How to Use Marketing to Find New International Buyers

How to Use Marketing to Find New International Buyers

As a complement to our article  “Going global: everything SMEs need to know”, we explain here how to use your day-to-day marketing tools to reach out to new consumers in international markets.

Once upon a time, people would have to put their boots and coat on, get out of the house, and walk in shops to buy what they need. They probably dreamt of a time when they’d be able to do all of this from home. And even though we still like window shopping the old way, buying online has become more and more common.

And with that, the reality changed for marketers.

A few flyers and an attractive storefront will never help you sell your products, or your services, to someone shopping from home in Berlin in her Japanese slippers. So how can exporters attract new buyers in the digital area of ours? Is everything happening online? Could I become the next celebrity in retail without ever leaving the comfort of my home? Maybe. But probably not. No matter if your business is a new one or a veteran, when exporting, you need to spend a lot of time and effort on driving your new target audiences to your store.

We have a whole section on marketing coming soon. But in the meantime, we wanted to give you a snapshot of how marketing should be used to get new buyers online.

Social Media

Social Media is an easy and efficient way of reaching out to different audiences. They allow you to share testimonials, news, promotion, etc. But most of all, you can use them to tell a story and create content that will drag new customers to your brand. But do your research: each platform has its specifics and its target audiences.

FACEBOOK, for example, is one of the most popular and it has the most diverse user base (in terms of age, income, genre, nationality, etc.). The platform also allows you to target your audience by interest, which can be really useful. You can join groups that are more likely to attract your customer base, and then advertise on them. It’s a good way to connect with people and help you build a reputation.

FACEBOOK also launched their business platform, which offers free tools to help you reach out to new audiences. Their platform also brings together all their social network services like Instagram, What’s App, and even Messenger. More precisely, facebook IQ allows you to gather actionable insights on consumer behavior and ways to measure and understand them.

Be careful, though, the popularity of Facebook changes from one country or one age group to another. And if you want to sell goods or services in China, where Facebook is forbidden, you’ll have to learn how to use Weibo, WeChat, and others.

Instagram, owned by Facebook, puts more emphasis on visuals. It’s predominantly used by millennials, but they aren’t the only users by far. If you use the relevant hashtags, you could reach a good number of people and make the best of influencer marketing.

Don’t forget Pinterest, a social media often overlooked. It offers several advantages, the most important being that its user base is more clearly defined (mostly women with disposable income) (source: Shopify). If women with a disposable income are part of your target audience, then Pinterest is the social media for you. A bit like Instagram, it puts a lot of emphasis on the visual, and it offers the possibility for users to bookmark sites they like, like yours.

LinkedIn is best known for being the business-related platform. It doesn’t offer the best in terms of metrics, but if you’re trying to reach different markets and businesses like partners and clients, it’s the place to be. You can create long articles, which makes it a great place to use content and create a story around your brand. Also, LinkedIn is a great tool to promote yourself through the experience of your employees. You can also pin your most important post at the top of your page.

Twitter is a well-used platform designed for short, punchy messages. Here again, with the right hashtags, you can easily reach a fair number of people who don’t know your brand yet. It’s also a great platform to interact with your competitors, and maybe even create a bit of momentum on your launching.

Paid Advertising

Most social media platforms and Google have paid advertising opportunities. They’re often the best way to get traffic quickly, and most of them allow you to pay-per-click. And you don’t always need thousands of dollars to get things rolling. Choose the channel wisely, depending on your target market and find the right keywords. Make sure to check by country too, since some channels are a lot more popular than others in certain parts of the world (source: Shopify).

With Google Ads, you can also pay to have your website at the top of the search page using relevant keywords. You’ll need to conduct research on volume for terms relevant to your target audience. In other words: your main keywords are the ones used by users to find what they need.

A quick note: the Google Ad’s interface is not the easiest to navigate. Don’t hesitate to find experts (SEO-SEM experts for example) to help you build an ad campaign that works best for your product or service.

Trade shows

Trade shows are often left aside as a marketing tactic. And we recommend that you don’t make that mistake. In fact, with online inquiries and customer referrals, trade shows are one of the top three resources SMEs can use to find new buyers. They provide a perfect venue to test a market entry strategy by bringing potential international buyers directly to you (source: EXIM).

Firms that participate in international or local fairs and exhibitions have a unique opportunity to enter into a direct relationship with their customers. Fairs and exhibitions also offer the possibility of simultaneously pursuing several important objectives, such as introducing a new product or service, learn about industry trends, obtain press coverage, etc. (source: Prime and Usunier, Marketing international, Pearson: Montreuil, 2018, p. 234). And here again, your government can help you. A lot of them organize trade missions and events that are excellent for networking and meeting potential international buyers face-to-face (source: And because these events are not only being attended to by buyers, trade shows represent one of the best venues for networking. A lot of consultants, developers, and other business experts attend these events to look for new products to promote. If you’re looking for a local partner, these shows could help you achieve that (source: Forbes).

Don’t forget to let people know that you’re attending a trade fair! Use social media or emails to spread the news and keep in contact with potential visitors in the days leading to the event itself. You can also offer incentives to people who will come see you, such as special discounts. Let them know what products you will be displaying and who’s going to be there, at your booth, to talk to them (source: Chron). You can also check the event organizer’s promotional material to know more about their target audience and adapt your marketing accordingly. Using the event hashtag and handle on social media will allow you to reach out to people who are most likely to be there.

The downside of trade shows is that they can be expensive to attend. But they do represent incredibly valuable market testing. You can ask your visitors for comments and most of all, you can get insights from the other exhibitors. They often know best about what sells and why and they can help you make your product or service more attractive to foreign buyers. That way, you can also validate or void your marketing plan and learn more about the competition by visiting the other exhibitors (source: EXIM). And that’s why you shouldn’t hesitate to bring prototypes along. That way, you can gather feedback before you go into production, and hence avoid losing money in the process. If the price is a no-go for you, consider attending with a group. That way, you can split the price for a larger space (source: Forbes).

There you go! Now, you have all it takes to grow your consumer base or to create a new one, in a new market. And if you’re looking for more on marketing, we’ll have a segment dedicated to it in a few weeks, so stay tuned!