International Marketing Manners When in Rome

Consolidated Amalgamation, Inc., thinks it's time that the rest of the world enjoyed the same fine products it has offered American consumers for two generations. It dispatches vice-president Harry E. Slicksmile to Europe to explore the territory. Mr Slicksmile stops first in London, where he makes short work of some bankers - he rings them up on the phone. He bandies Parisians with similar ease: after securing a table at La Tour d'Argent, he greets his luncheon guest, the director of an industrial engineering firm, with the words, 'Just call me Harry, Jacques.'

In Germany, Mr Slicksmile is a powerhouse. Whisking through a lavish, state-of-the-art marketing presentation, complete with the flip charts and audio visuals, he shows them that this Georgia boy knows how to make a buck. Heading on to Milan, Harry strikes up a conversation with the Japanese businessman sitting next to him on the plane. He flips his card on to the guy's tray and, when the two say goodbye, shakes hands warmly and clasps the man's right arm. Later, for his appointment with the owner of an Italian packag-

ing-design firm, our hero wears his comfy corduroy sport coat, khald pants and Topsiders. Everybody knows Italians are zany and laid back, right?

Wrong. Six months later, Consolidated Amalgamation has nothing to show for the trip but a pile of bills. There was nothing wrong with Consolidated Amalgamation's products, but the orders probably went to firms whose representative had not antagonized and insulted people as much as Harry did. In Europe, they weren't wild about Harry.

This case has been exaggerated for emphasis. People are seldom such doits as Harry E. Slicksmile, but success in international business has a lot to do with knowing the territory and its people. Poor Harry tried, all right, but in all the wrong ways. The British do not, as a rule, make deals over the phone as much as Americans do. It's not so much a 'cultural' difference as a difference in approach, A proper Frenchman neither likes instant familiarity - questions about family, church or alma mater - nor refers to strangers by their first names.

Harry's flashy presentation was probably also a flop with the Germans, who dislike overstatement and ostentation. According to one German expert, German businesspeople have become accustomed to dealing with Americans, Although differences in body language and customs remain, the past 20 years have softened them. However, calling secretaries by their first names would still be considered rude in Germany: 'They have a right to be called by their surname. You'd certainly ask for - and get - permission first.' In Germany people address each other formally and correctly: for example, someone with two doctorates (which is quite common) must be referred to as 'Herr Doktor Doktor'.

When Harry Slicksmile grabbed his new Japanese acquaintance by the arm, the executive probably considered him disrespectful and presumptuous. The Japanese, like many others in Asia, have a 'no contact culture' in which even shaking hands is a strange experience. Harry made matters worse by tossing his business card.

ln order to succeed in global markets, companies must help their managers to understand the needs, customs and cultures of international business buyers.

Marketing Hishlieht

Japanese people revere the business card as an extension of self and as an indicator of rank. They do not hand it to people; they present it - with both hands.

Hapless Harry's last gaffe was assuming that Italians are like Hollywood's stereotypes of them, The flair for design and style that has characterized Italian culture for centuries is embodied in the business people of Milan and Rome. They dress beautifully and admire flair, but they blanch at garishness or impropriety in others' attire.

In order to compete successfully in global markets, or even to deal effectively with international firms in their home markets, companies must help their managers to understand the needs, customs and cultures of international business buyers. Here are a few more rules of social and business etiquette that managers should understand when doing business in another country,

France Dress conservatively, except in the south where more casual clothes are worn. Do not refer to people by their first names - the French are formal with strangers.

Germany Be especially punctual. A businessperson invited to someone's home should present flowers, preferably unwrapped, to the hostess. During introductions, greet Women first and wait until, or if, they extend their hands before extending yours,

Indonesia Learn how to sing at least one song. At the end of formal gatherings people often take turns in singing unaccompanied,

Italy Whether you dress conservatively or go native in a Giorgio Armani suit, keep in mind that Italian business people are style con-

scious. Make appointments well in advance. Prepare for and be patient with Italian bureaucracies. Don't Imitate Japanese bowing customs unless you understand them thoroughly - who bows to whom, how many times and when. It's a complicated ritual, Although men will kiss each other in greeting, they will never kiss a woman in public. An American woman should wait for a man to extend his hand before offering hers. If a Saudi ot'i'ers refreshment, accept - it is an insult to decline it. Toasts are often given at formal dinners. If the host honours you with a toast, be prepared to reciprocate. Business entertaining is done more often at lunch than at dinner.

United States Expect to be asked to meet and work at any time, over breakfast, lunch and dinner. Do not be taken in by street attire; American managers' dress code at work is very formal and conservative.

Don't panic. Most businesspeople you are likely to meet are used to dealing with overseas guests and are used to forgiving their failings. There is, however, a big gap between being forgiven for social transgressions and getting the best deal.

SOURCES: Adapted from Susan llarte, 'When hi Home, you should learn to do what the Romans do', The Atlanta Jfntrnal-Ctmstitution (22 January 1990), pp. Dl, 1)6; see also Lufthansa's Business Travel Guide/Europe; Sergey Frank, 'Global negotiating', Sales aurf Marketing Management (May 1992), pp. 64-ยง; Malcolm Wheatky, 'Going, going, gone', Business Lift (October 1994), pp. 65-S.

Japan

Saudi Arabia

United Kingdom personal characteristics such as age, income, education, professional identification, personality and attitudes towards risk. Also, buyers have different buying styles. Some may be technical types who make in-depth analyses of competitive proposals before choosing a supplier. Other buyers may be intuitive negotiators who are adept at pitting the sellers against one another for the best deal.

Table 7.1

Key stages of the business buying process in relation to important buying; situations buying situations

Table 7.1

NEW

MODIFIED

straight

stages of the buying process

TASK

REBUY

REBUY

1. Problem recognition

Yes

Maybe

No

2. General need description

Yes

Maybe

No

3. Product specification

Yes

Yes

Yes

4. Supplier search

Yes

Maybe

No

5. Proposal solicitation

Yes

Maybe

No

6. Supplier selection

Yes

Maybe

No

7. Order-routine specification

Yes

Maybe

No

8. Performance review

Yes

Yes

Yes

SOURUB: Adapted from Patrick J. Robinson, Charles W. Paris, and Yoram Wind, Industrial Buying and Creative Marketing (Boston: Allyn & Bacun, 1967), p. 14.

SOURUB: Adapted from Patrick J. Robinson, Charles W. Paris, and Yoram Wind, Industrial Buying and Creative Marketing (Boston: Allyn & Bacun, 1967), p. 14.

Secretaries and personal assistants are an important target for DHL, the express courier; they may be told by their boss tq send a package but have the discretion to choose the courier. To contact them it advertises in Executive PA and other secretarial type publications and 'always attend the Secretaries Show'. In contrast UPS, which has a bias towards small twsiness-to-business parcels, finds that most decisions are made by traffic, distribution and logistics managers. To contact them it schedules its TV advertising around sports events, prime-time films and documentaries.21

How Do Business Buyers Make their Buying Decisions?

Table 7.1 lists the eight stages of the business buying process.2- Buyers who face a new-task buying situation usually go through all stages of the buying process, Buyers making modified or straight rebuys may skip some of the stages. We will examine these steps for the typical new-task buying situation.

problem recognition

The first stage of the business buying process in 'which someone in the company recognises a problem or need that can be met fry acquiring a good or a service.

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