34th EIBA Annual Conference International Business and the Catching- up economies: Challenges and Opportunities Tallinn, Estonia, - December, 11th -13th , 2008 Track 7: International Marketing and Cross Cultural Issues in International Business
STANDARDIZATION VS. ADAPTATION OF THE MARKETING MIX STRATEGY IN SME EXPORTS Jorma Larimo University of Vaasa, Department of Marketing PO Box 700, FI-65101 Vaasa Minnie Kontkanen University of Vaasa, Department of Marketing PO Box 700, FI-65101 Vaasa
Abstract. Standardization vs. adaptation of the marketing mix in foreign markets has been one of the key research areas in international marketing since late 1960s. Several authors have presented many arguments favoring standardization but on the other hand several authors have also supported the advantages of adaptation of the marketing mix. More recently the contingency view has received increasingly support. Research results about the degree of standardization vs. adaptation used have been mixed. The product element seems to have been the most standardized and distribution the most adapted element. The goal of this study is to analyze the degree of standardization vs. adaptation of the marketing mix elements by SMEs in their foreign sales integrating selected contingency factors into the analysis. The empirical part of the study will focus on the strategies used by ca. 190 Finnish SMEs in their foreign sales. The total results indicate relatively small difference in the degree of adaptation between product, communication and distribution strategies whereas pricing was more adapted. When the contingency factors were taken into account the results indicated somewhat more variation, but surprisingly limitedly. Keywords: marketing mix, standardization, adaptation, small and medium-sized firms
Along with the increased role of foreign sales in the operation of companies of various country of origin an increasing interest has also focused on the strategies used by companies in their foreign marketing. One of the key focus areas has been the interest towards the degree of standardization vs. adaptation of various marketing mix elements. The main interest has so far focused on the communica-
tion and product elements of the marketing mix. Although recently also other marketing mix elements have received increasing attention, the number of studies exploring the degree of standardization of all four marketing mix elements at the same time is still limited. However, in order to increase our understanding of the relative “importance” of each of the key marketing mix element, studies incorporating all the four elements to a single study are needed. Another feature in the research so far has been that it has for a great part focused on the strategies used by multinational corporations (MNCs) in their international marketing. Research focusing on the marketing strategies of small and mediumsized companies (SMEs) has been much more limited although a significant amount of SMEs have started their foreign sales during the last thirty years and several of them are highly dependent of the success of their foreign marketing strategies. Finally, most studies so far have focused on the strategies used by firms from the USA or from big Western European economies, and strategies used by firms from smaller countries has received much less attention. The goal of this study is to analyze the degree of standardization vs. adaptation of the marketing mix elements by SMEs in their foreign sales. In more detail the goal is to analyze the degree of standardization vs. adaptation of the four key marketing mix elements - product, price, distribution, and communication - and the impact of selected contingency factors on the strategies used. With contingency factors we mean those background forces - firm, management, market and customer issues - that may influence firms´ decision to standardize or adapt their international marketing...