Be aware of cultural differences within your customer base

Whichever industry your business is in, cultural differences can have a direct impact on your profitability. If you try to understand the cultures of your customers – their customs and differences – you’ll have a better chance of keeping them and gaining more.

By being aware of the key factors that will impact your business, you’ll set yourself up to maximize sales from a global melting pot of potential customers.

Get to know your target market to prevent cultural offences

The United States is a dynamic multi-cultural country with many different races of people, from diverse origins. Just within the domestic market it’s vital that you know who might be interested in your goods or services, and how they could perceive particular messages.

Make sure certain areas of your business don’t cause offence to potential customers from different cultures.

Key factors that will have a direct impact on your business

It’s difficult to know about every single part of a culture within your target market. Instead, focus on those aspects that will likely have a direct impact on your business, such as:

  • Body language – it’s important to know what body language to put across to potential clients you meet, or in visual advertising directed at your customers. For example, if your business has a large Indian customer segment, be aware that a common western hand wave meaning ‘hello’ is usually interpreted by Indians as ‘go away’ or ‘no.’
  • Communication – the secret to success in any business. If your business can communicate on the same level as your target customers, you’re already heading in the right direction. One example that failed miserably was when PepsiCo marketed Pepsi in Taiwan using an ad tagline, “Come alive with Pepsi!” They didn’t realize the Chinese translation meant, “Pepsi brings your ancestors back from the dead!”
  • Awareness – simply being aware of your prospective customers’ cultural backgrounds will allow your business to convey its messages more accurately and with less chance of causing offense.

Develop personas within your target market

By drawing up some personas of the main types of buyers in your target market, you’ll begin to break down what each kind of person values. You may even find out their trigger points – those that make them decide to purchase.

Ensure you’re familiar with each persona’s:

  • Etiquette – such as getting to know the culture of Chinese customers and being patient when conducting business.
  • Dress – if you have major customers in the Pacific Islands, it’s more common to dress informally when doing business.
  • Business and religious customs – familiarity can go a long way towards successful business. For example, Japanese people consider it rude to make demands when doing business, while Indonesian people prefer to do business face-to-face.
  • History – if you’re kicking off an advertising campaign that uses an aspect of history to get your message across, make sure it’s accurate and not likely to offend a certain demographic.

Conducting adequate research to find out this information will help improve your chances of success.

Interact with your customer base

Often businesses don’t take sufficient time to have people on the ground interacting with their potential customers. There are language barriers and differing customs that need to be considered.

Speaking with advisers who have the same origins as your major market segments is a smart idea. The advice could prove invaluable – ensuring you don’t cause offense through ignorance or lack of knowledge.

Your pitch, approach and branding

It’s critical you ensure all aspects of your marketing work together delivering the same message – one that’s aware of the cultural differences amongst your customers.

There have been plenty of cases in the past of international marketing campaigns that have fallen flat in a certain country or language because of a lack of research.

For example, Absolut Vodka ran a series of ads in Mexico showing an 1800s map when some southern US states were part of Mexico. They were inadvertently suggesting that buying their vodka would help take back part of the United States.

Do your research here to ensure none of your branding or advertising offends possible target cultures.