Global expansion means seeking opportunities outside of familiar markets, and that requires engaging with people from different regions and cultures.
Yet companies often operate under the mistaken assumption that what works at home will work everywhere. Even internationally recognized brands with large budgets and even larger networks of global resources make cultural mistakes when entering new markets. Puma, Home Depot, Walmart, Coca-Cola and Kentucky Fried Chicken have all stumbled with poorly localized products, services, marketing and advertising.
A global mindset is the ability to adjust to different environments and cultures internationally. It is critical to an organization’s success. Ninety-five percent of senior executives of 100 global corporations who took a 2014 Worldwide ERC survey reported that the cultures of their business markets “play an important or very important role in the success of their business mission.”
Historically, efforts to develop a global mindset have been focused on developing employees and corporate leadership to ensure success in new markets, but the principle applies equally to engaging with customers around the world. A global marketing mindset focuses on international consumers and the personalization required to tailor their experiences and improve their interactions with your brand.
To avoid cultural missteps and ensure successful communication with global employees and customers, companies must develop a global marketing mindset that focuses on awareness and personalization to foster strong cross-cultural engagement.
1. Awareness Is the First Step
Having a global marketing mindset begins with an awareness of personal and cultural differences. Cross-cultural miscommunication is almost always due to a lack of awareness.
Thunderbird School of Global Management professor Mansour Javidan says, “a global mindset in business is the difference between success and failure.” In an article titled “Why Global Mindset is Essential,” Javidan argues that cultivating a global mindset is an essential first step to bridging cultural divides. “In today’s changing landscape, a global mindset has become a prerequisite for helping to build deep client relationships and to navigate economic and regulatory differences around the globe,” he writes.
Before embarking on an international business venture, it is important to begin by examining your company’s cultural values and biases and understanding the differences in the communication and purchasing behaviors of your target audiences. Cultural competency includes an awareness of certain business practices that people from other cultures might find offensive — or that at least would not be as effective in another country as they would be in your home country. Examples include cultural references that people in other countries may not understand (or may understand in a different way than you expect) and uses of symbols, icons, images and colors that may have different meanings in different countries.
Coaching and training can improve cultural awareness
To familiarize yourself with the workplace habits, expectations and best practices of people from various countries and cultural backgrounds, consider enlisting the services of cultural mentors or coaches. It might be a good idea to provide coaching to individual business owners, managers and executives to help them develop the leadership and communication skills required to enhance intercultural competencies. The goal is to create successful trading relationships and to improve communication with customers and organizations with different cultural backgrounds.
Training can help raise awareness of intercultural differences and teach essential communication, problem-solving and conflict-resolution skills. Team-building activities for employees of international companies help people understand real-life intercultural challenges that they may need to resolve.
Consult in-country linguistics experts
There are many language services providers (LSP) who can provide localization and internationalization services. Global brands can avoid cultural missteps by localizing their marketing content and enlisting the help of professional linguists who can perform “transcreation” of marketing taglines, messaging, ad copy and product names. Transcreation is the process of taking your branding messages and changing them as needed so that they convey the original spirit and meaning in a way that works effectively in a different country, region or language. The well-known companies that I mentioned earlier either did not bother with transcreation or did so poorly.
Related Article: Avoid Brand Disasters With a Visual Content Strategy
2. Personalization = Better Customer Experience
A global marketing mindset means paying special attention to personalization and tailoring your communication and content to each user’s language, region and culture. In a study by business advisory firm Deloitte, 36 percent of consumers surveyed said that they are interested in personalized products or services. Providing content and information in the end user’s native language is the single most important aspect of localization. That’s why, according to the Experian 2015 Digital Marketer Report (registration required), 86 percent of U.K. brands are personalizing their communication.
Personalization is important because the nuance of your information, product or service might not come across to non-native speakers of your language. Having the ability to target users in their own languages ensures that your message is communicated clearly and correctly. This is invaluable to establishing familiarity and trust with current and prospective customers.
In a Marketing Week article titled “Digital Across Cultures: Superglobal or Hyperlocal?” Elliot Polak says, “consumers are more sensitive to any perception of cultural inappropriateness” and argues that a digital marketplace drives brands to prioritize strategies for crossing traditional barriers of markets, cultures and languages.
Similarly, in a Marketing Week article titled “Big Ideas, Local Insights: Multicultural Content Marketing Made Easy,” Eric Ingrand of EnVeritas Group states that “adapting global themes to local values is key to effective multicultural marketing.” A wide range of language services are available to help clients succeed in the global marketplace by localizing global content into any language. These services are provided by native speakers of target languages and subject matter experts.
Localization is effective because it personalizes your messaging. Globalization and localization professionals help companies bridge the language gap by providing translations tailored to the customer’s region and culture. Agile, automated translation technology and expert language services create a dynamic platform for creating, delivering and managing dynamic, multilingual content. Taking advantage of expert localization services ensures that all of your international content is functionally, linguistically and culturally flawless.
Related Article: Don't Localize Your Content Unless You're Going to Do it Right
3. Engagement Improves Growth and Revenue
Engagement creates an emotional connection between customers, employees and your company that can positively affect your organization’s bottom line.
A recent Gallup poll found that customers who are fully engaged account for a 23 percent larger share of profitability, revenue and relationship growth compared to the average customer. Moreover, Aberdeen Group research has revealed that companies with engaged employees typically gained 233 percent greater customer loyalty and a 26 percent increase in revenue each year compared with companies whose employees are not very engaged.
A global marketing mindset demonstrates to consumers that you understand and value them and their cultures. When you learn to personalize effectively, you establish trust, and trust is the key to creating lasting engagement to help your business thrive in a global marketplace. In an age of globalization and borderless digital experiences, it is more important than ever to take advantage of the tools and professional services that can help you more effectively engage in cross-cultural business.