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Tip Sheet: Cost Effective Foreign Marketing

Cost-effective marketing for foreign markets: tips for business owners

Have you considered tapping into foreign markets to dramatically expand your customer base and boost your revenue? Despite what many people think, selling abroad is not just for large corporations – SMEs can access overseas markets too. Many companies are put off by the amount of capital and resources they think will be required, but there are lots of cost-effective marketing methods available which make customers abroad accessible to businesses of all sizes.

These days, depending on your business size and type, you can dabble in online marketing to foreign markets for as little as £750 and get results which you can build on.

Online marketing

Online marketing is by far the most cost-effective way for businesses to target and reach customers in foreign markets, although it does require some work. Unfortunately, hoping that foreign visitors will just find your English website and start buying from you is unlikely to work – you’ll need to create localised websites for each of your target countries. Localisation involves a range of elements, including language, content, hosting and website design.

Of course, you’ll need your website to be written in the language of the target country, so hiring a professional translator is essential. Not only will they translate your content correctly, they’ll also factor in colloquialisms and local language quirks. Native-speaking translators will understand the various cultural issues at play and will be able to advise about appropriate content. Machine translation software may be the cheaper option, but the mistranslations it will inevitably throw up may damage your brand’s credibility.

It’s not just the content you need to consider for localisation, though; your website will perform a lot better in the target country’s search engine results pages (SERPs) if it’s hosted in that country and has a country-specific Top Level Domain, such as (UK), .jp (Japan) or .fr (France).

Having a professional translator localise your keywords for the target language is also crucial. You won’t need to start from scratch because you can use the keyword research you’ve already done for your English language site and then work from there using a translator, brainstorming alternatives, measuring their popularity using keyword tools and assessing each keyword’s level of competition.

Social media

We’re all well aware these days of the marketing benefits of social media and, of course, apart from the time you’ll need to invest and the staffing costs, social media sites themselves are largely free to use. You can use social media for a range of things, such as customer communication, brand and feedback monitoring, crowdsourcing ideas, link-building, market-testing and even recruiting. You’ll need someone who speaks the language and is active in social media networks in the target country to drive your local social media strategy.

Affiliate marketing

Affiliate marketing schemes can really increase traffic to your website, and they offer a measurable and cost-effective way of marketing. Tapping into affiliate networks in your target countries can be a great way to kickstart sales. Many affiliate networks operate globally so if you’re already involved in these channels then that’s a good place to start. However, don’t forget that many countries also have their own internal networks which can be invaluable.


Why not look into online tools that offer cost-effective staffing solutions when you’re trying to break into markets abroad? You no longer need to advertise in traditional media abroad and conduct in-person interviews and, in some cases, you may not even need to provide, set up and maintain physical workspaces for staff.

These days you can source your staff online through social media, website ads, blogs and forums, as well as freelance job sites like People Per Hour. Interviews can be conducted via email and Skype, eliminating the need to visit in-country (although it certainly helps to meet people face to face).

Hiring staff on a freelance basis also keeps costs down. Although you’ll want to get talented full-time staff on board eventually, initially taking on staff on a self-employed basis is a great way to test the waters abroad.

Spread your wings

Hopefully this has gone some way to convincing you that marketing abroad is now more cost-effective than it has ever been, and more open to businesses of all sizes. By focusing only on your domestic market, you could be missing out on huge opportunities in international export. After all, over half of all online searches are now in languages other than English, and the number of native-speakers of languages such as Chinese and Arabic is growing online at a much faster rate than native English-speakers.

The final bit of good news is that there’s currently much less competition for online marketing in languages other than English, due to there being less content online overall if other languages, so you can expect to see a return on your investment much more quickly for your foreign language internet marketing efforts than for your English language marketing efforts.

About the author

Christian Arno is the founder of professional translation agency Lingo24, experts in the foreign language internet. Launched in 2001, Lingo24 now has over 150 employees spanning three continents and clients in over sixty countries. In the past twelve months, they have translated over sixty million words for businesses in every industry sector. Follow Lingo24 (@Lingo24) and Christian (@l24ca) on Twitter.

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