Your export readiness assessment shows that your firm is ready to export, your earlier research has indicated that there is a market for your products abroad, you have prepared an export plan, and you have secured the financing to see your export efforts through. Now, you are ready to begin promoting your exports! Unfortunately, many would-be exporters tend to jump into the export process at this stage of the game, without having established whether they are ready to export, without having done any research, and without sufficient planning or funds – this is a recipe for disaster.

We refer to promotion

As you start with your promotional efforts, you should realise that while we use the term ‘promotion’ in this website, other authors may us different terms. For example, the phrase ‘international marketing communications’ is often used, as is the term ‘international advertising’. However, whether you choose to speak of communications, advertising or promotion, what we are in fact referring to are and activities that your firm undertakes and the effort that it puts into making the firm known to potential customers (i.e. overseas importers and customers). Such promotional activities include advertising, public relations, direct marketing, personal selling, online marketing, sales promotion and personal selling.

Promotional effort and activities often differs between small and large firms

Each of these promotional activities can also be undertaken in different ways and with different intensities. For example, a large firm such as SABMiller will almost certainly make use of extensive and expensive television and radio advertising to promote their products in foreign markets. They may back this advertising up with a comprehensive public relations campaign, a direct marketing or e-mail campaign and they may even employee a network of sales staff to call on stores, restaurants, bars and similar outlets to encourage these outlets to stock and sell their products. This personal selling effort may be supported with a sales promotion effort (such as a competition or special offer), including participation in suitable trade and consumer fairs. Not surprisingly such a comprehensive promotion effort will cost many millions of rands. Clearly, smaller firms are not in a position to undertake such a promotional effort.

Help with your promotional effort

In the sections that follow, we will discuss in some detail each of the promotional channels open to you, especial as a small business. You will need to consider which of these channels is best suited for you needs and to follow the processes involved in implementing the promotional activities you decide on.

Once you have (a) developed or adapted your product(s) to meet the requirements of the foreign consumer, (b) gone through a careful costing exercise to ensure that your product is competitively priced (given your planned pricing strategy), and you’ve figured out how to distribute the product both to, and within, the foreign market, the next challenge you face is to inform your prospective customers of the product’s availability and its value. This is known as the “promotion” element of the marketing mix (the 4Ps). Today, promotion is also referred to as marketing communications.

Developing an export promotion strategy really only involves three steps. These are:

  1. Determining the most appropriate mix of advertising, sales promotion, direct marketing, internet marketing, publicity and personal selling for each foreign market
  2. Determining the extent of standardisation of your export promotion effort
  3. Deciding on the core message(s) you will use to promote your product and company

Preparing a promotion strategy statement for your export plan

Once you have worked through these various promotional issues, you should be able to prepare a statement outling your export promotion strategy. This statement should:

  • Identify the mix of promotional elements you plan to use to promote you firm abroad, explain why you have made this choice
  • Indicate the extent of standardisation you plan to use within your promotion strategy
  • Highlight a overarching core message that you plan to carry across to your targey market through your promotional effort
  • Explain how this promotion strategy will help your firm achieve its export objectives.