[This article was written by Meghan Belnap .]
Reaching new customers in foreign markets can present a rewarding step forward for any business alongside a host of marketing challenges. If you want your products and services to find a foothold outside your familiar borders, winning over a diverse new culture may entail adapting tried-and-true practices to new rules of engagement. This certainly is not impossible, but the legwork ultimately invested will test your aptitude for rolling with the punches in the interest of dramatically enhanced reach and promising new revenue streams. Remember, it isn’t about “you.”
In at least one sense, entering a foreign market poses the same challenge as starting out in a domestic arena: first and foremost, any business must understand the market’s unmet needs and how many people are clamoring for a solution to them. Investigating what the competition brings to the table can help narrow down the best means of meeting those unaddressed needs with distinctive features and benefits and develop a truly unique value proposition. Bear in mind, not every successful domestic product or service transitions into an international success. The Chevrolet Nova became a laughing stock and cautionary example in Latin America because its name translates literally in Spanish to “Chevrolet no go.” Be prepared to listen carefully to focus groups, tweak your product and marketing philosophy for a more individually tailored appeal to the masses.
Welcome New Customers Directly
Officially introducing your company to new customers with a brief letter both tangibly demonstrates that appreciate their business and validates that they made a good decision choosing your company for their needs while also providing valuable contact information. Penning a salutation to customers in newly breached foreign markets entails such standard touches as using a distinctive company letterhead with your return address, phone number and email address alongside the customer’s full name, title, company and email address. From there, it becomes imperative that your letter demonstrates an appreciation for the customer’s own culture. Using name matching will help properly translate foreign characters such as an umlaut or tilde. Keep in mind, misspelling a name from another language appears decidedly disrespectful and suggests your attempt at personal attention is little more than slapdash lip service. It also wouldn’t go amiss for your greeting to include the customary salutation of the customer’s own country alongside the typical introduction to the company, sincere thanks for his or her business and reassurance that you will do whatever it takes to ensure their satisfaction. The last thing any new customer wants is to feel like “just another” account in your books.
Reach out on Your Customers’ Most-Used Platforms
This is more of a universal tip, but it particularly holds true amidst unfamiliar cultures: do not assume that, just because a given platform is generally popular, “everyone” uses it. Measure twice and cut once. Ask international focus groups which social platforms they utilize most and how they use them. Do they spill their thoughts in brief, digestible bursts on Twitter for mass consumption? Are they more partial to sharing photos, video and more personal stories and conversations on Facebook with close family and friends? Do their legions of Instagram followers rival the populations of small countries? Not every platform’s general aesthetic wins over every demographic. Know exactly whose needs inspire your products and services. Determine where they congregate. Listen carefully to and participate in the conversation surrounding your company on your customers’ terms and territory. If you make a profound statement or craft an ingenious interactive campaign and roll it out where your customers have no presence, you might as well have said nothing at all.
Connect with Relevant Issues
When you eventually partake in the dialogue surrounding your company, remember that you have two eyes, two ears and one mouth. Use them proportionately. Any mind is most open to persuasion when the individual feels influential, that they are being listened to and understood. There are no shortcuts here. Do not make assumptions. Ask questions when someone expresses a concern or unique use for your products. Gain an appreciation for what they want. Connect with and internalize key issues, including international social and political concerns. You cannot serve your customers without understanding them, and that includes the happenings that weigh heavily on their minds beyond your company. If you can assure customers that they are more than wallets with legs and you value their input, they will open up to you the instant they sense an opportunity to reshape future brand experiences. Personal attention is often an underappreciated art.
People are mostly the same everywhere you go. Most modern marketing practices are grounded in the same principles and human behavioral patterns. At the same time, assuming one can lazily apply identical domestic norms to win over an international market is not unlike suggesting basketball is played the same way in Europe, China and the United States. Same game? Yes. However, separate cultures adopt the same sets of rules and adapt them to their own diverse philosophies. If you want your company to become an international fixture, prepare to mold your marketing messages to divergent norms.
Meghan Belnap is a freelance writer who enjoys spending time with her family. She loves being in the outdoors and exploring new opportunities whenever they arise. Meghan finds happiness in researching new topics that help to expand her horizons. You can often find her buried in a good book or out looking for an adventure. You can connect with her on Facebook right here and Twitter right here.