B2B Digital Marketing in Europe: What to Know and Do When Entering the Market

The European market is one of the largest in the world, but it can also seem like a complex web of different variables, especially for a company that has previously operated in more unified and larger markets like North America or China. However, expanding to the European market is not as difficult as it may initially appear.

To help you better understand the matter, we will focus on two topics:

  1. Tactical steps for entering the market in B2B with digital marketing
  2. More general information about the market conditions with regard to digital marketing

We will focus on aspects specific to this market rather than providing general tips and tricks for B2B digital marketing.

Relying on experience-based findings

In this document, we will focus on understanding the principles of European markets for companies from outside of Europe in the context of B2B digital marketing. Our boutique digital marketing agency has had the opportunity to work with European companies in markets worldwide, with a particular emphasis on European countries. Therefore, we have a thorough understanding of what factors need to be considered.

Need a B2B-focused European digital marketing agency to support you efforts? Get in touch >

Why choose a digital-first approach to entering the market?

The reasons for using digital marketing instead of other methods can be summarized into two factors: time and money. By leveraging digital tools, you can save both by gaining faster insights and establishing a stronger presence in the most favorable market.

Steps to moving to the European market with B2B digital marketing

So why can’t you just pull out Statista and see which country has the largest sector of your clients? You’ve just stumbled upon one of the most common mistakes I’ve seen companies make.

By doing this, you will likely find yourself in a market honeytrap like Germany sometimes is. While the potential seems massive when looking at different industries in the country, breaking through with digital marketing is extremely challenging due to the low level of digitization and privacy legislation. And it’s not easy in the non-digital medium either, don’t get me wrong.

I’ve witnessed companies waste hundreds of thousands of dollars just trying to make progress and eventually having to give up. Now, it has been successfully accomplished before, including by us, but it is more difficult compared to many other markets.

Instead of losing money for nothing, follow the steps below.

1. Determine if your field of business is international or global

This may seem like a peculiar question, but it’s important to distinguish between the two, especially in B2B.

If your industry or field of business is global, it likely operates primarily in a single main language, typically English. In global industries, all companies are inherently global because there is little to no reliance on a home market.

Examples of such industries include shipbuilding, where the value chain is dispersed globally. In this case, the impact of the country in which a company operates is less significant as everyone operates on a global scale.

On the other hand, an international field of business is characterized by the presence of local markets that you target. This doesn’t mean it’s limited to local markets only; for instance, the automotive industry exemplifies this. However, in an international field, you need to actively expand into specific countries, and a significant portion of the value chain may be concentrated nearby. If your industry falls into this category, it’s crucial to prioritize market-specific assets in your digital marketing.

2. Generate ICP data from the area

If you have already gathered market data from various European countries in your industry, that’s a good start. However, in the digital realm, it’s important to determine if your Ideal Customer Profiles (ICPs) can be found on digital channels.

Conducting some quick and dirty research will help you identify if your target audience exists on these channels. It’s possible that you may discover certain areas are not easily accessible, which could impact your market focus. It’s better to have this knowledge sooner rather than later.

Many advertising planning tools for digital marketing channels provide insights into whether your ICPs are active on these channels or if they are conducting searches related to solutions like yours.

3. Conduct a behavioral market test digitally

Now that you have determined that your potential target audience can be reached, it is time to identify the market(s) you should start with. This step will also help you determine if you need to localize your assets in the future or if you can work solely with English, which simplifies many aspects.

Behavioral market tests are superior to other market studies because they allow you to cost-effectively test multiple markets against each other. This enables you to determine if people are truly interested in your offering, rather than just saying they are. Even in B2B scenarios, people often say one thing and do another.

4. Determine your first focus market(s)

After conducting the digital market test, you will have identified the most potential markets based on behavior and whether localization is necessary. Now, perform a cost-benefit analysis to prioritize which markets to target first and what to pursue next. The extent of localization required varies from none to having everything from marketing assets to sales presence localized.

5. Gain market knowledge by walking the market

One of the biggest mistakes that companies make is ignoring the importance of this step. When engaging in digital marketing, even in B2B scenarios, we often overlook the need to physically experience the target market in order to truly understand it. So, hop on a plane, meet people in the industry, and immerse yourself in the culture of your target market.

This realization is not new; it is even mentioned in the Toyota Production System, which describes lean manufacturing methods: Genchi Genbutsu – go to the source to learn the facts and make informed decisions.

6. Begin your expansion with portfolio-like digital marketing and sales efforts

Get started. Even if you feel like you have a strong understanding of the market, there is still much to learn. This knowledge will come through experience. Ensuring that your sales and digital marketing efforts work together in a close collaboration, sharing knowledge and testing different communication angles, target audiences, and tactics throughout the sales process, will help solidify your position in the market.

The timeline

This method may seem strenuous on paper, but it can be completed within two months, which is much faster and cheaper than trying each market individually. Additionally, it is unlikely to slow you down. The timeline can be extended, as the most time-consuming part is the behavioral market test data collection, which we have the least control over.

Let’s get these straight: insights about the European market.

You may see some red flags about coming to the market, but are they real or just a belief? Let’s tackle some misconceptions and dive into more insight.

Stereotypes about Eastern vs. Western Europe are often false

You may have a stereotype of the division between Eastern and Western European countries, with the former being labeled as less developed with lower purchasing power, and the latter being seen as more developed.

However, this situation has started to change. Many Eastern European countries have embraced digitization and innovation, making them more likely to invest in and adapt in the future.

On the other hand, Western and Northern European countries can be seen as slower in these areas, which is shifting the focus towards Eastern economies as future growth centers. These countries have also experienced significant offshoring from North American companies in previous decades, leading to increased prosperity and development.

When seeking growth, it’s important to consider the East as well.

Language barriers exist, but they are not the rule

Yes, almost every country in Europe has a different language. This is where the earlier-mentioned international vs. global industry comes into play as well. In some industries, you may not need to localize, especially in B2B digital marketing, if English is the predominant language. In certain markets, even with consumers, you may see only a small decrease in ad performance and other efforts when using English instead of, for example, Italian, so localization may not be necessary.

However, in some markets, localization may be required, and it often goes beyond mere translation to adapting to the local culture. This process is not overly complex, and we work with experienced professionals to effectively localize your marketing efforts. It is a lean process that yields positive results.

Privacy legislation is easier to navigate than you might expect

Europe, especially the European Union or the European Economic Area (with slight differences between the latter two), can seem like a jungle of legislation. However, the regulatory scheme rarely hinders your day-to-day business operations as long as you are doing a few things correctly and considering country-specific nuances.

I don’t mean to downplay the importance of adapting to regulatory schemes, but since we mainly work within GDPR and country-specific regulations, I can confidently say that it’s not difficult to navigate when you know what you’re doing.

The key is to stay up-to-date with upcoming and ongoing changes to ensure preparedness. We, for example, closely follow these gradual changes in our Aboad Future Services solutions, enabling our clients to stay informed.

Digitization varies across countries, with platforms being concentrated

When examining different regions of the continent, it becomes apparent that certain countries are more advanced in digitization, more receptive to digital transformation, and progressing at a faster pace compared to others. It is possible to gather statistics from multiple sources to complement your industry data and gain insights into how and where your digital marketing efforts can effectively reach the desired audiences.

In terms of digital platforms used in the European market, there is a notable concentration: Google’s platforms hold a dominant market position, and LinkedIn plays a significant role in B2B marketing, particularly complemented by XING in DACH countries. Additionally, Meta’s platforms maintain a strong presence, while TikTok brings its own unique challenges to the playing field. All of these platforms have shown potential for B2B marketing, along with various email technologies.

What’s next?

Hopefully, this has helped you better frame your future actions. Now, it’s time to get to work. If there’s a specific topic related to your company’s efforts that you’d like to learn more about, or if you’d like our assistance with your efforts, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

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