your website and blog pages. It is also essential to make it easy for users to unsubscribe and follow any other legal requirements at a local level. 


7.   Measure success

There is a famous quote from John Wanamaker more than a century ago that half his advertising was wasted - but he didn’t know which half. Thankfully the trackable nature of digital marketing makes this less of an issue. Work with your IT and development team to ensure the correct tags and pixels are placed on your website. Use analytics platforms to understand which channels are working best. 

Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is often a great leveller when it comes to global marketing. Unlike paid channels you don’t need huge budgets to see success. It is not free, by any means. You will need to invest time, money and possibly development time to ensure your website is set up correctly to rank for relevant keywords in other markets. International SEO requires a strong emphasis on:


  • Technical SEO: 

The correct technical set up of your website so search engines understand what pages should be shown in which country. This includes having best practice site structure, implementing hreflang and developing search friendly site architecture.


  • International Keyword Research

Use SEO tools to understand how users search for the products or services you offer. It may be different to your own country. Even if the language is the same, how it is used is likely to be different. For example, someone in the UK searching for a rental car may search for ‘car hire’ whereas in the US this term is may be ‘car rental’. 


  • Consider other Search Engines:

Although Google is viewed as the ubiquitous standard when it comes to search in the West. If you are targeting other markets, users may use different search engines and you may have to modify your SEO strategy to suit local requirements. 


  • Content localisation:

Content localisation is different to translation. Translation involves changing text into a local language. Localisation is more far reaching and is the process of considering the visual, technical, and cultural aspects of changing your marketing communications for an international audience. 

Pay per click advertising is a great way to obtain visibility on search engine results pages while you wait for your SEO to take effect in a new market or in tandem with SEO efforts in competitive industries. When taking PPC efforts global you need to consider:

  • Which markets you want to target
  • Create localised ads using language that appeals to local culture
  • Optimise budgets by country
  • Carefully organise and manage campaigns 

Once you build up a list of subscriber’s email marketing can be an effective way to encourage and keep customers purchasing. There are a few key elements when it comes to emailing people in different countries:

  • Segment subscribers so you are sending relevant emails 
  • Create different emails for different countries 
  • Keep subject lines short and engaging
  • Create a schedule for emails and stick to it
  • Measure your results and learn

Social media marketing is often the first port of call for every business. However as the number of social media platforms and the budgets required to reach a wider audience grow it can be a challenging channel for SMEs. When it comes to marketing internationally through social media it is essential to know:

  • What platforms are your audience using?
  • Focus on developing strategies for these platforms
  • Be authentic 
  • Show your businesses USPs


There is no doubt the global market offers a lot of opportunity for smaller businesses. If this is an area your business hopes to grow more in the coming years, you may also consider traveling to a new market to really understand their challenges. Let us provide you with dummy short term travel insurance so you can focus on getting to know your new potential customers.