Business

Understanding different cultures when going 'local to global'

Learning how to make a virtual handshake and reach across language and time differences takes time, openness and patience
Nick Read

GETTING the right message in front of the right person at the right time is a marketing fundamental, regardless of what corner of the world you are working in. While operating in a team with a local focus can develop your skills and knowledge, moving to an internationally-focused market presents its own set of challenges – and a new perspective.

While you may see the Belfast cranes Samson & Goliath on your commute, your customers may be driving past London Eye, the Louvre or the Taj Mahal.

There will no doubt be major differences: time zones, ways of doing business, cultural practices and perspectives. So how do you make the connection?

Having the right brand is a key ingredient, since customers can instantly recognise and relate to the business. Branding is a key focus for CIM with its Brand Health summit, taking place at the British Museum, London on March 2. With recent media attention on brand integrity, consumers are increasingly aware of how companies behave. This makes it even more important for businesses to focus on building genuine and meaningful interactions with their customers. All interactions need to build the brand across traditional media and social channels, taking in the challenge of engaging with people from different cultural backgrounds.

Technology plays a key role, with the ability to connect via different mediums. Learning how to make a virtual handshake and reach across language and time differences takes time, openness and patience. Marketing know-how in social media, search engine optimisation, cyber security, app development and, even in some markets, the use of gaming as a tool to reach customers all play their part.

Understanding different cultures is key, and diversity is a now a mission for leading international companies. It is a truism that the more diverse your team is, the better its international sales will be.

Companies like law firm Baker McKenzie make diversity an absolute priority. With a growing presence in Belfast and a global footprint consisting of more than 4,000 lawyers, economists, tax advisers and other professionals speaking more than 75 languages, diversity and inclusiveness are a key commitment for this firm, which is still relatively new to Ireland.

Meanwhile, local companies like Kestrel Foods in Portadown are building brands that have made the transition – not just to Europe, but have now sports nutrition brands available in over 36 countries. In 2016, local companies can very definitely go global.

Another great local example is CDE Global, which won the marketing exporter of the year in CIM's Marketing Excellence Ireland Awards two years in a row in 2014-15. With headquarters in Cookstown and offices in India, Brazil and the United States, this company works across four sectors and seven regions.

It's essential that their marketing team understands the requirements of each region and the strength of their brand to these customers. They focus on the preferred means of communication in each market and devise regional marketing plans to maximise success. This has led to significant success for this company, which exports 75 per cent of its products outside the UK.

CIM has a particular focus on 'local to global' in 2016. Marketing expertise from the Northern Irish diaspora will present at a free event on February 26 in University of Ulster's Magee Campus. Also planned by CIM on April 12 is a digital master class focusing on Search Engine Optimisation and Price Per Click – both essential components in reaching international audiences. For more information and to register go to www.cim.co.uk/events.

:: Nick Read is chairman of the CIM Ireland board.

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