“We’re going to want to expand into some new international markets next year as part of our growth strategy. Will the marketing team be ready for that?” asks your company CEO.
“Absolutely”, you quickly reply. As Chief Marketing Officer, you deserve part of the credit for your company’s successful revenue rise. You have built a strong engagement marketing program, attracting and nurturing leads. And really, how hard can it be to translate the website into a handful of key languages?
Using the Right Marketing Measuring Stick
The Truth: Translation and even website localization only scratch the surface of foreign market penetration. Every country and region around the world operates on a different set of business rules. This includes both regulations as well as cultural rules that can come in the form of assumptions, beliefs, expectations or values.
Put another way…if someone markets to you in English, do they automatically understand your buyer motivations?
The Right Measure: The only true marketing measures are quantitative results. Does your marketing program yield cost-effective results that are at or above levels needed to grow your company to stakeholder expectations? Are you able to deliver qualified leads into your sales process?
Today’s marketers are expected to deliver these outcomes. Gone are the days of unaccountable marketing expenditures for advertising, PR, and other low-return channels. That brings us to Buyer Personas.
Buyer personas serve as a focal point for marketing messaging and content development. I use a buyer persona (Bob, the American mid-market CMO) to focus my writing towards one specific (imaginary) person who represents an important market segment for my consulting practice. It helps those who discover your product to self-select as to whether they belong in your target market. In contrast, choosing NOT to develop market-specific buyer personas gives your local competition a distinct competitive advantage.
Types of Motivators That Can Differ
Here are some areas that may be different than in your well-known home market. All of these factors should influence the development of your marketing team’s buyer personas.
Decision Makers/Influencers – Knowing who actually makes the decisions and who influences those decisions is key in marketing. For example, large purchase decisions are more likely group decisions in Sweden compared with France where the leader makes the decisions. Gatekeepers who keep sales and marketing contact away from their bosses may be more selective in Malaysia than in Canada.
Logic and Emotional Appeals – Marketing normally uses persuasion. But which appeals are the most effective? Again, it varies by culture. The Germans want mainly logic (strategy) to justify decisions. Australians tend to focus heavily on financial justification over all else. Parts of Latin America can rely on a mix that includes emotion-based decision-making.
Organization and Personal Motivations – While it is impossible to predict what will motivate a specific person, there are some cultural influences that can have strong effects. For instance, Chinese companies often have a long time horizon for strategic initiatives compared especially with American companies. On the personal side, the English often choose to keep professional and personal lives separate. In Mexico, the feeling is the opposite. Personal and professional lives are often overlapped.
Developing International Buyer Personas
If foreign markets are important to your company’s growth plan, then every market needs to have its own set of buyer personas representing, all key players in the buying process. The sets often include personas for a leader, technical expert, business expert, and the initial gatekeeper (leader’s assistant). The more complex and expensive the product, then usually the more people involved in its selection process. Most companies name their personas (Mr. Wang, Maria, Sven, etc.).
Step 1: Ask questions from local industry contacts to gain perspective.
We are looking specifically for what might be different between your home country’s approach and the approach needed in each target market. Two great sources are (1) any in-country representatives you may be working with and (2) in-country industry association contacts. Ask questions to help flush out information that contradicts your own cultural assumptions.
“Who are the normal decision makers and influencers in this type of sale”? “How does someone in this country search for information on products in this industry?” “What role does each person play in selection?” If anything said contradicts your assumptions, follow up with additional questions to better understand.
Step 2: Create Named Personas for Each Player in the Buying Process
Most B2B personas I have seen and/or developed for clients can be described in one page. It tells about this fictional person’s likely general background (education, work experience, age, etc.). It describes their role in relation to the rest of the company. Personas include the person’s motivations in their professional life including any possible fears (ex. fear of failure or embarrassment) or aspirations (ex. future promotions based on success). It should include the persona’s likely familiarity with your company’s product category and experience level in working with foreign companies like yours. If your company does business in France, India and Mexico, you should create persona sets for buying processes in all three countries.
Step 3: Buyer Persona Validation and Improvement
Once you have created your foreign market buyer personas, each set should be reviewed by a trusted source who has worked extensively in that market. Make adjustments accordingly. Over time, new information from experiences in market should help to continually refine your buyer personas.
I hope this helps your marketing team to create more effective global marketing programs!
Onward & upward,