Developing the right international marketing strategy |
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Tips on marketing your exports abroad

Win over customers by adapting your products or services


The time has come for you to create a marketing plan to support your international expansion efforts. You’ll want to build on what’s been successful for you in Canada, but you also have to be ready to make important adjustments for your new markets.

There will be numerous marketing challenges to overcome in finding and serving customers for your exports. Chief among these will be distance, cultural differences and product adaptation.


How will you get your products into the hands of customers abroad? What are the logistical challenges and regulatory requirements? You may have to consider a joint venture partnership with a firm in your target market. And you’ll likely need a reliable foreign sales agent.


If you are not aware of local customs and business etiquette, misunderstandings could harm your foreign marketing plan.

But the greatest challenge lies in learning how to win over customers in your target markets.

Consumers need to know why they should choose to buy your product over a domestic alternative, or one from another international competitor.

You must offer the market something unique and innovative that is otherwise not available, or that addresses an unmet need.

Just like at home, this takes market research.

What product attributes, such as quality, design and price, are most important in this new market? Who are your competitors? How do their products compare to yours? How are they marketed?

Tailoring your product

Finding these answers will help you understand how much adaptation will be required to your product, and budget accordingly. And don’t forget to consider warranties and intellectual property protection.

After adaptation comes promotion. Again, don’t use only what’s working for you at home. Instead, ask yourself: What will resonate with customers in this market?

The answer should drive the look and feel of your promotional materials and packaging. Also, consider which promotional channels will be most effective—online marketing, traditional advertising, trade fairs etc.

The power of “Made in Canada”

One marketing tool that can help set your company apart is Canada’s sterling international reputation.

Foreigners perceive Canada as “a model country” with a clean environment and open, trustworthy people, according to a study by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada. They associate Canada with safe, high-quality products.

Canadian-made products have an excellent reputation internationally, and that could give many companies the edge they need to begin exporting or to take their international efforts to the next level.

Lots of help available

To help you master cultural differences, and make key business contacts, consider contacting the embassies or consulates of your target countries. Some foreign governments also maintain trade offices in Canada. One example is HKETO, the Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office.

Advice and services are also available through various government agencies, including The Canadian Trade Commissioner Service and Export Development Canada.