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Global Marketing: Reading Between the Lines

October 07, 2014 | By Julian Archer

Historians are taught to review and analyze original sources for both “witting” and “unwitting” testimony. They must look beyond the basic facts as intentionally presented by the author (witting testimony) to determine whether other insights can be gleaned, such as author prejudices or accepted norms of the day (unwitting testimony).

Historians are taught to review and analyze original sources for both “witting” and “unwitting” testimony. They must look beyond the basic facts as intentionally presented by the author (witting testimony) to determine whether other insights can be gleaned, such as author prejudices or accepted norms of the day (unwitting testimony).

MultilingualIt is important for global b-to-b marketers to be aware of both what they are intentionally presenting and what else they are inadvertently communicating. Our best-laid plans to explicitly demonstrate our understanding of different cultures and markets can easily be compromised.

How does this manifest itself? To date, I have worked for French, British, German, American, Swedish and Dutch companies. They all have one thing in common: The hardworking folks in the home, central or corporate offices often view the world in outwardly extending circles, with themselves placed firmly in the hub around which the rest of world spins.

This mindset is understandable early in a company’s growth trajectory. A successful local company wishing to expand into new geographic markets needs to utilize the skills and resources available in its home base to support new market development. But as the business establishes itself and attempts to become indigenous to more markets, it must change its thinking. Home-country employees with global responsibilities must mentally step outside their country and adopt an outward-in rather than inward-out approach.

Beyond recognizing the importance of local culture and language in non-home markets, corporate teams must take positive steps to eliminate implicit errors of meaning and intent. A company wishing to be considered able to deliver a local service should view all market communications activity from the recipient’s vantage point. This may seem obvious, but I have repeatedly seen some common areas where improvement is needed:

  • Multilingual Web sites. The degree of localization and translation probably depends on market size, available budget, content shelf life and level of emotional connection required. You will probably never reach perfection, but never list your Web site’s available language options as the “primary language” and “secondary language.”  This internal delineation – which I have seen on Web sites from European and American companies – should not be used to insult prospects who, by fate of birth, speak the “secondary” language in question.
  • Contact pages. A personal bête noir of mine, this practice is most prevalent among North American-headquartered companies. An inward-out approach to their contact pages is evident when the phone numbers of non-U.S. and Canadian addresses contain the international country code, but the North American offices numbers do not. If you expect people to call your office from outside North America, provide the international country code as well. Consider the negative and unwitting “them and us” message that you are sending to your non-home market audience.

Having lived outside my country of birth for over 25 years, I have had more of an opportunity than most to see my country as non-residents view it. In order to be considered a company that operates with a truly global view, company employees have a global responsibility to mentally step up and step out of their home base.

Julian Archer

Julian Archer is a Senior Research Director of Marketing Operations Strategies at SiriusDecisions. He has more than 25 years of international b-to-b demand creation experience within corporate and pan-European field functions. Follow Julian on Twitter @julianarcher

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