As Southeast Asia itself becomes more interconnected and, on a larger scale, more linked to the global economy, the incentives to expand to other regional markets becomes more attractive—and more lucrative. With a combined GDP of nearly US$2.8 billion in 2017 and an average 5-percent annual GDP growth from 2018 to 2020, SEA offers tremendous potential for many businesses.
Fortunately, due in part to regional trade agreements and the network provided by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), it has become relatively easy to expand your business to a neighbouring country.
SEA, however, is not a monolithic region. From the skyscrapers of Singapore to the beaches of Phuket and rice paddies of Vietnam, the region certainly does not lack for diversity or opportunity. However, that very diversity requires an in-depth understanding of each market’s unique needs.
Engaging a PR/marketing agency to shape your regional marketing strategies should be at the top of the to-do list for any company mulling expansion. Why? Because lacking an airtight communications and marketing plan will be detrimental to your business in the long run; as the old adage goes, “failing to plan is planning to fail.”
On the other hand, a well-coordinated communications plan will help take your company—and its expansion—to new heights. Here we outline the eight stages of a successful communications plan.
1. Determine Your Business Objectives
Before formulating any communications plan, it is important to first clearly understand what your company hopes to achieve. A company launching a new product or service would have a significantly different plan than one moving into a new market or seeking investment.
Who is Your Target Audience?
Are you trying to increase your customer base? Targeting a particular demographic? Deciding on the audience you wish to reach before implementing a communications strategy will go a long way towards boosting the campaign’s effectiveness.
Understanding the target market also helps you choose the right channels for your communications plan. For example, a B2B company might target trade magazines and events to reach their target clientele. In contrast, a B2C company might need to pay more attention to content on social media networks and other consumer platforms.
Beyond just short-term goals, consider identifying your company’s ideal growth trajectory. How well does your current communications plan mesh with the company’s long-term goals?
2. Understand the Unique Needs of Each Local or Regional Market
It is vital to tailor to the local culture, practices and demands when developing a regional marketing strategy. A plan that might work in one market may not necessarily work for another.
This doesn’t just mean translating your content to the local language, but also understanding the target audience’s needs and cultural nuances.
By doing so, you can push your brand’s image to new heights, but failing to do so could have unwanted consequences. This sometimes happens when multinational corporations (MNCs) apply the same marketing strategy to various disparate markets and commit a cultural faux pas, alienating the very audience they wish to reach.
Establishing a relationship with the local media helps get your brand’s story to the public. Understanding which media outlets to target, how the media industry works and how to approach the media are all necessary considerations.
3. Establish Consistency
While it is important to localise a communications plan for a specific market within the region, the underlying message in each market should be consistent. In other words, while the regional marketing strategy may need to have some localised relevance for each market, the overall communications plan must deliver the same message.
Well-defined brand positioning and messaging will help your brand stand out from competitors. It is critical to ensure your company prepares a strategic brand guide that clearly describes, defines and differentiates. This guide will anchor your communications plan as each campaign rolls out to different markets, ensuring you always deliver the same message regardless of geography.
With which associations, investors and business partners should you speak to best meet your business objectives? Industry events hosted by a trade association could open doors and connect you with potential clients.
5. Instagram? LinkedIn? Facebook? Twitter? Tik Tok?
With 45-percent of the world on social media, it is understandably overwhelming to consider on which platform to focus your time and, more importantly, advertising budget. Whether you are running a B2B or B2C business, it is worth considering a social media plan as part of your broader communications strategy. Increasingly, a well-crafted social media channel can be a potent point of contact between you and potential clients.
Social media offers immense opportunities to connect with potential clients in an intimate and casual manner. A well-tailored communications plan would hone in on the brand image and enable a business to form a thriving online community. Feedback from customers and potential clients offers a way to evaluate and elevate the brand image. Even when comments are not positive, timely and professional responses reflect well on the brand.
The advertising opportunities social media platforms present are obvious. With Facebook, LinkedIn and Instagram offering attractive advertising platforms that allow for targeted ads, reaching your target audience has certainly become easier. Using the right social media influencer to further spread your brand’s message and reach your target audience is critical. Social media influencers can lend an air of authenticity to your product and services, thereby helping improve the brand’s market positioning.
6. Measure Success
Set clear indicators of success. Devise a SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timely) outline that meets your business objectives. Ensure the goals can be easily tracked and measured, such as lead generation target, conversion target and website visits. These objectives help guide planning for your communications campaign, including press release frequency, media interviews, editorial by-line placements and the quality of media coverage.
Social media analytics have made it much easier to track what type of content resonates with your target audience. To fine-tune your offerings, it is worthwhile to generate reports that track the reach and engagement of your social media posts. Again, what works in one market doesn’t always work in another market—you will need to create a variety of customised content to successfully engage the audience in each different market and region.
7. Learn from Failure, Be Agile and Be Flexible
In some cases, certain elements of the communications plan may fall short of the KPIs (key performance indicators) set before the campaign’s launch. If or when this happens, it is important to review, adjust and revise your communications plan to improve your engagement or avoid repeating the mistakes. Analyse the data and research on current trends and topics of interest to your target audience, then incorporate these learnings into your revised plan and campaigns. Staying agile and maintaining flexibility enables one to manage campaigns that stay relevant to your target audience and ahead of the market.
8. Re-evaluate the Plan
Once you have successfully launched your communications and marketing strategy, it is integral to go back to your business objective(s) and determine if your regional marketing strategy has achieved its primary goal. Flexibility is key, however, as altering a communications strategy or marketing activities may be necessary, depending on fluid business trends and market demands.
Though there are some nuances to communications campaigns, companies that follow these seven basic guidelines will be off to a good start.