Expanding your business abroad but not sure where to start? Why not start with the people?
James Bond is many things: predominantly lethal, decently chauvinistic, an aficionado of flame-throwing bagpipes, potentially Idris Elba. But what James Bond is most known for is being an international man of mystery.
You know what you don’t want your leads to be as you begin to expand your business to other countries? That.
As a business owner, it’s imperative that you know who your potential leads are in other countries. What this requires is building out buyer personas: useful archetypes that can help provide broad strokes expectations and strategies for marketing to specific audiences.
Getting those broad strokes right is vital because it will help you personalize your campaigns (which can drive up to 18 times more revenue than broadcast emails).
We’ll take you through the process of building an international buyer persona, from looking at your current domestic buyers to knowing where (and how) to listen to what your future international leads are saying that could clue you in as to who they are. Finally, we’ll leave you with a template of your own to make the process all the easier and leave you feeling neither shaken nor stirred.
For your whys only: The value of a persona
What do you get out of a persona?
Not only does it help you predict client and lead behavior, and not only does it form a crucial component of account-based marketing, but it also helps with marketing personalization.
Personalization is experiencing a major uptick in interest from both consumers and marketers. Your competitors began seeking out marketing technology built with personalization platforms at a rate of 65% in 2018 (an increase of 28% from 2016, according to a 2018 Gartner survey).
If you don’t want to fall behind, especially in a new marketplace, you need to build B2B buyer personas in order to stay competitive. This is especially true when your competition has been in that country for decades, speaks the native language, and knows the local culture better than you do.
Dr. Know your domestic consumers
Have you taken the time to figure out your current customers?
It’s crucial to know everything you can about your current clients and leads before you move on to new territory. This way you’re not starting from scratch—while we’ll get into all the ways international buyer personas are different, some of the information you’ve collected might still be applicable.
Collect demographic data from them, understand where they’re coming to you from, and how they primarily use your product.
If you’ve already built buyer personas for your domestic consumers, you have a lot of this data at your disposal already, but it’s always good to update it. If you haven’t built buyer personas for your domestic consumers, read this article, follow the advice, and then come back here.
Goldenear: Hearing international chatter
You can’t hear the voice of your future customers if you don’t know where to listen.
Investigating which channels your target countries use most may seem like it’s part of demographic research, but it’s not. It’s the only way to effectively begin your qualitative analysis, outside of hiring a consultant.
Once you figure out which channels are popular, you’ll be able to get a strong sense of what your leads care about, how old they are, their most effective means of communication, etc. As an added bonus, you can take a sneak peak at how your competitors are communicating with their (and your) leads.
Their word is not enough: Research as much as you can
Now that you’ve tracked where your international leads are hiding, you can start communicating with them.
As you engage with them, you should start collecting as much demographic data as humanly possible. This can include, but should not be limited to:
- Primary language
- Country (and region of country for localization)
- Education level
- Industry and position
- Size and annual revenue of company
- Involvement in software purchases
You can, and should, collect bits and pieces of personal data about the people you’re talking to (i.e., their marital status, their living situation, etc.)
However, you’re more interested in what companies they work for because those organizations will end up being your targets. The employees are parts of that, but not the whole picture. How are decisions made in those companies? How long does it take for companies to decide what software to buy?
To give you a better understanding of just how big a difference exists between countries on things such as time spent at different stages in the funnel, look at the graph below, pulled from the data of a 2018 Gartner survey.
French companies take much longer to go through the sales funnel. That’s something that’s important for you to know as you build out your buyer personas and prepare for the investment that is foreign expansion.
U.S. and German businesses are more similar to each other in their timelines. This is why it’s important to have data on your domestic consumers first. Because of the similarities between U.S. and German businesses, a U.S. company that is expanding into Germany has a much more solid foundation for what comes next.
Know the difference between business culture and company culture
Business culture and company culture are equally important, though the latter is much more relevant to our quest to understand buyers.
Business culture is how companies expect you to do business with them. International companies expect different things in terms of communication, marketing styles, and even the product itself, especially depending on the level of previous interaction with your own country.
Company culture is how each company operates, including how business decisions are made, the number of voices (and therefore people you need to market toward), and their personalities.
The more direct and specific your questions, the more specific, and therefore more actionable, answers you’ll get. And in turn, you can build a more specific, and useful, buyer persona.
License to build (your international B2B buyer persona)
You’ve now got all of this information at your disposal. It’s time for you to organize it and build out your buyer persona.
If you’ve already built a persona, you’ve gone through this process before. But don’t fall into the trap of using old templates, as you’ve now got more international-centric information to include.
The data you have right now might seem intimidating to go through. But as long as you’ve kept the information organized, you can go through it and recognize trends. Those trends can then be consolidated into different personas.
Here’s an example of what this will look like:
Put as much data as you possibly can into each persona while still keeping it organized.
From us with love
To help you on your journey, we’re going to take a page out of Q’s playbook and offer you a simple weapon: your own international B2B buyer persona.
Download it, start collecting your data, and make your way towards convincing leads to buy another day.
Gartner’s 2018 Marketing Technology Survey
The purpose of this study was to understand how marketers are investing in, deploying, and getting value out of technology. The primary research was conducted using a mixed methodology [online/CATI] from April 2018 through June 2018 among 504 in N. America (60%) and the U.K. (40%). Eighty-six percent of the respondents came from organizations with $1 billion or more in annual revenue. The respondents came from a variety of industries: financial services (88 respondents), high tech (128 respondents), manufacturing (83 respondents), consumer products (33 respondents), media (31 respondents), retail (47 respondents), healthcare (51 respondents) and travel and hospitality (43 respondents).
Respondents were required to have a primary role in involvement in decisions pertaining to their company’s marketing technology strategy. Respondents were also required to provide direct support to marketing.
The study was developed collaboratively by Gartner Analysts and the Primary Research Team who follow marketing.
Disclaimer: Results do not represent “global” findings or the market as a whole but reflect sentiment of the respondents and companies surveyed.
Gartner’s 2018 Buyer Behavior Survey
Results presented are based on a Gartner study to understand software buying behaviors of small and midsize business owners in the past twelve months. The primary research was conducted online during July to August 2018 among 420 respondents in the U.S., Germany, and France.
Companies were screened for number of employees and revenue in the 2017 fiscal year to arrive at small and midsize businesses. They were also required to have purchased at least one software system for $5,000 or more, in the immediate past twelve months. Respondents were required to be at least at the office manager level, influencing software purchase decisions in their organizations.
The study was developed collaboratively by Gartner Analysts and the Primary Research Team who follow Digital Markets.
Disclaimer: Results do not represent global findings or the market as a whole but reflect sentiment of the respondents and companies surveyed.