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The International Entrepreneur – How to Create International B2B Buyer Personas

International Entrepreneur - How to create international B2B Buyer Personas

“We’re going to want to expand into some new international markets next year as part of our growth strategy. Will the marketing team be ready for that?” asks your company CEO.

“Absolutely”, you quickly reply. As Chief Marketing Officer, you deserve part of the credit for your company’s successful revenue rise. You have built a strong engagement marketing program, attracting and nurturing leads. And really, how hard can it be to translate the website into a handful of key languages?

Using the Right Marketing Measuring Stick

The Truth: Translation and even website localization only scratch the surface of foreign market penetration. Every country and region around the world operates on a different set of business rules. This includes both regulations as well as cultural rules that can come in the form of assumptions, beliefs, expectations or values.

Put another way…if someone markets to you in English, do they automatically understand your buyer motivations?

The Right Measure: The only true marketing measures are quantitative results. Does your marketing program yield cost-effective results that are at or above levels needed to grow your company to stakeholder expectations? Are you able to deliver qualified leads into your sales process?

Today’s marketers are expected to deliver these outcomes. Gone are the days of unaccountable marketing expenditures for advertising, PR, and other low-return channels. That brings us to Buyer Personas.¬†

Buyer personas serve as a focal point for marketing messaging and content development. I use a buyer persona (Bob, the American mid-market CMO) to focus my writing towards one specific (imaginary) person who represents an important market segment for my consulting practice. It helps those who discover your product to self-select as to whether they belong in your target market. In contrast, choosing NOT to develop market-specific buyer personas gives your local competition a distinct competitive advantage.

Types of Motivators That Can Differ

Here are some areas that may be different than in your well-known home market. All of these factors should influence the development of your marketing team’s buyer personas.

Decision Makers/Influencers – Knowing who actually makes the decisions and who influences those decisions is key in marketing. For example, large purchase decisions are more likely group decisions in Sweden compared with France where the leader makes the decisions. Gatekeepers who keep sales and marketing contact away from their bosses may be more selective in Malaysia than in Canada.

Logic and Emotional Appeals – Marketing normally uses persuasion. But which appeals are the most effective? Again, it varies by culture. The Germans want mainly logic (strategy) to justify decisions. Australians tend to focus heavily on financial justification over all else. Parts of Latin America can rely on a mix that includes emotion-based decision-making.

Organization and Personal Motivations – While it is impossible to predict what will motivate a specific person, there are some cultural influences that can have strong effects. For instance, Chinese companies often have a long time horizon for strategic initiatives compared especially with American companies. On the personal side, the English often choose to keep professional and personal lives separate. In Mexico, the feeling is the opposite. Personal and professional lives are often overlapped.

Developing International Buyer Personas

If foreign markets are important to your company’s growth plan, then every market needs to have its own set of buyer personas representing, all key players in the buying process. The sets often include personas for a leader, technical expert, business expert, and the initial gatekeeper (leader’s assistant). The more complex and expensive the product, then usually the more people involved in its selection process. Most companies name their personas (Mr. Wang, Maria, Sven, etc.).

Step 1: Ask questions from local industry contacts to gain perspective.

We are looking specifically for what might be different between your home country’s approach and the approach needed in each target market. Two great sources are (1) any in-country representatives you may be working with and (2) in-country industry association contacts. Ask questions to help flush out information that contradicts your own cultural assumptions.
“Who are the normal decision makers and influencers in this type of sale”? “How does someone in this country search for information on products in this industry?” “What role does each person play in selection?” If anything said contradicts your assumptions, follow up with additional questions to better understand.

Step 2: Create Named Personas for Each Player in the Buying Process

Most B2B personas I have seen and/or developed for clients can be described in one page. It tells about this fictional person’s likely general background (education, work experience, age, etc.). It describes their role in relation to the rest of the company. Personas include the person’s motivations in their professional life including any possible fears (ex. fear of failure or embarrassment) or aspirations (ex. future promotions based on success). It should include the persona’s likely familiarity with your company’s product category and experience level in working with foreign companies like yours. If your company does business in France, India and Mexico, you should create persona sets for buying processes in all three countries.

Step 3: Buyer Persona Validation and Improvement

Once you have created your foreign market buyer personas, each set should be reviewed by a trusted source who has worked extensively in that market. Make adjustments accordingly. Over time, new information from experiences in market should help to continually refine your buyer personas.

I hope this helps your marketing team to create more effective global marketing programs!

Onward & upward,

 

Becky Park 

The International Entrepreneur

The International Entrepreneur – Structuring Your Website for International Markets

 

url, international website, international business, international entrepreneurIn today’s business world, a website is your company’s front door. And with few exceptions, effective search engine optimization (SEO) and a well-branded experience are the difference between long-term success and bankruptcy. Managing the transition of a website into international markets can be crucial.

Most companies initially set up their websites in one of two ways. One is to create a website with a generic Top Level Domain (TLD) such as www.company-name.com. The second is to choose a domain and TLD that’s specific to their home market (ex. www.britishcompany.co.uk). But there comes a time in a company’s foray into international markets when decisions about structural changes should be made. Company leaders ask:

Do we ignore differences between markets & leave our website strategy alone?

OR… Develop a sub-domain structure or subdirectory structure within our company site to accommodate for the new foreign markets?

OR…. Localize with TLD Country Codes to create market-specific sites?

As with most international business questions, the answer is, it depends!

 

The Main Website Internationalization Options

  1. Leave the Website Alone

Let’s start with the easiest option, which is essentially to do nothing fundamentally different with the website structure. The typical international fix is include an international contacts page listing local distributors. If I had a company called “Great Idea”, then my company website domain might be www.GreatIdea.com in order to stay geographically neutral.

  1. Develop a Sub-Domain and/or Sub-Directory Structure within Your Website

Some companies choose to manage their websites all within the same TLD. Websites with Sub-Domains are actually considered separate from their parent sites. In the Great Idea Company, a subdomain could be www.french.GreatIdea.com or www.France.GreatIdea.com.

A Sub-Directory Structure would involve a directory structure like: www.GreatIdea.com/France/ or www.GreatIdea.com/french/. What some companies don’t realize is that sub-domains and sub-directories can be used together, if the situation is right.

  1. Localize with TLD Country Codes

In this approach, your company would create separate sites for each market. For Great Idea Company, I would create a site for each of my key markets: www.greatidea.com, www.greatidea.co.uk, www.greatidea.cn, www.greatidea.de, etc. You would also have the option to rebrand your product or subsidiary name locally: www.buenidea.es, www.goedidee.nl, www.brilliantconcept.co.uk , etc.

What are the Trade Offs Between Approaches?

There’s no right answer about which approach is best, only that certain situations call for one approach over another. I have been working with a Canadian services company with a company.ca TLD. As they look to expand into first the American market and then further into European markets, their Canadian country code TLD will become increasingly confusing to their markets. They will need to decide how to move forward. Here are some of the trade offs that this company and all internationalizing organizations should consider:

  • Better In-Country SEO – This is one of the top reasons to add country-specific sites. The SEO for Google.fr, Google.ca, etc. is much higher for TLDs with Country Codes. There is some benefit for the sub-domains and sub-directories. And non-altered sites get very little in-country SEO.
  • Control Over Localized Customer Experience – Customers in other countries may approach the buying process in completely different ways than in your home market. There may be different influencers, a different level of comfort with online sales, and different motivations for buying. With separate sites, and to some extent sub-domains and sub-directories, you can tailor this experience.
  • More Websites to Manage – Additional websites with TLDs varying country codes OR new sub-domains will take more effort to manage than sticking with your original single website. There are staffing time considerations.
  • More Expensive to Register and Maintain – Multiple sites mean more domain registrations. There may even be cyber squatters who have registered your brand’s domain name under other country codes. (This has actually happened to my domain name in Hong Kong and Mainland China.)
  • Local Market Expectations – Do foreign market customers look for your type of product or service mainly in their own language and country code? A recent survey by Smartling found that 9 out of 10 of B2B industry professionals only looked for products and services in their own language.
  • Local Support Expectations – When the website TLD is country specific, there can be an expectation that customer support is local and that support is in the local language.

These are just a few considerations when deciding how to structure your website to support international markets. If your company has not yet chosen an international website approach) keep in mind the future so as to not create extra work developing a domestic-only site without the flexibility to expand into the world.