If there is something that Canada excels at is cross cultural awareness. Canadians embrace multiculturalism and understand that uniqueness and diversity are what makes them a great and peaceful country.
The same principle of diversity applies as an important competitive advantage in business. The more we understand how others think, feel and what their beliefs and customs are, the more we can connect with them and drive our marketing strategy to ultimately gain customers.
When a company’s cross cultural knowledge is clearly aligned with its business strategy, it attracts people by making them feel comfortable, which in turn produces a high level of engagement.
Conversely, strategies and tactics to increase engagement often discover cultural issues, forcing the companies to adapt their values, business focus and possibly their structure. It is sometimes as simple or as complex a matter of good connections, clear communications and a lot of empathy.
If you are specifically pursuing Latin American markets, here are 5 insights your customers would tell you about their culture and how to build fulfilling connections with them, if they had the chance:
1. Let us know you, so tell us why you are here.
We would like to know your “why?” We love good storytelling. Tell us the personal story of your company and the reasons for doing business is Latin America. This makes you real and approachable.
We can be picky sometimes, but it’s your personal touches that make our business feel safe with you. We will engage if we sense you have a meaningful business to offer, if we feel that your management practices align with your behaviour, and if we see opportunities for development and growth. In other words, we will start to trust you.
2. Get to know us, too.
Don’t assume all Latin American countries are created equal. Colombians are not Mexicans; Argentinians are not Chilean. We are a vast region made up of our own unique customs and cultures and we are proud of it. We notice and appreciate it when someone makes the extra effort to know us and speak a bit of our language. Gain sensibility of our ways and embed this philosophy in your company.
Prepare, get the facts, study the statistics, build your sales strategy, pricing, logistics, etc. but don’t assume that because English is a universal business language, it is really universal. Translate your sales literature to Spanish. Better yet, adapt it to the particular region and market you are after. Just a word of advice: even in a neutral Spanish, some words have different meanings in different countries, some even have sexual connotations. (Don’t worry, we will laugh it off and let it go!..But seriously, do your due diligence)
3. Relationship first, business second. Not the other way around.
When you visit us, don’t dive directly into work babble and technical facts. Ask about the country, any advice on nearby attractions, or about the family; anything that will make us feel you are truly interested in us. Be our friend first. It may be the norm in other cultures, but in Latin America we love small talk to build trust and understanding. Loosen up your business acumen and go with the flow.
4. Slow down.
There is a Surinamese saying “They have the clocks, but we have the time” Building a relationships takes time, effort and patience. Focus on the medium and long term. Don’t expect an easy sale. We need time to understand you and make the best educated decisions.
Ah! And in terms of punctuality, we know you are pressed for time, but you might just be better off adding some non-scheduled time, maybe in a 3 hour social lunch.
5. Do your best to overcome the differences
We may be a challenge for South-North business communications and you may not fully understand our ways, but we are trying to understand you, too. There are many differences in our cultures, but we have also many things in common. Please aim to discover them. See us in a clear and objective way, but go beyond just perceiving us. Be creative and empathic in developing effective cross communication skills by using universal gestures and body language. We will try to understand you, and if we sense your commitment, we will commit, too.
¡Gracias y bienvenido a Latinoamérica! (Thank You and Welcome to Latin America!)
If you need more insights on the cross-communication skills and realigning your market strategies in Latin America, send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.