Going Global: The challenges and opportunities of international marketing



13th August 2018

~ 4 min read

The report

Part three of our Going Global series talked about proprietary tech and overseas success, looking at how your own bespoke system can make the difficult task of managing both data and people accessible from afar.  But before a business develops this unique offering, it’s important to first have a thorough understanding of the advantages and potential hurdles you will need to overcome when looking into expanding overseas.

In our Going Global report, we analysed what business leaders felt the greatest challenges and opportunities were in international marketing, from complications arising due to Brexit, to the increased control over managing your own data. Contributions come from leading SMEs from The Sunday Times Lloyds SME Export Track 100, giving us a valuable insight into their experience with doing successful business overseas.

The challenges

It will come as no surprise that many challenges arise from location. Despite our increasingly interconnected world, geography plays a major factor in your business at every level, affecting logistics, marketing and even your access to the global talent pool. We asked SMEs what they felt the major concerns would be for international marketing over the next three to five years.


Both the greatest source of challenge and opportunity, 63% of SMEs feel Brexit is one of their biggest hurdles to success, with 39% believing it to be sole greatest challenge for British exporters over the next few years. It’s clear why, as we look to an increasingly uncertain trade situation and potential supply and regulation issues. Plus with 44% of UK exports going to the EU, this is clearly the first area to focus on when developing your marketing plan of action.

Local knowledge

Marketing works best when it is paired with local expertise; business leaders we spoke to recognised the importance of taking into consideration cultural differences, but many SMEs see hiring a local agency as a large, potentially risky cost. Croud CEO Luke Smith notes that it’s important nevertheless, with local market knowledge a key factor in the difference between efficient marketing spend and throwing your money down the drain.

The global economy

Financials make up a huge aspect of any business’ marketing decisions, and SMEs are concerned with both the global economy at large - with 56% noting it as a top challenge - and the specific GBP exchange rate after the upcoming political changes. Just one in four leaders feel that Brexit will deliver greater access to this economy, and with such uncertainty, SMEs could very easily feel reluctant to commit significant marketing spend to a region they have little economic access to.

The opportunities

It isn’t all doom and gloom, however, as international marketing is by its nature both a risky venture and a well-rewarding one - if your business has put in the legwork to overcome these challenges. Many SMEs in our Going Global report acknowledged that the greater obstacles of the next few years could turn out to be the biggest opportunities, citing Brexit both as a difficult hurdle to overcome but also a chance for a greater relationship with a wider market. After asking business leaders about their major concerns, we discussed the flip side.

More non-EU trade deals

As a direct impact of Brexit, 67% of SMEs feel that increased access to the global economy - if it happens - will be a major opportunity due to the ability to build relationships with new regions. With more access to new potential customers, international marketing for British brands will become a major success driver over the next few years.

AI and automation

In our first Going Global article we discussed how international success is data-driven, identifying data expert SMEs who believe technology will play a huge part in international marketing in years to come. 70% of these experts feel that AI and automation will be a top opportunity, due to its ability to assist in the complexities of data management and application across regions. Should you get involved? They think so: especially if your service offering needs to accurately leverage data to gain a competitive edge.

New talent

Perhaps an unexpected side effect of Brexit, 56% of SMEs feel that the expanding talent pool will be a top opportunity for their business in the coming period. A strategic option for businesses looking to overcome the hurdle of getting accurate local knowledge, hiring staff from outside the EU to supplement your UK team could be the future of international marketing in post-Brexit Britain.

No matter the challenges or successes ahead, it’s clear that British exporters need to share their experiences to help each other's efforts in this changing economic climate. Take advice from the experts: download the full Going Global report to hear more on Brexit, innovation and dealing with the changing economy from some of the UK’s leading exporters.

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