Import Export Across Cultures
When any business is investigating the feasibility and then the planning to take their product or service into the international marketplace, the planners need to consider how they will effectively identify and then deal with any cultural differences. When it comes to cultural concerns, remember that there is no “right” or “wrong” – there are just differences. If you want your international efforts to be successful, take some time to familiarize yourself with the cultural aspects that may affect your buying or selling efforts in that country.
There are certain components of a society’s culture that we immediately identify as different from our own. Language is the best example. When you arrive in another country, you immediately hear the difference. You also see the difference – advertisements, billboards, even product labeling.
Beyond language, there are also differences in areas of religion, education, social mobility, and economic philosophy. There are other considerations – beliefs about marriage and the family, view of money, and the positive or negative attitude toward high achievers. These areas will be harder to identify than something such as language. These areas will impact advertising, public relations, customer support.
There are also cultural differences within the borders of one country. Look at the United States as an example. You may conduct business differently in Savannah, Georgia than you would in Manhattan, NY. In the South, you may not wear a suit and tie to a business meeting but you may when you are in the Northeast. This depends upon the industry, of course, but people have a perception that things are more laid back in the southeast than in the northwest.
In practice, international business is really about business between individuals. There may be people that you have worked with that are casual and there have been others who were more strictly business. When expanding globally, keep an open mind. Make an effort to learn about cultural differences that may impact the success of your product or service. Never assume you know it all because there is too much to know and understand.
Take the country and culture seriously. Take some time to research and study the local environment, Dress appropriately, and when traveling, make an effort to learn some of the language. Most business deals, no matter where the parties are located, are built on trust. Building trust takes time. If you are traveling to a different country, do not plan a whirlwind trip – plan on taking time to get to know your clients. In some cultures, this can be longer than others. Take an interest in your customer and they will appreciate it. Learn how to properly pronounce their names. Know about the country basics – population, who the President or ruler is, and basic facts. Especially in importing and exporting learn about that countries most popular imports and exports.
Approach your international clients as you would your domestic ones – show respect, professionalism, and if you make an effort to learn their ways, they will appreciate your efforts. Also, remember a gift! In some cultures, it is customary to bring a gift to your potential customer. There are many books and online resources to help you identify some of these more popular customs.
copyright 2009-2012 - Dana Smith, Import Export Institute