International Marketing and Trade Success in 2015

As this year comes to an end, companies of all sizes and in all kinds of industries, involved in international trade, are (or should be) asking this question: How successful were our international marketing efforts in 2014? 

I have found that three fundamental factors largely determine the success of a company’s international marketing efforts. I came to this realization through personal experience working in international marketing and business development in the private sector, surveying colleagues from other companies involved in international marketing and sales, and current interactions as an international business consultant with business owners and executives involved in exports.

The three overlooked yet highly influential factors are not magazine ads, promotions, or attending trade shows, which tend to be some of the most visible elements in many international marketing plans. I call the following three fundamental factors the three legs that hold the international marketing stool:

Leg 1. Your Target Countries  

Country singer Johnny Lee was famous in the ’80s for the song “Lookin’ for Love”. The most memorable line says “Lookin’ for love in all the wrong places…”

One of the most frustrating things in marketing is to be “lookin’ for business in all the wrong places”. In international marketing, trying to launch and sell a product in the wrong countries is a tremendous waste of time and resources, which could have been spent more efficiently by targeting more attractive countries or regions. 

Have you identified the most attractive foreign markets for your product based on a solid analysis of international trade flows, market intelligence, and industry trends? If not, you are at risk of “lookin’ for business in all the wrong places.” 

Leg 2. Your Objectives/Benchmarks

Do you know how to measure the success or failure of your international marketing campaigns abroad? I’ve found that between 65% and 70% of SMEs involved in international sales do not have a written, strategic set of goals for their international marketing efforts. 

This is a great time to revisit or establish well-designed goals for your marketing campaigns. Here are some examples of goals for your international marketing efforts:

– Number of new distributors you want to sign per city/region/country

– Sales per product line per country

– Penetration of new markets

– Introduction of new products in specific markets

– Hits to your website from potential clients in specific countries

This last point brings me to the last, but not least, factor:

Leg 3. Your Website

Every marketing effort will most likely end up leading potential clients to your company’s website. In many cases, companies use the same website to promote their products to potential clients abroad. However, a powerful alternative is to develop a section within the company’s website or a standalone website to specifically attract and communicate to potential international clients. 

Does your website speak to potential international clients? Your website needs, at the very least, to clearly and succinctly identify:

– Your company’s products available for international markets

– Why should potential clients use your company’s products

– Your products’ advantages over competitors 

– Examples of testimonials from your company’s international clients 

– Contact information for sales and service

– Ways to create confidence by updating content (blog posts, testimonials, etc.) on a regular basis

Along with a well-designed website to attract and communicate with international clients, it is critical to monitor where your traffic is coming from and what pages they are spending time on. A couple of free powerful tools that can provide you with such insights are and

Finally, make sure your website displays correctly on mobile devices. A great tool to check how your website displays across a variety of platforms (desktop monitors, tablets, and smartphones) is

Many factors can affect the outcome of a company’s international marketing efforts. However, the three factors mentioned above are foundational to unlocking your global marketing success. 

Alberto Rodriguez-Baez is a Sr. International Business Consultant at The University of Texas at San Antonio’s International Trade Center (, which is part of the South-West Texas Border SBDC Network. The Network serves a 79-county region that includes San Antonio, Austin, El Paso, San Angelo, Corpus Christi, Laredo, Eagle Pass, Alpine, Victoria, and the Rio Grande Valley.

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