(How can you take your small business global? In my interview with international marketer Cindy King we discuss the tools, approaches and core concepts that can make your cross-cultural marketing strategy a success.)
Hi Cindy. First, thanks so much for agreeing to the interview. Could you tell us a bit more about yourself and what you do?
Hi Shawn, I am North American but have spent all of my professional life based in Europe in international sales & marketing and international business development.
The number 3 seems to come up often when I describe myself. I have 3 different nationalities: Bahamas, Canada & France. I speak 3 languages fluently, and have extremely rusty skills in 3 others. I have worked in 3 different religious environments: Catholic, Jewish and Muslim… and I am Anglican. And I have worked with international responsibilities in 3 different regions of the world: ASEAN, EMEA and North America & the Caribbean.
Today I use my dual background sales and marketing to help businesses create international sales guides and improve their cross-cultural marketing.
I guess when people hear about global business these days, they often think of multi-national corporations. But how practical is it for a small business to market themselves globally or cross-culturally outside their traditional local market?
Even large companies learn their international marketing skills one step at a time. The key for a small business to successfully market internationally is a narrow focus.
When a company of any size first expands abroad, it is always wise to aim for one product and one country. This applies for small businesses too. Trying to do more is too expensive and leaves you vulnerable for international business blunders.
One big advantage small businesses have today is that it does not need to cost them a fortune to get preliminary international market research done.
I suppose the Internet is an obvious tool, but what other approaches can a small business take to market themselves cross-culturally or globally and what are the benefits?
Open your vision. Most businesses only think about using the internet as they would use it in their own markets. This means that you ignore other possible areas of action.
Not only do other countries have other ways of using the internet with different platforms, but they are also at different stages of maturity. Most people think of the missed opportunities and the difficulties, but this also means there are opportunities for simple web marketing tactics to bring in good results.
Beyond possible language barriers and regulatory hurdles, what other challenges must small business owners consider when marketing their product or service cross-culturally?
Just about everyone overestimates how easy their communication is to understand.
Clarity is a huge issue for two reasons. First it makes your website easy for everyone to understand. And second, because clarity is linked to trust in cross-cultural communication. With any lack of clarity you lose trust points.
When your message gets across clearly this improves the feedback you get.
How can small business owners decide whether the time is right to market themselves cross-culturally or globally and what kinds of businesses does this strategy work best for?
In many cases it really boils down to wanting to expand into a particular foreign market and committing to it.
Choose one product and one country. If you are not sure, or hesitate in where to go, create a more interactive international presence online and stimulate feedback. Use social media for international networking. It works well for many international markets too.
Cindy King is a Cross-Cultural Marketer & International Sales Strategist based in France. She uses her dual background in sales & marketing to help businesses improve their international sales conversion and develop country-specific international sales guides. Connect with her on Twitter @CindyKing .
For more on how small businesses can use social media and other resources to cheaply and easily touch a global market, see these additional links on this year’s winner of the Dell Small Business Excellence Award and how a small business based in England spread their philosophy of natural gardening and the products that came with it to the world.