On Tuesday, 25th August, we hosted a masterclass on international expansion, new markets and territories. Hosted by Alice Weightman, CEO and Founder of The Work Crowd, this was the seventh webinar in our ‘Bootcamp series’ to help you reboot your business. We were joined by communications experts Nick Zea-Smith and Oksana Smirnova (bios below) and we covered everything from brand perception across different markets and regions to launching in a new territory to global trends during the pandemic and much more. Read on for all the highlights.
Our expert speakers:
Nick Zea-Smith - An award-winning PR Director with 20 years of corporate, consumer and product communications delivering pan-European and global PR programmes for some of the biggest blue chip global companies. With expertise in PR, digital communications and content creation, he has worked with a range of global automotive, professional services and tech clients in the UK, Europe and North America such as Ford, GM, Volvo, Nissan, Ferrari, Porsche, Shell and IBM.
Oksana Smirnova - Oksana is an independent advisor with 15 years of professional experience in developing and driving communication strategies on global markets ranging from start-ups to large multinational clients such as Visa, KPMG, TripAdvisor, Orang, IKEA, Etihad Airways and MySky. She is the author of the book “11 cognitive secrets for your texts and business” and the Neuromania Telegram channel, as well as a number of articles on professional & personal development in Russian, English and Italian.
NICK ZEA-SMITH, PR director
So, you've got a great idea or you’re working with a client who wants to expand from local markets to overseas? How do you know if it’s the right thing to do? How do you explore a new or more profitable market? Location, location, location - it’s vital.
Think about the transport links first. Is it easy enough to get to by plane, train, or automobile? Roads always look great on a map, but they’re not always so easy to navigate in real life. Are you going to be in a capital city or are you in a sector specific hub?
Then you need to make sure you understand the landscape. Speaking the language, for instance. Some folks only work with and in their own language (think France and Germany). There are cultural considerations as well. For instance, in Germany there are lots of public holidays that people don't really take into account. Depending on whether you are Catholic or Lutheran, you might celebrate some public holidays but not others. So you could take a press trip to Frankfurt, but when you go to Cologne, they’re having a festival for the holiday.
Even number crunching can be completely different. DACH has different accounting and tax year to the rest of Europe. It can be really difficult to get your head around. And then privacy laws in Germany and Switzerland are the world’s strictest which can present issues when you are doing due diligence on a client - for instance, you might be required to meet with a judge. You need to be sure you’ve fully assessed the client/competitor market in advance and don’t jump in with both feet. It’s best to take it slow and dip your toe in first as you get to grips with the entire landscape and how your business might fare within it.
Go beyond the bubble
Brand perceptions vary between different countries and even regions. Brands and activations that work perfectly well in London won’t necessarily work elsewhere. I tend to look at market leaders. If I can, I look at their most recent marketing event or activation to get an idea or what their coverage is like or even their tone of voice can provide some insight into whether your idea is going to work there.
The other thing to consider is translations. You have to translate very carefully. Some of the guys in the car world will know there is a vehicle called the Opel Vauxhall Nova. In England, it did very well for a long time, but in the rest of Europe, it was known as Corsa. The reason being that if you translate Nova into Spanish, it means won't go or won't run.
The best thing to do is take it slowly. Do a local site visit and talk with friendly local media/PR there. There are also local PRCA and IPR groups in different cities that can help you. The bottom line is, if it doesn’t work or feel comfortable to you then it’s probably not a good idea to jump into business there.
Don’t expect audiences or PR country managers to react in the usual way if you are in another country or region. If you go to Spain with a plan that was created for France, you need to be prepared to adapt it quickly because it may very well not work the way you expect. Look at the plan and look at the analytics. Is there a local competitor or someone who’s done something similar before? If so, measure it and let the data inform you. And it can’t hurt to try to follow up with the local media to find out what happened, why it didn’t get covered. Journalists don’t love that, but if you explain where you’re coming from then they might help.
OKSANA SMIRNOVA, independent communications advisor
We live in a global connected world. Today, it takes only 40 hours for a round-the-world trip. Compare that to the 16th century when it took three years. 65% of Fortune 500 companies are global with international locations. And we have a 59% internet penetration rate globally. It’s no wonder why so many people want to travel and so many companies start thinking about international expansion.
However, venturing into a new market can often be risky. Even if you consider all the factors and do everything right you still cannot be sure that everything will go to plan.
Venturing into a new market There are seven criteria that every one of us would find useful to analyse before venturing into a new market.
This is Russia
Let’s look at Russia as an example. It’s the biggest country in the world. Imagine taking the UK and multiplying it by 71, that would be Russia. However, population density is quite low and almost 70% of the population live in the European part. It is also very diverse; we have 190 nationalities and ethnic ethnic groups, and many local dialects. So it is not an easy task to develop a universal message when it comes to Russia.
Another important thing to consider is that almost all nationalities living in Russia speak Russian, but not so many people speak English. Only 5% of the Russian population speaks fluent English. Internally you have nine time zones and the flight from Moscow to Vladivostok for example can take you up to nine hours. This is an important thing to keep in mind when you plan a business trip!
Communicating to Russians
Is it difficult to communicate to us? The short answer is yes. And it’s not only about our alphabet. It’s also about facial expressions. Indeed, we do not smile often to strangers. We are taught that emotions should be moderated. Like my grandmother used to say, ‘laughing without reason is a sign of stupidity’.
However, we can express our emotions where our direct interests are concerned, for instance, in sports or business. When it comes to business negotiations, Russian people are quite expressive and confrontational as opposed to the UK, which is more emotional and expressive and much less confrontational generally.
Russia culture map: the world of extremes
The concept of the culture map allows you to see cultural norms. There are eight main criteria: communicating, evaluating, leading, deciding, trusting, disagreeing, scheduling, and persuading. I call the Russia culture map the world of extremes, because almost all the dots here are quite close to them to the extreme end points.
In terms of communication, our communication is high context and this context is really important. Words can mean totally opposite things depending on the context. Also, messages are not only spoken but also read between the lines. Therefore, it’s important to listen carefully, clarify, ask open questions and make sure you understand what you are saying and how you are understood.
Finding potential partners
Trust in Russia is very important, which is why networking is important for business. Do not underestimate Russian social media communities. They are very active and supportive and you can get a lot of insight there. Also consider trade events, embassies and consulates, chambers of commerce and expat communities for networking opportunities.
You can also look for support from agencies, depending on your budget. The global agencies are most expensive, for instance, your Edelmans and Weber Shandwicks, then there’s local agencies, then freelance advisers which are generally least expensive. But it’s not just a question of budget, it’s also the scope of the work involved.
Russian media landscape
Paid media: In Russia, when it comes to a product launch or one-time project, sometimes it makes more sense to go for an advert rather than hire a PR person. The results are immediate and it’s quite affordable.
Earned media: The top three general interest outlets in Russia are so competitive, literally every company in Russia and abroad wants to be in them, which makes it pretty difficult to get attention unless you’re a unicorn. However, trade and regional media outlets are strong and sometimes they can bring even more return on investments with significantly shorter turnaround time and lower budgets.
If you want to raise brand awareness and build trust, you might want to have a look at Pressfeed. Basically it's a marketplace where all journalists can compose their requests, and anyone can comment on them. Currently there are like 10,000 media outlets registered there and something like 450 requests per day. The average conversion rate is about 58% and more often for as little as 700 US dollars per month. These guys can even guarantee you five pieces of average monthly social media.
Social media: Here are the top five social media platforms in Russia by average daily reach. YouTube is number one with 75% penetration. Then number two is a local player, Contacted. Instagram is number three followed by another local player, Classic, and finally Facebook is number five.
How can we help you?
Thanks for reading! If you are looking for expert freelance talent to help you drive your business forward during these uncertain times, please do get in touch with our team at The Work Crowd. We are a community of marketing and communications experts and we’d be happy to discuss your needs and connect you to the right professionals in our network.
Take a look at our previous events: