Western economies are mostly either sluggish or in recession, and traditional advertising channels are saturated. For marketers, it seems like it’s all bad news. But there is a demographic that can open up a new world: expats. Expats not only have a relatively high level of discretionary spending, but they are actually growing as a group despite ongoing global economic problems. Best yet, relatively few companies target expats as a market.

Expats fit all these requirements

In terms of growth, the number of international assignments among multinationals increased by a quarter over the past decade, and pwc predicts there will be a further 50 percent growth in international assignments over the next 10 years.

Just as importantly, expats tend to be well-educated with a high level of disposable income. The average Expatica reader is 44 years old, works in a mid-senior level position in a white collar role in an international company, moved overseas for professional purposes and travels frequently. According to HSBC’s Expat Explorer, 71% of expats surveyed in 2011 reported increased earnings since moving abroad. Sound like an attractive target demographic to you? It does to us!

Besides the obvious attraction of a growing demographic with a high level of discretionary spending that is relatively untargeted by most companies, there are more reasons why expats may be of interest for your business.

Expats have no existing loyalties. When they arrive in a new country, they often have little knowledge of the local service landscape and no favourite service providers. This means that proactive businesses have a first mover advantage – where they can quickly take a lion’s share of the market.

Expats are tribal

They form groups around common interests, and they rely on one another for advice and information on how to navigate their way around their adopted homes. So if you nurture a strong relationship one expat, you may well have created an influential brand ambassador who will bring you more customers.

Expats are a highly segmented demographic with a particular set of needs, which means you can tailor your message to a very personal and accurate degree and target them in very specific locations. This has another benefit – it makes the replication of your campaign by competitors a difficult proposition.

The expat community is dynamic

People are hired for overseas postings for several years, then often either return home or move on to the next opportunity. This means that even if you provide a one-off or occasional services such as relocation or tax, your customer base is constantly being renewed – not to mention growing.

In a crisis, opportunity presents itself, and the winners will be those that take the initiative to seize that opportunity. Marketers, now is your chance to get creative. Is your business targeting expats?
by Rhys Wesley

Whether it’s the French in China or Indians in the Netherlands, economic integration and new opportunities are pushing people in surprising directions. But despite this opportunity, one of the most common challenges we face as a business is convincing potential clients on the benefits of targeting the expat market.

According to UN statistics, globally approximately 215 million people lived outside their home country in 2011.

But it’s not just multinational corporations wanting to relocate talent – individuals are more open or even actively seeking out these opportunities for themselves. A recent survey of over 14,000 employed people across nine countries by Manpower Group found that more than one in four are more willing to relocate for work since the global recession.

Expats are online

Expats don’t only form offline communities – they are particularly adept at forming online ones. An excellent example is Amsterdam Mamas, make it less Netherlands-focused which began as a closed Facebook group between a few friends in 2010. Over the next two years, the group’s membership increased steadily through word of mouth and today it is one of the liveliest and most informative parenting forums in Amsterdam. It now boasts over 1,500 members, and the group founder was recognised as “Expat of the Year” at the Expat Awards 2012 in the Netherlands.