January 19, 2021

Straight Talk for Exporters – “The Overseas Market Awaits You” 4th in a series of articles on exporting

Posted on 26. Sep, 2011 by Stephan Helgesen in Economy

All Frenchmen love wine.
All Germans enjoy Wagnerian opera.
All Austrians ski.

Obviously these are generalizations, but they do illustrate a point. Although the overseas market is an often-overlooked profitable arena for selling American products and services, one important rule to follow is not to generalize when formulating your advertising messages. While some stereotypes can be useful for fundamental planning purposes, they can come back to haunt you later on.

Even more importantly, they can rob you of bottom-line results.

The motivation to buy products are essentially universal: the promise of time, labor or cost savings, the need to be at the forefront of a movement or trend and various ego needs. If you’re new to the ‘motivation game,’ here are some tips.

Test your message at home

One of the best ways to make sure your advertising message succeeds overseas is to make sure your product is first viable in the United States. Test your message in the U.S. by breaking out a cross section of likely prospects and let your agency or your marketing department test the responses of your English message. Chances are that if you touch some hot buttons here, a similar positive response will be forthcoming in foreign markets IF you use the right translation (language and cultural adaptation) and messaging. Bottom line: Establish an ‘ideal customer’ profile and test at home, first.

Media placement

Now what are you going to do for media placement? If your ad budget is large (in the millions of dollars) your capital problem has already been solved. International agencies with heavy billing clients are ready and willing to provide their media-buying expertise to you, but if your budget is small and you wish to maximize the efficiency of your media buy, there are a number of internationally-operating organizations (such as domestic advertising agencies with links overseas or members of the International Chain of Industrial and Technical Agencies) that can help you. There are a number of publications in Western Europe that not only address their host country’s readers, but also cross boundary lines to reach readers in other countries. Since many top businessmen and middle managers speak several languages -such as the primary languages of French, German and English – advertisements in several business or trade publications (each printed in a different language) have a good chance of reaching most of your target market.

But what do you say to them?

Fact: Europeans travel more and spend more on their vacations than Americans, and their travel takes them outside their own countries.
This regular movement of people from one country to another has done much to create ‘cross cultural acceptance’ for new products and services. When people are exposed to other cultures, attitudes and behavior they will often adopt some of the new behaviors (and products) they have seen and apply them/use them in their own lives, sometimes radically changing old traditional behaviors. Enter globalization.

This has created new markets for products that were previously identified with a specific group or culture. In essence, it’s made the marketer’s job more difficult because the differences from one culture’s view of an advertising message to another’s can be very subtle, and thus critical to the entire selling message. This reinforces the point we made earlier about stereotyping; it’s dangerous to pigeonhole and categorize groups of people, especially now with large population shifts and globalization.

A few generations ago, in the U.S., these same conditions were evident when new immigrants integrated into U.S. society. Many wanted to retain their core culture and language, but most wanted to become ‘real Americans’ and adopt and adapt quickly.  The cultural shift in the U.S. continues to this day, but it is also happening in Europe as the European Union gains new members and borders disappear. Millions of Europeans are living in each other’s countries and learning the ways of their host countries’ cultures. This makes multi-cultural marketing and advertising an even bigger challenge because it is now more than just national marketing.

Don’t despair. These changes also create opportunities. Why not do some basic market research to see where your products and services have the greatest chance of success. Taking that first step across the boundary of the unknown might be the most important one you’ve made in a long while AND you might find yourself right at home…thousands of miles away.

Submitted by Stephan Helgesen, a 20-year veteran of the U.S. and Foreign Commercial Service of the U.S. Department of Commerce. He has worked in over 24 countries and advised hundreds of exporters on three continents. He is currently the Honorary Consul for Germany in New Mexico and CEO of 2nd Opinion Marketing & Communications, an export consultancy. He can be reached at: helgesen@2ndopinionmarketing.com

Copyright © 2011 Second Opinion Marketing & Communications







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