E-mail marketing can be an inexpensive and easy way to do international prospecting, assuming you have a product or service that can be sold internationally and the customer service, distribution and supply chain to handle such an endeavor. It's not as simple, however, as just adding international prospects to your e-mail marketing list. There are steps and controls that must be put into place first, said Joel Book, principal, marketing research and education group at e-mail marketing provider ExactTarget. Here are the top four elements you should be thinking about before making an international push.
- Know the local laws. “To be candid, in many of the countries outside the U.S., the rules of engagement, privacy and permission are much more stringent than here in the U.S.,” Book said. “If you're doing business in a country like Germany, for instance, you need a strong code of ethics and verification of data privacy. And you absolutely must have the permission before reaching out via e-mail.”
- Get someone on the inside. ExactTarget customer Hitachi Data Systems sells to customers all over the globe. The company's e-mail marketing team will design and create e-mails; but, before a single one goes out internationally, it's vetted by people on the ground in the various countries. “The e-mails are sent to field marketing specialists, who then convert it,” Book said. “This is a critical step since there are tremendous nuances of tone, and copy and language. E-mail copy has to be customized and localized to make sure there's nothing in the content that would be deemed offensive.” If you don't have salespeople or other employees overseas, you should hire a consultant who can help with this process. “It's much more than converting dollars to euros,” he said.
- Make segmentation easy. Preference centers are a necessity when you're dealing with international prospects and customers, especially because something as simple as a job title can differ wildly between the U.S. and the EU. Book suggested enabling newsletter subscribers to identify exactly which products they are interested in receiving. And if you're targeting and segmenting by title? Change your strategy, he said. “It's far better to ask which department a prospect works in, since departments like sales, R&D and IT tend to be more generic and universal,” he said. “You can't look at an international title and see if someone is in sales or customer service. Departments give you a better indication.”
- Don't over-communicate. Even if it seems like you've found the right cadence with your existing campaigns, you're going to have to do some advance planning for your international efforts because what works in the U.S. might be overkill overseas, Book said. Generally, people in the EU and in Asia-Pacific rely more on relationship-selling, making strong ties with sales executives and using e-mail as a support mechanism, Book said. “This is another point where you'll have to consult with your in-country salesperson since each country has its own customers and idiosyncrasies,” Book said. “You have to make sure from a frequency perspective you're not alienating someone.”