International expansion can be a key pivot point for a brand that raises the ceiling for growth potential in ways not many other initiatives can. Whether expanding into new geographic markets that share the same language as your home market, or into ones with a different language and cultural norms, digital advertising plans for your new markets need to be carefully thought out.
What does effective international expansion look like? You’ll need to do much more than copy existing campaigns and update the geographic targeting. For an example of what thoughtful international expansion looks like, and how much growth it can drive, don’t miss our new client story with GoFundMe, winner of a US Search Award. For more, below are some of the important categories of paid media preparation you should be looking at to take your new markets by storm.
Evaluate Expansion Market Competition
Use MOAT, Google Auction Insights (or simply conducting searches using a VPN to update your location), and collaboration with new market teams to paint a picture of what the competitive landscape looks like in that specific area of the world. A catalog of top regional competitors and their go-to-market strategy by channel will inform your new market launch perhaps more than anything else, including even your existing home market campaign learnings.
With that competitor list in hand, use Facebook Ads Library or the Ads tab from company pages on LinkedIn to see the creative each one is running. That can allow you to get an understanding of how to speak to this market, common value props or messaging themes that are frequently used, or region-specific causes or events to feature. With search, showing up on searches for the brands you’re most directly competitive with is one of the best ways to make a connection between your new audience and the services you offer, so launch with competitor name campaigns in your paid search strategy. Also, analyze the landing pages those competitors are using to learn how they talk about themselves and their value propositions to consider what benchmarking and white space opportunity exists for your brand.
Research User Behavior
Where are they online? What platforms are they using? Not only does user behavior look different country to country, but search engine and social media market share and options can also differ, along with the top news and community sites. Display placements should be specific to the region to include the sites that your audience frequents, and your overall media mix should reflect the popular web behaviors of the new market.
What languages are spoken in a given country, and at what frequency? Are there one or two dominant languages, or is the country using several equally? Each additional language translation (keywords, landing pages, social ads, search ads, etc.) makes for an added lift for the team before launch, but it is important to have coverage on the core audience in-country.
Aim to evaluate each market to understand what language coverage allows you to get the most impact with lowest initial level of effort. For example, if translating the third-most common language in the market requires significant investment from the marketing team and will only net out in 5% additional anticipated user volume, it is likely worth waiting and adding it in later once the region is established.
Localize the Terminology
Don’t assume winning ads or audiences in one country will translate over to another equally. You’ll want to research how people in your expansion market talk about your industry or product. Research competing products in the new regions to understand their go-to-market language, and interview salespeople who have experience or will be working with those markets.
Even if the same language is spoken, are there alternate spellings of words you should use to capture all available intent on search and to relate better to your prospective customers in the new market? English and Spanish are two core languages that this nearly always applies to. Alternate words, alternate phrases, and alternate spellings all warrant thoughtful research prior to launch.
If you’re considering language changes, you will want to have localized website pages and ad landing pages to pair with them to truly position yourself as a strong option in that market. That also means that other content like whitepapers, downloads, and videos use the same language variants and terminology. Brands that run ads that are localized to pages and content that aren’t send a signal to the audience that you’ve done only the half the work of embracing your new market, which can be a turn-off to prospects in that market, limiting your future potential.