Expanding their presence and sales in global markets will be a key priority for b2b marketers next year, particularly in light of the slowing U.S. economy and the weak dollar.
"The dollar's decline is a double-edged sword," said Jim Gregory, CEO of brand consulting firm CoreBrand. "It is more expensive for us to buy things overseas, but there is a greater opportunity for American products overseas."
Indeed, many b2b marketers say expansion into overseas markets is helping to protect them against short-term losses due to the sagging U.S. economy.
"Generally speaking, Caterpillar has established a wide global manufacturing base in order to hedge against dramatic changes in currencies around the world," said Jim Dugan, chief corporate spokesman for Caterpillar Inc., which has manufacturing facilities in North America; Latin America; Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA); and Asia-Pacific.
Dugan said that while this long-term strategy does not completely insulate Caterpillar from swings in major currencies, it dramatically decreases the impact when one of them makes a move, as the dollar has done recently. "As a result, while some specific products may be impacted by the decrease in the value of the dollar, the overall impact on Caterpillar is not so dramatic," he said.
Caterpillar's third quarter sales were down 11% in North America from the same period last year. However, driven in part by huge demand for construction equipment in emerging markets, sales in EMEA were up 36%, sales in Asia-Pacific increased 30% and sales in Latin America rose 20%.
Caterpillar's quarterly profit climbed 21% over the same period last year and its sales climbed 9%, as it recorded its best third quarter ever.
Other b2b marketers said that while they might see a short-tem effect on sales and export strategies due to the weakening U.S. economy, their presence in world markets will help to bolster overall company performance.
Tom Haas, CMO of Siemens AG, noted that the German-based company has manufacturing facilities all over the world, and that Siemens does not expect to see any immediate downturn in sales as a result of the weak U.S. dollar.
"Traditionally, about 16% to 20% of U.S. sales have been in exports," Haas said. "That may rise, but probably not by a great deal. We really don't think [the weak dollar] is affecting the overall enterprise."
One of Siemens' key marketing goals for 2008 is to reposition its brand on a global basis as a company that provides answers to some of the world's toughest questions, such as efficient energy solutions and medical technologies. It recently kicked off a $145 million global ad campaign to support this positioning. Ogilvy offices in New York and Frankfurt, Germany, developed the campaign.
General Electric Co. is another company that plans to expand its global marketing efforts in 2008. This year, for the first time in GE's history, more than half its total revenue came from sales outside the U.S.
"That is really a big thing for us," said Dan Henson, VP-CMO of GE. He said expanding GE's presence in emerging markets is one of his key priorities for next year.
"With the high growth rates that are going on all over the world, particularly in China, India, EMEA and Latin America, these regions are investing heavily in infrastructure, which we are really strong in."
GE will use the 2008 Beijing Olympics as a major platform to promote its "ecomagination" positioning, which shows how the company is manufacturing products to help the environment.
Smaller companies go global
Smaller companies are also expanding their global sales and marketing efforts as the U.S. economy slows.
At Atmel Corp., a San Jose, Calif.-based chip maker, 58% of total sales come from Asia-Pacific, 32% from Europe and the rest from North America, said Clive Over, director of corporate marketing communications.
"Certainly the weak dollar makes American exports more attractive," Over said.
"Because we're a global firm, we tend to balance our wins and losses by doing business on a truly global level."
Over said the largest shift in business has been that more product design, manufacturing and purchasing are being done in the Asia-Pacific region.
However, he added, "There is still lots of intelligence going on in America with regard to product design. We really need to balance how the design work we do in the U.S. contributes to what we do in the Asia-Pacific Rim. We need to invest in infrastructure and develop software to continue to monitor our business."