Methods of Expanding Your Business Into International Markets

Old School Marketing/New School Marketing

The old paradigm of sales and marketing hinged on an athletic assumption of wins and losses. In order to win the sale, another person or company lost the sale. While this approach can work well within a company to create sales or production incentives, it doesn't work so well on the international playing field. In the realm of international negotiating and contractual agreements, few companies are truly interested in losing to your company in order to do business with you. Therefore, your contractual agreements and terms of negotiation must be well formulated to get both parties to a place where they agree they win.

Said in the game-play speak of win-lose, the new school marketing requires win-win negotiations in order to successfully do business in the international arena. Wise business people today, however, avoid the win-win language as well since this, too, implies a potential zero sum game. All the way around it is best to avoid game language.

The better approach to international marketing is to emphasize an agreement or business position that yields a mutual gain so that trust is built between parties and contracts become viable for everyone involved. Another advantage to this new school marketing is that unlike the game feature of the old school marketing, the parties in the agreement cannot assume it will be acceptable to operate without integrity. They cannot assume there is a set of rules meant to be broken. In fact, neither party in an international business agreement can assume that breaking the rules of business integrity will gain anything. Rather it is best to assume that a violation of business trust can cost the agreement and the relationship.

Indeed, new school marketing is based on relationship rather than competition. If you come from the old school marketing, you can think of it this way: the paradigm shift has transformed from a traditional male rationale to a traditional female rationale; from competition to relationship. Be careful, however, not to convey this understanding into your communications when dealing with international businesses. International business men do not respond well to being told they negotiate like a woman; don't set out to offend a businessman's manhood. Keep in mind, however, that many international businessmen are more focused on building the relationship than traditionally practiced by American businessmen.

International Cultures and Contractual Agreements

When entering into the international marketplace it is important to remember certain facts concerning the various cultures of the world and contractual agreements. Below are some key things to consider:

  • Cultural expectations and standards vary across the world.

  • Business negotiations vary from country to country, region to region and culture to culture.

  • Eastern and middle-Eastern countries culturally emphasize honor and respect so it is wisdom to study their understanding of these ideals before entering into business talks with them. Business people from the West do not have the same concepts on these topics as their Eastern counterparts. Therefore, in order for the agreement to work, you must understand their point of reference and what matters most to them.

  • It is a major faux pas in many countries around the world to exclude one's family in the course of business and the business day. Therefore, you must take care to completely respect their family as well as your own in conversations and in their presence. If your family members happen to enter into the room, do not apologize but rather simply introduce them. You will gain the respect of most foreign business people by showing your family members respect and honor.

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  • Even in countries you consider "backward" it is important to never disrespect a business person's spouse or show any annoyance by their contribution to the dialogue. Because women in a particular country do not have the brashness of American women does not mean they are oppressed by their husbands; nor does it mean that their husbands are not listening very closely to what they have to say. In fact, I have found the opposite is true. So be careful before you write off any man/woman dynamics that you don't understand as "chauvinist" or "oppressive". It is highly likely that women in that country will seriously disagree with you, and this misperception on your part can cost you the business deal.

  • Be sure you get all agreements with international business people in writing and in detailed writing. My reason for cautioning here has little to do with business trust between the parties. It is reasonable to believe that if you don't have a certain level of trust with someone, then you certainly should not enter into a business agreement with them. But rather my reason for stressing a written agreement is that most times you will find you have a language barrier where at least one party is required to communicate in a language that is not their native tongue. When foreigners come to the U.S. university systems, they require ESL [English as a Second Language] courses in order to understand their professors. This is not because they are ignorant of the language, but rather because they have no experience in the cultural nuances of the American society. When they don't understand the nuances of the culture, they don't learn the material the professor teaches. This is true even though everyone in the room is highly intelligent and highly educated. This is also true for your business agreements. Invariably, one party will use a word or phrase that the other party believes they understand, but which has a different context to the speaker. It is for this reason that all of your agreements should be drafted in a formal document. If the other person refuses to read or sign the agreement, then it probably would not have worked out well for you to enter into what ever level of business you planned to do.

  • If you are American and first entering into the international marketplace, be prepared for haggling. Most foreign business people expect to haggle with their business vendors and clients. If you do not negotiate with them [usually several rounds I might add], then you will likely lose the opportunity all together. Foreign business people see price inflexibility as stubbornness, greed or a sign of disinterest in doing business. If you are stiff on your price, then you will usually lose to a competitor who understands the foreigner's need to strike a "deal" by allowing them to talk down the price. If you feel your margin is too tight to negotiate, then you should probably pad the price so you have negotiating room or choose to market locally rather than globally.

CRM (Customer Relationship Management)

Customer Relations is an area of business that has transformed in the last 20 years into a "self-serve" attitude in the main street marketplace. The attitude has evolved to the point that everyday sales clerks in retail outlets seem lazy as if they want to get paid for doing nothing other than running a register. While this seemed the way to go in light of technology's progress, in the bigger picture of business it is not working for the long haul.

Today, all indicators are that the buying public is lashing back, demanding closer attention in order to gain their business. Your client may resent working their day's work and then coming into your place of business and being expected to serve themselves while handing you their money. The idea is that they worked for their money and they don't feel they should have to work to spend it. They have put in a full day's work and they are tired by the time they shop with you. They also feel that your company should not gain their hard earned money for simply pushing something out the door. In other words, there is a return of the work ethic in the minds of your clients when they look at what your company offers them. If you want to automate every aspect of your business and skip hiring people to deal with you clients, then the client should receive a huge discount for doing business with you.

Alternatively, they may choose not to do business with you at all since a large portion of the population is overworked, holding more than one or two jobs. More and more single parents are responsible for not only their children and their households, but a couple of jobs, too. They want more service, not less. They resent working to bag groceries or service their cars after more than a full day's work. They resent just giving you their money for no value in return other than receiving a product manufactured in China. They have a sense of injustice and an absent work ethic and are more likely to do business with companies that relieve them of their over-burdened loads by serving them with a bag-boy, a gas-pump man, a delivery man or any other person that makes their exchange with your company easier.

To pull out ahead of your competitors today, you must find a way to give more service, not less to your customers. You may see this as a burden to hire more employees, but this is not necessarily true. In light of modern technology, you can offer more service by employing the use of technologies such as voice broadcasting while integrating your client information with CRM [Customer Relations Management] systems so that the customer receives customized service. Customers want more service and more personalized service. To successfully give them what they are now looking for in the marketplace, your company will need to implement a number of tools including CRM systems that will help you specialize your service to the needs and likes of every client.

ACT [Software]

When I started my company, ACT software is one of the first pieces of software I purchased to help me manage client information. I had professional experience with the program nearly 10 years prior and it is still one of the best programs for new businesses to use while they are still small.

The ACT program helps you to keep detailed information about each client, build a database, integrate that database with other systems such as Word and Outlook, and track every interaction you have with each client. This information is vital to servicing clients in the personalized manner they want today. It also helps you to keep a tighter reign on your expenditures because you will not spend your advertising dollars sending to clients who want something different than what you have in stock. You will not spend your man hours calling clients who want something else. Hopefully, your clients will want what you are selling, but you will not waste resources trying to mass market any of your clients.

ACT also helps each client to feel like a personal friend of the company because when they call your company and your staff pulls up their record, the staff know exactly when they last spoke with the company, what it was about, how it was handled and what are their possible desires this time. A smart move is to train all of your employees to always pull up the client file when talking with them on the phone or at the in-store location. The least non-intrusive way to keep client files is to file them by the last four digits of their phone number. Most people do not feel as if they are giving away private information using those numbers.

ACT is a great tool for upstart businesses and remains very affordable at less than $300. ACT is one of the first and best CRM systems to use with more 3 million users and tens of thousands of corporations since 1987. The 2010 version has been upgraded to include direct email marketing from their cloud and integration with social media networks. These features are tops if you are looking for one place to handle several needs and if you are looking to integrate your information without having to spend a small fortune.

Infusionsoft [Cloud platform technology]

"Infusionsoft is a popular CRM solution with automated email marketing as a central concept." -- Small Business Trends

Infusionsoft is a top of the line CRM platform that remains on the cutting edge of the industry. Integrating CRM systems with email marketing, this is a terrific tool. For most upstart businesses, however, it is probably not the most cost effective CRM to start with.

The beginning monthly package begins at slightly more than half the cost of ACT's entire software program [up to 10,000 contacts for $199 per month]. Businesses that want to keep costs down will need to have a contact list of at least 5,000 for the beginner package to become cost effective [at roughly $0.04 per contact per month]. Of course, if your business is already well connected or if you have a client base larger than this, then you will find the system worth its price tag and your ROI will no doubt manifest quite handsomely.

Over the last several years Infusionsoft has had to modify its structure and the price of its offerings to make their products and services more appealing to small businesses. Generally, your business will need to grow into what Infusionsoft offers, but it is a delight to know that when you step into their services, their platform handles up to a half-million contacts for you.

Voice Broadcasting Systems

Voice broadcasting is a terrific way to stay in touch with your clients. As a precaution, be sure you take the time and make the effort to obtain an explicit written permission from each of your clients before entering them into this type of system. The federal fines are stiff [$16,000 per number] and could seriously hurt your ability to stay in business. However, if handled correctly [with diligent record keeping], voice broadcasting to your clients can work very well for your company's CRM.

CRM is essentially about keeping good relationships good and staying in touch. Your clients have already purchased from you and are your best source for repeat business. So, it is in your interest to find a way to steadily stay in touch with them. If you have obtained written permission to call them for appointments, delivery or notice of an upcoming sale, then you are staying on top of the game for customer relations. People appreciate you meeting their need and keeping their goals and desires in mind without pestering them about nonessentials or unrelated details.