Once companies dominate their local market, no matter the industry, a plausible source for growth comes from international expansion. While on the surface this seems fairly straightforward, there are tremendous obstacles to overcome in order to be successful across a range of diverse markets. Factors such as differences in operations, hiring, legal systems, communication, etc. all play a role in going global.
Arguably, the most difficult obstacle for companies from developing markets with international ambitions relates to the perception of customers outside of their local market. This stems from a lack of TRUST from international customers. Building trust in your brand internationally can be an uphill battle. Such as in the case of China, companies going global need to overcome systemic cultural mistrust and suspicion, in addition to historical blunders from other companies which have cut corners on safety standards. All these factors point to the same solution -- building trust with customers is the number one priority for companies with global ambitions.
Icicle Group recently hosted a seminar in Shenzhen, China where I spoke about this exact topic. I discussed how companies can use content marketing as a foundation for building trust with customers. Content marketing helps brands build a relationship with their audience. Whether you’re a B2B brand offering articles with solutions to common industry problems, or a B2C brand using regular entertainment to align brand values with varying customer segments, content marketing is the best way to build trust.
Reid Hoffman, the Founder of LinkedIn and Partner at Greylock Partners has an interesting theory about trust: Consistency + Time = Trust. If we consider this formula when organizing a content marketing strategy, we see that our content needs to be consistent with its output, consistent in delivering value and produced consistently over time. Some of the greatest content marketers are the companies which always have you falling back on their site after trying to search for a solution to a problem. Companies like HubSpot constantly produce valuable content which solves problems or educates consumers, keeping them top-of-mind in their industry.
Companies in developing markets need to capture the audience's attention with their content, authentically entertain or educate their audience, and continue to do so, over and over. If your audience keeps coming back for more, they follow you on your social channels, interact with your content, share/repost, you build a network of advocates who help magnify that trust through Word of Mouth.
While awareness is an important element when first entering a market, an effective content marketing strategy is the root of building trust and sustaining the impact of your awareness generating campaigns. Companies originating from developing markets need to authentically work to add value for their target global customers in order to succeed abroad. There is no other option when overcoming the often negative perceptions about brands, whether justified or not.
About the author
Jordan Heathfield is the Director of Strategy and Growth with Icicle Group. He identifies innovative growth drivers for clients at the crossroads of technology and media, where he has worked for the last 8 years, with both international agency networks and global internet platforms.