In a crowded market such as Germany, it is not sufficient to simply place your product on shelves. You also need visibility and brand recognition to sell.
You are friends with a celebrity (ideally a soccer player or an actor) who will promote your product for free? Great! You can probably ignore everything in this series (except for the admin) – there will be enough fans who will purchase blindly. At least for a while.
If you are not so lucky, you will most likely have to engage in heavy marketing to gain visibility. Yes, YOU. Don’t expect an agent or distributor to build your brand – that’s your job. If a retailer promotes you, they will expect you to pay for it.
First Step: Market Analysis
As part of your market entry preparations, I would suggest you undertake a careful market and competitor analysis to determine:
- Who are the main market players in your industry and how crowded is your field?
- What is the typical type of marketing done for your industry?
- How much marketing effort would you have to undertake to gain visibility?
- What is the expected cost of such marketing?
You may well find that certain sectors, such as cosmetics, are dominated by established multinationals with deep pockets on the one hand, and teeming with new, local entrants with innovative products on the other hand. Such conditions will present a significant obstacle for your own market entry: the former will crowd you out with money, the latter with local expertise.
In a sea of similar products, great content marketing is one way to differentiate yourself from your competitors.
The content you use in your domestic market may not be suitable for foreign markets. This may be due to a variety of factors: perhaps cultural references do not work in a new market. Or there are legal restrictions concerning claims, imagery etc. Or your domestic USP might not relevant in another market. For this reason, it is advisable to work with a local agency in your target market. They will know what the relevant messages are for your target audience and the best way to reach out to that audience.
You may also want to refer to my post about Language.
Building a community is extremely important with regard to some categories, e.g. baby/ kids products, cosmetics etc. It is also extremely difficult to do from abroad and next to impossible if you don’t speak the local language and don’t have dedicated resources. Again, you may want to consider working with a specialized local agency.
Finding a Marketing Agency
Germany is home to many, many, many agencies that specialize in the various aspects of marketing. Some are small and local, others are German branches of multinationals. Which one is right for you?
When searching for a suitable agency, you may wish to consider some of the following:
- Agency size. A small agency may have limited resources, but more of a personal interest in working with a client. (One of my employers worked with a multinational agency. We were not a very large account. We were constantly assigned a new contact person – I suspect they were all interns – and otherwise ignored.)
- Services offered. Do the agency’s services meet your needs? An agency specializing in influencer marketing may not have expertise in print ads.
- Industry knowledge. Does the agency focus on your industry, or at least have clients from your industry?
- International experience. Does the agency work with other clients from your country/ from abroad?
- Does the agency understand the needs of a company like yours – do they have clients similar to you in terms of size, maturity etc.?
Be aware that gaining visibility won’t come cheap. It is impossible to indicate specific figures here. I would suggest that you carefully research expected costs and calculate their effect on your profit margin.