Once you have been successful with your start-up and are in the scale-up phase, one of your goals is often to offer the product in other countries as well. What should you consider in order to have the highest possible chances of success? In this article, you’ll learn how to brand your scale-up internationally to avoid common mistakes right from the start.
Why scale-ups fail in international branding
If your goal is to become active abroad, you will face many new challenges. Because even if you have already built a successful brand in your home country, it doesn’t mean that it will work in other countries. There are many brands that are very successful but have a hard time gaining a foothold in other countries. But why is that and why do many scale-ups fail with their international branding?
One reason is not having a strategy, because without a concrete plan you will have a hard time. The brand strategy you originally developed for your brand was probably developed for your home country. But other countries are different. Even if you solve a concrete problem for your customers and improve their lives, that doesn’t mean it will be the same in other countries.
Step 01 – Adapt your brand strategy
Even if you currently have a successful brand strategy, it is necessary to extend it to the respective target countries. If you don’t do this, everything is based on assumptions, which is less beneficial for your scale-up and thus for your branding internationally. The first question you should ask and answer is whether your product or service is relevant in the target country. Even if your customers are enthusiastic about your product, it is often the case that there are other needs abroad.
Step 02 – understand your customers abroad
As mentioned above, it is often the case that scale-ups fail abroad because they act on the basis of assumptions. They believe that because their product is successful in their own country, it will be successful in every other country. Therefore, part of your customized brand strategy should be to understand the market abroad. You can do this through market research or – even better – through direct interaction with potential customers on the ground.
Conduct interviews and ask specific questions to understand what their daily life is like. You do the same thing you did at the beginning, for your own home country. Your goal should be to understand how relevant your product is. And which previously unknown needs these people have in the respective target country.
Step 03 – Get local support
We recommend that you bring in a brand expert from the respective country. A local brand strategist who understands the market and the culture is extremely important for your success. They can help you build on your existing successful brand foundation and adapt it to the target market. For this reason, for example, we have built up a large network of brand strategists and brand experts in almost every country in order to significantly increase the chances of success of the respective scale-up.
Step 04 – Translation and testing
Your brand knows its positioning in your country and the message and story it communicates. However, it is a big mistake to simply translate the previous communication into the respective target language. As mentioned above, it is often the case that potential customers not only have different needs, but the culture is completely different. Your brand message could be understood very differently in another country. Therefore, we suggest that you translate your website not only into English, but also into your native language. Create appropriate versions of your website for the target country, with the right message.
Sean Duffy writes in his book „International Brand Strategy“ that it is best to work with copywriters in the respective country. We agree with this and suggest that you have your own texts, messages or campaigns translated and then have them checked by a local copywriter. The goal is to make sure that he or she understands your brand’s message and can adapt it so that the customer target group in the respective country gets the correct message. Here, too, you should make sure that the copywriter lives in the respective country, that the language is the native language and that he or she knows the own culture.
A brand expert can provide additional support. He can make sure that your brand is positioned precisely. He can perfectly control the communication with the copywriters and the brand experts from your home country, so that nothing is based on assumptions. The last step would be to test a brand strategy or positioning in the target country. You can do this as we do in our Brand Strategy Sprint. Create a prototype e.g. in the form of a website, how it would be launched abroad.
Invite your target customer group and get their feedback. Find out how relevant you are and what you should adjust before you go to market with your scale-up. Repeat the test as many times as necessary so that as many stumbling blocks as possible are removed.