The current trend toward globalization has created countless new business opportunities for companies. At the same time, however, it has facilitated participation by foreign competitors on all fronts. Because of this, international marketing strategies are proving to be of increasing importance to companies of all types and sizes, especially those that desire to branch out into new markets through exporting. Yet despite continued calls for further studies and more than half a decade of discussion in the area of international marketing strategy and export performance among practitioners and researchers, the issue is still highly debated and largely unresolved. Accordingly, the purpose of this thesis was to investigate the connection between international marketing strategy and export performance. Using the contingency perspective and the strategic fit paradigm as theoretical platform, a survey was conducted among manufacturing companies in Sweden's three largest export industries and four largest export markets. Specifically, data were collected on the antecedents of marketing program adaptation, the degree of pursued adaptation, and export performance from a sample of more than 300 Swedish export ventures. The results obtained for this thesis suggest that there are a number of contingency factors in firms' macro, micro, and internal environments, which appear capable of determining their level of pursued international marketing program adaptation. Notably, differences between the domestic and export venture markets related to sociocultural environment, technological environment, market characteristics, marketing infrastructure, customer characteristics, and a product's stage in its life cycle are significantly related to marketing program adaptation. Similar connections were also found when firms have long durations in terms of export venture experience, smaller scopes of exporting experience, and higher degrees of commitment to the export ventures. With regards to this thesis' core issue of the connection between international marketing strategy and export performance, the findings strongly suggest that international marketing program adaptation per se is not detrimental to export performance, but rather the strategic fit between the degree of pursued international marketing program adaptation and the relevant contingency factors that propose the pursued strategy. Consequently, managers who wish to achieve superior export performance should first carefully assess their targeted export markets as well as their firms' internal capabilities in view of the identified relevant antecedents of marketing program adaptation. Secondly, they should develop the appropriate capacities and abilities for achieving strategic fit in addition to learning how to diagnose and amend misfit. With its primary focus on strategic fit rather than marketing standardization or adaptation, this thesis offered an alternative explanation for the conflicting findings evident in the international marketing literature, and it can be viewed as a step in the right direction towards resolving the longstanding dispute about the superiority of standardized versus adapted marketing programs.
Luleå: Luleå tekniska universitet, 2008. , 175 p.