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5 ways to learn more about customer needs in local markets

By Lara Fawzy 29 Apr, 2013
Essential
International marketing

How today's Global Digital Marketing Leaders can get closer to their customers

5 Tips for Today's Global Digital Marketing Leaders
There’s really no better way for global digital marketing leaders to learn about marketing to a new international market, or emerging market than by living in one, or two, or by visiting. I noticed that Marc Benioff of Salesforce has recently kicked of a Company Customer Tour and last year visited hundreds of customers worldwide

Although The Internet, makes doing business in an international context far easier than ever before there is still a need for close customer understanding from personal contact. Having recently moved from Egypt, Cairo, to Qatar, Doha, previously having lived in the UK and working virtually with counties in Latin America, Russia, Central Eastern Europe and Asia, as part of a multinational marketing team, I have a few year’s experience of trying to get closer to customers in “developed” and “emerging” markets.

Since businesses in developed markets, which are mature, and post recessionary are increasingly looking at emerging markets as an option for revenue growth or are doing business with them to increase revenue. Here are five pieces of universal guidance based on my experience:

1. Listening. Listening. Listening.

The best way to have a conversation in social media is to listen to existing conversations. The same is true for doing business in new markets.

Many multinational or large companies have withdrawn from new international markets because they haven’t taken the time to understand them.

Making assumptions about markets, generalising, or just not doing your research can be detrimental to your brand and company profits.

Qatar and Egypt are both in the Middle East, Islam is the predominant religion in both markets, they share some cultural similarities, however, both markets are inherently different. The different markets have differing cultural dress, foods, traditions and ways of doing business.

Egypt is more sophisticated in terms of marketing; however, Qatar is more resource and cash rich. In Cairo you’re bombarded with outdoor advertising, whereas in Doha there is very little.

Listen by working with local agencies, sales teams, partners or research firms, learn from marketing efforts. Fail fast in digital. Test localised integrated campaigns for results on a small sample of your target audience and learn from real-time or speedy results.

Listen and monitor conversations about your industry, product and market via social media, have your own channels and make listening a priority, as well as acting upon it.

2. Understand the unspoken rules, be sensitive and aware

If you’re serious about doing business in an international market take time to understand the culture. Understand the norms, what’s expected, ways of doing things and what may potentially offend. This is very important. Once I attended a conference in Dubai where a (non-local) speaker decided to show a video of a man getting naked and jumping into a pool! The audience were mainly from North Africa and Gulf States, this was and still is considered offensive, the nudity was not considered humorous.

I think the only person who may have found the video amusing was the speaker, he then went on to present for 45 minutes after showing the video and offending his audience, not a very admirable position to be in, the room was silent! Hopefully, not a common mistake, but it happens!

3. Getting Involved

Don’t be afraid to get involved with local initiatives. Enjoy new ways of working, new cultures and grow!

Let go of preconceived perceptions and enjoy new experiences whether working virtually or in the local market.

4. Localise

“In China, the color red symbolizes luck. In India, the same color symbolizes purity. In many Western countries, however, red symbolizes danger. In some countries, green is either a symbol of prosperity or of nature. Nothing with regard to brand acceptance is simply black and white.” Emerging Business Online, Global Markets and the Power of B2b Internet Marketing.

Localise your campaigns. I’ve seen strap lines for brands literally translated into other languages that have lost their meaning; literally messages have been lost in translation.

Understand the local culture, customer pain points, cultural sensitivities the sense of humour and produce content that resonates with your local audience. The imagery, colours and copy in local language are the tip of the iceberg, before that comes the proposition, the messaging and the meaning.

Red symbolises luck in China, that’s true but that’s also very traditional, the Chinese site AliBaba.com, a leading online global market place for small businesses uses orange as part of its branding.

Digital creative from agencies based in Brazil tends to be vibrant, colourful and bold.

Leading social networks like Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn allow marketers to use local languages, for international marketing, hire a social media manager who’s fluent in the local language if it’s the business language. In Egypt and Qatar the business languages are English and Arabic.

5. Superiority

Qatar as a country and emerging market is transforming diversifying from a natural resource – based economy into various industries such as real estate, services and tourism.

Businesses are seeking to hire marketers from developed economies and to import skills, so import your skills but do not import an attitude of superiority, this should go without saying, but you’d be surprised. There's a lot to learn in new markets.

To find out more about doing business in emerging markets and digital marketing in a global context, you can read Emerging Business Online, Global Markets and the Power of B2b Internet Marketing an New York FT Press Publication. Get introduced to ebocube model; don’t struggle with trial and error approaches to global digital marketing. Of course, there's also a Kindle version.

By Lara Fawzy

Lara is author of Emerging Business Online: Global Markets and the Power of B2B Internet Marketing (FT Press, ISBN 13: 9780137064410, 291). Her marketing experience includes that with Cisco Systems from various roles, including online customer relationship marketing for emerging markets (based in the UK and in Cairo). Lara has worked closely with local marketing teams, sales teams, and agencies across emerging markets, creating and executing online marketing campaigns using complex data segmentation and tracking and reporting on campaigns through advanced customer relationship management tools. Lara has also worked for O2, Telefonica, as a Campaign Manager, launching the high-profile Apple iPhone 3G in the UK business market and helping to redesign the company website. Lara is a qualified Chartered Marketer. She graduated from University of London, Royal Holloway, School of Management, with a Management BSc, specialising in marketing. You can connect with Lara on LinkedIn and Twitter.

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