Globalization refers to the transition of local economies to a global environment, in which countries influence one another and create an integrated market economy. Entering a foreign market is indeed a choice of growth and development, aiming at raising market shares, expanding, or leaving a saturated market.
The earliest theories about internationalization can be divided into three main paradigms: market imperfection, behavioural and market failure. The internationalization process brings with it the challenges and obstacles, such as customs, currency borders, normative and juridical gap, linguistic barriers, and context and cultural gap.
To overcome the actual international challenge, the analysis of the marketing action is essential to succeed. A successful firm is the one that becomes a market-oriented enterprise, using international marketing as a strategy and key element of its business operations.
Foglio (1993) defined international marketing as the optimal meeting point between international demand and the company’s supply. All the marketing activities have to be preceded and supported by constant foreign market research. Once they have been analysed, foreign markets can be divided by segmentation criteria. The marketing core is represented by the marketing mix programme (the 4Ps): the product must respond to the customers’ needs, the price must be considered accessible, the distribution must be efficient and punctual, advertising and promotion must promote the company’s brand.
Due to globalization and economic integration, cultural differences are no more limited to the individuals’ personal life but affect also the economic and political sphere of society. Many theories have been developed to explain and analyse cultural differences (Hofstede, the smallest space analysis, Trompenaars, Schwartz, The Globe). The organization must effectively manage cultural differences, employing different approaches, based on their country’s values and assumptions. In particular, differences in culture have strong influences in the strategies of business management, and customer’s purchase and consumption habits. The marketing strategy is to be adapted to the cultural environment. In the field of consumer goods, the company has to focus on three main areas when dealing with culture: marketing research, consumer’s behaviour analysis, and communication.
The debate about adaptation versus standardization in marketing management is one of the most critical issues. Many elements of the marketing activity are still strongly related to the national culture of the market. Market differences induce companies to adjust their strategies to each foreign market.
The case study analysed in this work concerns an Italian small enterprise producing fixtures and furniture, whose export share is 60% on turnovers. In recent years, the wooden furniture industry has increased its international trade flows showing Italy’s leading position in furniture production. Italy is also the first European country in terms of the number of firms occupied in the wooden furniture industry. However, the decreasing trend of domestic demand has forced producers to turn to foreign markets to overcome the domestic challenge. Some companies repositioned themselves towards higher segments, focusing on material quality, innovation, and advanced design. In particular, the Italian company can rely on the made in Italy brand, one of the most powerful brands in the world.
The present work reports the activity and strategy of Lunardelli Est 1967 in managing foreign customers, internationalization barriers and cultural challenges, showing how even a small enterprise can face the global competition and excel in foreign markets.