Here is a horror story you want to avoid, outlined in this quick international business video.
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Enjoy these strategy comics!
And yes, many more firms outside of the 3D Printing Industry make these mistakes!
Other mistakes made in translation
Not using professional translators.
This mistake takes several forms: using only an American English presentation for all markets, thinking in-house people who speak foreign languages can act as translators, hiring (e.g.) a Chinese waiter to translate for you, or using technological databases to do the work inexpensively.
Does the translation firm understand your market space? Did you get a cross section of good references, and have you spoken with them?
Engaging in translation activities at the last minute. Quality work in almost every field takes time.
Not getting expertise early.
It is imperative to get translators involved early on in the process, so that they can best understand your market, your company, and your offerings
Placing too high an importance on money.
If Koreans can’t read your brochure, what was the real savings?
If we make a better mousetrap, they will buy it.
The question here is, do you think that factor alone is the necessary and sufficient condition to sell overseas? If it was always about quality, then why doesn’t everyone always buy the best product?
Many overseas buyers will purchase an inferior product from someone who has a closer relationship with them, knows their business and culture, and understands them personally.
The sales cycle can take a great deal of time, because the customer intimacy takes time to develop. Contrast this to the United States, where we often change vendors without a second thought.
English is the universal language, so we can simply sell in English.
This speaks to several issues: Does everyone in the client organization speak, read and write English? Remember, decisions often are made on a consensus basis, and your marketing materials may travel quite a bit within the clients’ firms and sit on many desks.
And even if everyone in the company is comfortable with English, why not take the extra step and make it easy for them to buy (instead of easy for you to sell)? Translating materials is one of the simplest and most effective ways to show investment into a market, and will differentiate you from your competitors, who make no effort at all. Speaking the local language (at least enough to apologize for not speaking it) will help greatly.
Our labor cost is too high to market our product overseas.
This myth can be refuted with one statistic: Fifty-five percent of Japan’s trade surplus with the United States comes from industries where their labor cost is higher than ours. If labor cost was the deciding factor, then how on earth could Germany possibly sell anything abroad? Why aren’t we simply buying everything (from automobiles to wine to satellites) fromZimbabwe, where the labor cost is among the lowest?
Our price is too high for overseas markets.
Are you intending to compete only on price? If that is your only way into an international market, then you probably won’t succeed. But if there is more value adds then you do have a chance.
Our skilled marketers can take on overseas markets.
If we define marketing as awareness, understanding and belief, we need to ask:
Do my marketing people know how to make overseas markets aware of the product? Do they know how to explain the products, attributes and benefits in terms that make sense to the locals?
Can they convince overseas buyers of the merits of working with your company? Do they understand how markets are organized and how buying decisions are made?
Our in-house foreign nationals can sell to overseas markets.
In one example, a U.S.-based CEO told me his Chinese wife could negotiate with the Chinese government for market entry. My questions were: Is she a skilled negotiator? Does she understand the sales process? Does she have the motivation and energy to break into this difficult market?
Does she have the correct contacts and support needed to gain entry? Does she understand how to navigate the Chinese system? Language and cultural skills alone don’t suffice.
Our local partners will handle all of the marketing.
This idea of relinquishing market control while enjoying great success is rare. Most of the time, overseas partners will look toward the parent to help stimulate demand, deal with problems as they occur, get to know the distribution channels, offer subject matter expertise and show that the parent company has indeed invested in the market.
The customer expressed all of the buying signs, and even said “yes” to our proposal.
Many firms overseas conduct their market research by posing as buyers. They conduct competitive intelligence the same way. Your banker will tell you that the sale is complete only when the money has been deposited into the bank.
“Yes” when uttered in business meetings may simply mean “I understand you,” not acceptance of your proposal.
We don’t need to invest a lot; our Web site gives us a presence.
Actually, your Web site gives you a brochure, but no real place where businesses and consumers can get support, touch and feel your product, get to know your company and its staff, deal with returns, make product modifications and enable co-marketing agreements.
It’s necessary to have a localized Web site for market presence, but it needs to accompany many other things to make your efforts a success.
If it worked here (in the United States), it will work there.
This speaks to local ethnocentrism. Success at home also can be a hindrance to overseas success. Arrogance and impatience are often byproducts of domestic success. Market conditions, buying conditions, business practices, negotiation tactics and product specifications all differ by market.
The firms that realize this quickly always will have the advantage
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What a Chinese Restaurant Taught Me About International Business
A great gateway to understanding a foreign culture and overseas business styles can be explored in your neighborhood Chinese restaurant. The interactions and lessons in your local noodle parlor can translate as a “how to” guide for Chinese business.
Can you spot the boss? Is there a designated chain of command? My experience in Chinese restaurants (even ones with more than 50 staff) shows that there is one designated boss, and he or she makes every decision. The Chinese themselves refer to a “velvet fist” that the boss wields…his say is final, but the words are softened with paternalism and good feelings. This management style translates to large firms as well. Even CEO’s in large Chinese firms have the tendency to be involved in more details than their Western counterparts.
Pronunciation and language
A CEO of a large firm asked me how he could take his firm into China. I asked him: “how will you handle the fact that not one Chinese person can say the name of your brand?” Since he didn’t believe me, my advice was to walk into a Chinese restaurant, put his product in front of the waiter and ask him to pronounce it! He was shocked to find out that no one in the room could say his the name of his product! What an inexpensive way to do some basic market research.
There is this concept in Asia that anyone who helps with anything, can help with absolutely everything. I can’t count the times a Chinese restauranteur has a “brother in China who can source products” or a “cousin who can help me with Chinese business,” or “knows how to sell products in Asia.” A man selling $8 plates of fried rice is unlikely to be a marketing specialist in Asia.
Truth and lies
When a westerner walks into a restaurant and told his order would be ready in 5 minutes and it takes 20 minutes, we feel we’ve been mislead. Chinese aren’t necessarily lying here. They are saying “it won’t take long.” Think of how many times you’ve been told in the USA “it’s not in the budget” instead of “we don’t want your product.”
Level of intimacy
There is no word in Chinese for intimacy and there is no word for privacy. Chinese restaurants are often “under designed.” In many cultures (and larger cities in the USA) waiters will ask you to share large tables with other groups. On the level of intimacy, it’s not uncommon to see bright lights and hear the waitstaff and cooking staff speak loudly. What this tells the diner about what is private and what is public translates to business.
Belief in future
This is a common cultural discussion point. Have you every noticed why most Chinese restaurants have red decor? Red is the color of luck in China. It shows a belief in luck. Scholars of China find the culture to be very superstitious.
This concept, loosely translated to “back door” summarizes how Chinese business gets done. If you have Guan Xi (GWAN SHEE) or relationships, everything is possible. If you don’t, nothing is possible.
Few diners feel any kinship with a bathroom in a restaurant. It’s why we often see nice restaurants with paper towels or other garbage on the floor. The same lack of Gaun Xi can be seen in the parking lot of many Chinese restaurants. Since the drivers don’t know each other, the parking lot can be seen as a “free for all” by us.
It seems that every article on Chinese business talks about how Chinese can lose face (pride) easily. Negotiators are often warned about the dangers of making Chinese lose face. Intermediaries are often brought in to float ideas back and forth so that disagreements and suggestions between 2 parties become indirect. As a trusted go-between in many negotiations, I’ve been privy to statements and feelings that would never be communicated directly. An example in a restaurant this idea of “face” is evident when a customer wishes to return a dish. This can bring a sense of shame and make the transaction difficult and uncomfortable. The waiter must communicate to the Chef that the food wasn’t satisfactory, making the chef lose face as well. In an example in Hong Kong, the use of face comes right to your table. When you pay for your meal and the waiter brings you change, he/she often has coins on a small metal tray laid out. The customer then chooses the coins to leave and the coins to take off the tray, all in the presence of the waiter who holds the tray in front of him.
So the next time your planning that big international trip, go out for an ethnic meal and keep your eyes open.
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