For an expanding international business, it is imperative to face customers overseas. But before you take the continental leap, it is vital for you understand your target audience. Thus, “Localization” becomes the primary key.
The very first thing you would probably think for localization is hiring a local. A local on the ground can definitely help you know your customers better but might not be affordable, especially if you are a start-up or a smaller company. So, what can the business owners do in such a situation? Fortunately, there is a way. If you have the right information, you can easily understand the requirements of your global customer base.
Here are the most important steps to help Businesses understand their Customers in the Foreign Market:
1. Study the Geographical Area
It is important for businesses to analyze and understand everything about the region you are targeting. Having sufficient information about your customers and country is vital to grow overseas. Do your homework and conduct a PEST analysis of the region you are penetrating into. Study the Political, Economic, Social and Technical standpoints of the new market well before you enter.
2. Know About the Cultural Differences
Every country has its own culture that defines the perception and preferences of its native. To be successful in a country, you need to understand that country first. This implies more specially to its people, its culture and its law. Culture nuances can greatly impact your business operations, so ensure you familiarize yourself with the local culture. The product or service you are launching should be in sync with the local culture. Only then your target customers will find your product or service relatable. “One size fits all” is a big NO when it comes to international customer base.
For Example, A very famous company, Pepsodent, overlooked the cultural effect and marketed its toothpaste in South East Asia with a promise of turning teeth white. This didn’t go well with its audience and failed to resonate with their expectations. In South East Asia, having black teeth are considered a status symbol. In fact, people chew betel in an attempt to blacken their teeth.
Thus, try to gather as much information as you can about your customers. There is a lot of information available on the internet. Try to go through the history, preferences and likings of the people there. You will get enough useful information that can help you infer generalizations at the least, if not specification.
3. Understand the Local Language
Apart from the regional and cultural differences, another factor that can have a make or break impact on a business is the linguistic effect. A business need to understand the local language of their customers in order to avoid any linguistic disaster. To the least, business owners should analyze their brand name, its meaning and pronunciation in the local market. At times the same spelling can mean different in different countries, which can change the entire essence of the brand.
For Example, HSBC Bank’s “Assume Nothing” tagline didn’t go well with most of the countries where it was deemed to convey the message “Do Nothing.” The bank finally had to rebrand its global operations and change the tagline to “the World’s Private Bank.” This change cost the bank a whopping $10 million.
4. Follow what is Tending Locally and Modify as per Requirement:
Take a survey of the target customer groups by offering samples of your product. Doing a pilot survey gives enough idea if the target customers like the product as it is or they want any alteration to it. You may need to change your packaging, distribution channel, etc. according to the preference of your sample audience. Simple changes in the marketing plan can be made on the basis of customer analysis.
5. Payment Method:
When going global, you may also try to find out the payment preference of your audience. Which international payment option would your target customers like to have, how would they like to pay, etc. You would then have to decide for a trusted online foreign exchange service accordingly. Providing the customers with an opportunity to pay in local currency helps in increasing the customer base.
Thus, by following the above steps and taking out proper time to gather information about their customers, a business can sustain itself for growth in a foreign land.