Marketing strategies of South African manufacturing firms in international markets.
International marketing has become important to firms of all sizes due to factors such as the continued lowering and elimination of trade barriers, increasing regional integration, improvements in communication and transportation, and an overall increase in world trade. Not only has the international marketplace become more turbulent but globalisation of world markets has become competitively more intense. Because of these trends, the formulation of effective international marketing strategies has become more important. Moreover, firms need to get a better understanding of the relationship between international marketing strategies and international performance, as the international market is becoming more competitive. The primary objective of the research study was to determine the relationship between international marketing strategies and international/export marketing performance of South African manufacturing firms, as well as the role of internal and external determinants with regard to international marketing strategy and international/export marketing performance. The research study intended to determine whether these different independent variables had a significant impact on the dependent variable, namely, international/export performance. The findings of this research study indicated that firm size, investment commitment and that management engages in careful planning as firm characteristics had a significant influence on export/international marketing performance. The finding on the relationship between export experience and export performance was insignificant. Firm characteristics can have both a direct or indirect affect on the export marketing performance of the firm. Therefore, given the secondary research objective - to determine how firm characteristics influence choice of international marketing strategies, and consequently export marketing performance - the following were the important findings of the influence of firm characteristics on international marketing strategies. There were no significant findings between firm characteristics and product adaptation, or firm characteristics and promotion adaptation. However, firm size and firm competencies had a significant relationship with distributor/subsidiary support. It can be assumed that the larger the firm, the more resources the firm have to support distributors and subsidiaries. Furthermore the finding between firm size and the degree of pricing adaptation was also significant indicating that the larger the firm, the more willing the firm is to adapt pricing. The nature and characteristics of the export market can either serve as a barrier or a driving force that facilitate internationalisation. These barriers and/or driving forces can also influence the nature of the international marketing mix strategies that are employed by firms. The barriers and/or driving forces can have both direct and indirect effects on export marketing performance. The competitive intensity of the export markets had a significant relationship with export performance. Furthermore, it had the most significant relationship with export performance compared to all the other independent variables and the relationship was also negative, meaning that the export performances of firms were negatively affected with increased competitive activity. However, given the secondary research objective - to determine how export/ international marketing characteristics influence the choice of international marketing strategies, and consequently export marketing performance - the following relationships were identified. Competitive intensity had a significant relationship with the degree of product adaptation and export market characteristics with the degree of promotion adaptation. Both competitive intensity and export market characteristics had a significant relationship with both the degree of distributor/subsidiary support and the degree of pricing adaptation. Export market characteristics equate to export market barriers, and what the above implies is that with more export market barriers, firms tend to adapt distributor/subsidiary support and pricing more. With regard to the degree of adaptation to marketing mix strategies it was found that the degree of pricing adaptation had a significant effect on export/international marketing performance. There was a significant relationship between the degree of product adaptation and export/international marketing performance. However, this relationship was negative, in that the greater the degree of product adaptation, the more negative the performance. One would have expected that the greater the degree of product adaptation, the greater the export/international marketing performance. A non-significant relationship was found between the degree of promotion adaptation and export/international marketing performance. The relationship between the degree of distributor/subsidiary and export performance was also non-significant. Although the study came up with important findings, it once again highlighted the inconsistency of findings in the export/international marketing literature. Furthermore, given the increasingly competitive nature of international markets, it is more important for firms to identify the success factors in their particular industries that could contribute to greater export/international marketing performance than to assume that all international markets and industries require similar strategies.