Selling Internationally – Cultural Differences

By Guest Blogger: Al Fielders, Director of Operations at Topsider Homes

international marketingIf you’re marketing and selling on the internet, it must be exciting to know that about 94% of US buyers shop on the internet. But did you know that the UK is currently the most developed online market, followed by the USA , Germany , France , the Netherlands , and South Korea , Japan and then Switzerland and the Nordic markets? If you’re considering the worldwide market, that’s growing so rapidly it’s becoming difficult to measure, it will pay to spend some time researching all the readily available resources for selling internationally. A good place to begin is at www.export.gov which has information on how to market to numerous countries, especially some of the smaller ones.

Selling and marketing internationally has so many nuances that it’s now a college major, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. To start, keep to the basics; remember that in sales, first impressions are still everything! When selling to foreign countries, cultural awareness should be a considered in every aspect of your marketing. Start with language considerations. English while broadly used and accepted, often has different meanings in other dialects. For instance, the popular baby food maker ‘Gerber’ is French for vomiting. This company rebranded their product in Europe under a different name to avoid embarrassing labels. You can learn from the large companies that have spent billions of dollars on this research to market internationally and how they have adapted to reach phenomenal success.

Your website will most likely be the first exposure your new global customers have of you and your company. You will want to optimize your site design to be flexible for the global visitors you’re trying to attract. An experienced company like Across the Horizons can help you master this effort. Consider the market you are targeting, and review every detail to see how it reflects that cultures language, lifestyle, beliefs, traditions and behavioral patterns of the buying population. How does your product or service have applications to the region you would like to sell to?

Keep in mind too, that although buying online is a great worldwide market equalizer, people buy differently in other places. For instance, in the western world like the US, the UK and much of northern Europe, we tend to buy on a ‘Transactional’ basis, while southern Europe, the Middle East and the Asian markets tend to buy on a ‘Relationship’ basis. When selling in person, this difference [an important aspect to study in itself] is a critical principle that must be understood and mastered to be successful. Relationship buyers will by default follow the same mindset online as they would in person. In brief they will not buy quickly [often visiting your site several times], they will review your information thoroughly to establish trust and confidence, and then they will look for common ground and reasons to justify buying from you. This type of client may want an ‘in person’ telephone call to verify their buying decision; so consider your contact information carefully.

With improved international shipping options for products, or real time online conferencing for your services, expanding your marketing efforts to an international audience can be a great opportunity to grow your company. To reach that audience though you will need to really delve into and understand the regional cultures, laws and other conditions that will best promote your company.

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