My former niche was Expat Coaching – where I worked with Expats and Accompanying spouses on the social, personal, and professional set of challenges that accompany a move to a new country or city/state. It’s a group of people I love working with, and that I continue to serve now in a marketing capacity. It’s interesting to note, if you are launching or continuing a small business in a new country, there are also many challenges – not the least of which is personal and business identity.
As a small business owner, you may be marketing your business as only the business – you sell widgets, they help people do X and they cost Y. If that’s your only focus – features and benefits – then you’re missing out on a whopping opportunity, AND you may be failing to distinguish yourself in the marketplace, as well as potentially damaging your reputation!
If you are not tuned in to your identity, then your marketing efforts may be in vain no matter where in the world you are. Those of you who have lived in different countries know well how your personal identity comes into question as you go through the adaptation process. For those that don’t know the experience, it’s a blend of trying to conform, while simultaneously holding on to your personality and feeling compressed and stretched out at the same time.
The challenge of identity is one that is key to marketing – it is integral to how you market and sell and how you brand yourself. It’s the difference between blending in to the market and standing out. So here are a few ideas for you which are relevant especially if you are crossing cultures and running a small business, but equally helpful to those starting a business at home:
- Pay Attention. Look around you at all the commercials and advertising you can find to understand what is “normal” and “accepted”. You’ll find within these advertisements many of the cultural values that are relevant to the place you’re living in. Take good notes, because this can help inform your own advertising, brand, writing, etc. Now, if you are moving from another country to America, you will notice that our direct business style may bring out some bad feelings for you because the American style is sometimes considered boastful and arrogant by other cultures. Conversely, if you’re American and moving to another culture, you may find that your normal style of selling and marketing has to be dialed down 20 notches or you will turn off would be customers.
- Get Informed on Taboos. Every culture has it’s own set of subjects, colors, symbols, gestures, etc which are considered taboo. You want to make sure you know what those are so you avoid damaging the reputation of your brand by letting ignorance make your decisions. Again, paying attention to direct and indirect communication styles, bowing, hand-shaking, personal space, etc are critical to your success or failure when you go to networking events, or meet potential customers.
- Blend. Informed with what’s acceptable and what’s taboo, you can now take a look at your own personality. Like the process of adapting to a new culture, you will have to navigate who you are, versus how you are, in order to avoid feeling like you’ve lost your identity, and in order to bring your unique presence into your brand.