A phone manufacturer selects a product name that translates to "prostitute" in a major market. A successful US big-box retailer struggles overseas because international markets prefer smaller shops. An ecommerce giant fails to get traction in a new market because it doesn't offer the preferred payment option in that country.
If you think these stories are fictional, think again. These are recent and real examples of established brands making mistakes as they enter new markets. Expanding your business internationally is never easy, and these scenarios demonstrate the importance of consumer insight when doing so.
Working with global clients, one key question we constantly get asked is the following: do we need a dedicated community for each of our markets? In general, brands that are serious about succeeding in new markets should consider establishing more than one community.
Whilst launching multinational communities require resources and money, the investment is worth it. Here are 4 business needs you can address by having communities in various countries instead of having just one community that services all your markets:
- We need to know what our customers think right now.
In a business world where speed is of essence, getting customer input a few hours earlier can help your business win against competition. When you have multinational communities, research can be done in different time zones, meaning you get data back a lot quicker. For example, working on projects from the UK for the Canadian market would generally mean getting results the next morning. But with a dedicated community in Canada, you could get the results back by 5 PM local time. That kind of speed can help your brand make crucial business decisions a lot sooner than your competition can.
- We are entering a new market.
Your customers' collective insight can help your brand make sound business decisions - something that is crucial when entering a new market. With a dedicated community of customers in the country that you're researching, you'll have a better grasp of the various challenges and risks that are unique in that market. And because you already have a long-term relationship with people in your community, their input can help shape your strategies and tactics if you ever need to make course corrections.
- We need to customize our marketing messages for different cultures and languages.
It's not enough to test your brand message in your home market, and then translate it to each language in which you do business. You need to get feedback and insights from the customers in that marketÛ_which means engaging with them in their own language. From our experience working with over 650 brands, we know that people are more engaged in an insight community when the language, spelling and tone are customized for them. Therefore, communities are best run in their native market. A local team of mother-tongue speakers can deliver language and content with an overlay of cultural and national relevance.
Despite the benefits of a local team, an insight community is about flexibility, and running multinational communities from your headquarters is not impossible. Relying on vendors to translate research and marketing materials is always an option but, it often won't compare with the authenticity of a local team.
- We are missing out on opportunities to expand across markets.
Engaging customers in different languages is just the first step to gathering insight in a global marketplace. Each market in which you do business has unique challenges and opportunities - opportunities you may miss unless you are engaging with your customers in each market to find out what kinds of products, services or messages will speak to them.
Generally, expanding your community to involve international customers means greater insight into each of the markets you want to focus on. Research can help managers in your company increase the skills that they need when dealing with various associates, partners, and customers in that country. Yes, you can read about a country's various customs and traditions, but understanding the nuances of its culture requires talking directly to its people.
When it comes to engaging your customers, it helps to think global but to act local. If your brand is thinking about competing on a global scale, acting like a local in your marketing and research efforts could help you gain a better understanding of the various markets you're entering.