Kathrin Bussmann is the Head of Verbaccino Inc., an international marketing consultancy that helps businesses leverage today’s global, social, multilingual marketplace. She is also the Host of The Worldly Marketer Podcast, a weekly, interview-style audio show about global marketing issues.
Born in Quebec of German immigrant parents, Kathrin grew up fluent in German, French and English. She holds degrees in Communications Studies and Linguistics from the University of Ottawa, and a Ph.D. in Linguistics from Humboldt Universität in Berlin. Now based in Toronto, she is a Co-Founder & Manager of Women in Localization Eastern Canada (WLEC). She is also a member of the Globalization and Localization Association (GALA) and of The Global Chamber.
Going international in the digital age is a given, but entry into local markets can be full of perils. Kathrin Bussman discusses the best way to exploit new opportunities while limiting risks by properly planning and entering new markets. From properly strategizing new ventures to finding the right partner, this episode highlights what SMBs need to know.
KRISTINA PODNAR, HOST: Global marketing is full of perils, but also opportunities if you know how to find the balance and define the associated digital policies. To help us shed light on finding the right balance is Kathrin Bussman.
Kathrin is the Head of Verbaccino, an international marketing consultancy that helps businesses leverage today's global, social, multilingual marketplace. Now, based in Toronto, Kathrin is the host of The Worldly Marketer Podcast, Co-Founder & Manager of Women in Localization Eastern Canada (WLEC). She is also a member of the Globalization and Localization Association (GALA) and The Global Chamber.
Kathrin, thanks again for being here with us today. It's great to have you and honestly, I'm just very humbled and honored because sometimes it's easier not easy, but easier to find individuals who can talk to us about globalization and internationalization, but it's always in the context of enterprises and you're the rare breed that has lived and breathed this with small businesses. So, what a pleasure it is to have you today.
KATHRIN BUSSMAN, GUEST: Well, it's my pleasure to be on your podcast Kristina and kudos for launching this podcast. I think it's unique, and I don't see anyone else doing a podcast on this topic. It's a very important topic, and you're doing a fantastic job with it. I'm so impressed. So, keep going. It's just very inspiring to it to watch you launch this podcast and grow it.
KRISTINA: Thank you. The idea came from a conversation with you last summer in much warmer weather, and you planted a bug in me. So, thanks for doing that and being the catalyst. So, I appreciate that.
KATHRIN: So, yeah, it's a pleasure. Since our interview that we did for my podcast back in July of last year, this topic of digital policy has sort of been a lot more present in my mind. It's not something I was that conscientious of before in terms of following issues around that topic. But now, of course, I pay much closer attention. So, you're doing a good job Kristina of raising awareness.
KRISTINA: Well, thank you. I think we all need to raise our awareness, and I include myself in that as well. And you know, what are the things that I was thinking about as we were preparing to speak today is I need actually to raise my own awareness, and I think a lot of us need to raise our awareness around the nuances and the differences between things like globalization and localization, which is an area of your expertise. And so I wonder if you can maybe start us off with a definition of those so we can all be on the same page, so to speak.
KATHRIN: Well, so globalization is a word that sometimes has some negative connotations. But all it means is that you're taking a Global Perspective and you realize that we are living in a global marketplace now whether we like it or not, that's not going anywhere, especially now in the era of digital everything and so it's just a fact that we live in a global marketplace now. So companies who want to leverage that will think in terms of their global strategy including when it comes to marketing because why not, why not make it take advantage of the fact that you can now connect with potential customers all over the world. You just need a strategy, and you need to know how to reach those customers. That's where marketing comes in, of course, and then you know, you have to think about how you're going to take care of those customers in the same way that you would take care of your own domestic customers. So yeah, that's the kind of globalization part, but the localization part comes in when you realize that just because you can reach out to people all over the world doesn't mean that you're going to automatically and easily connect with them. So you have to go to the local level, and you have to look at their own cultures, their own languages and environments and what you're going to need to do to adapt to those things. You can't just copy and paste the approach that you're using in your home market and expect it to work everywhere else. It's not going to work. You know, you might have some success in other perhaps English-language markets, if you're coming from the U.S. you know the point of origin for instance, but ultimately even with other English language markets, you're going to have to do some localization to be able to really serve potential customers there, and that includes, obvious things like making sure that they can purchase your products or services in their own currency, you're not going to expect them to pay you in your currency, you have to make it easy for them to do business with you and your marketing materials also have to be tailored as much as possible to their preferences, including language. So there's probably going to be some translation involved, and even with other languages other than English language and markets, there's going to be some localization in terms of the language, orthography as we know of varies between the U.S. and the U.K. expressions, Common colloquial expressions are different from one English-language market to the next, there's lots of room for misunderstanding misunderstandings and miscommunications and even in markets that are very much familiar with the U.S. culture and they get a lot of American movies, and other pop culture served to them regularly, and they get it, they understand, and it makes such a difference if you're seen to be making an effort to adapt your marketing messages and your delivery of that market, marketing messages to the local culture. So that people feel like you understand them, and you're you care about connecting with them. So, yeah, so that's where localization comes in, and that's the secret sauce for any successful global marketing campaign.
KRISTINA: So is it an all or nothing proposition? Is it a situation where you either could have taken a global campaign approach or you localized content, or can you do a mixture of the two?
KATHRIN: Well, I mean, I think, first of all, I think it depends a little bit on what type of sector you're in, and it depends on you know, whether your B2B versus B2C. In the B2B category, you have a better chance of being able to do less localization because if you're targeting other businesses, especially at the enterprise level, there is a reasonable expectation that the jargon is pretty similar from one market to the next. You might even be able to get away with serving up all your marketing materials in the original English. You might have to tweak your materials here and there for content to make it applicable to the locale that you're targeting, but you know when you get to B2C, just assume that you're going to have to translate and that you're going to have to adapt your marketing. Maybe even your product itself to the local market, and that's just part of a global strategy. It's not one or the other; it's more about who's your target customer it; the more I guess enterprise-level business level your target customer is, the more you can probably do some cut copy and pasting right of your domestic marketing strategy. But as soon as you get into people's homes and people's daily routines and people's cultural preferences, you got to pay attention to the details of the local culture that you're trying to target and integrate that into your marketing. So, I don't know if that answers your question. I mean, it's not really an either/or. It's really about finding that balance and realizing that basically comes down to it; the number one rule of marketing know your customer, what's going to work best to get your customers, your target customers attention and gain their trust game there, goodwill towards your brand and do your research, what is it going to take in that market?
KRISTINA: In a lot of enterprises, there are more people and more resources so they can be doing a search around customers in different locales and trying to understand how to adapt that strategy. But for smaller businesses, that's probably not going to be the case. So can you share maybe a few things that small organizations can do to get their global marketing right?
KATHRIN: Well, I think to start small, you know when we talk about global marketing, we don't necessarily mean that you're going to target everyone everywhere in every country in the world, right? That's not how it works. Global can be as simple as expanding into one new target market at a time. So maybe start with something that's going to be a relatively easy win either because it's a similar culture or similar language. But again, don't make any assumptions. They're still going to be differences.
But start with you know a market where you have the best chance of success start with that one market and budget accordingly, be realistic about your budget, right? So, don't spread your marketing resources too thin in each country that you're trying to market your products or services. You have to be prepared to invest at least the same amount of financial and human resources, as you've been investing in your home market. For most foreign markets, your success is going to depend on delivering a localized customer experience and perhaps even a localized product. So that usually quite often involves translation. Don't cheap out on the translation services. Make sure you're using qualified professional translation services. There are plenty of horror stories out there of companies who are trying to cut corners have used Google translate or, Bill, who works in accounting who happens to speak another language, right? That it is not a wise strategy, invest in professional translation service, and it is an investment. You have to look at it that way, and then also, you know from a marketing perspective make sure that you're also going to have some sort of support or consultation with marketers that are in-country, in the target market that you're aiming for.
Because engaging an agency, a marketing agency, or having people in the marketing department of your company who have never been to this target market, who are who don't live there, who don't really understand the culture who are not immersed in it. That's not going to be very helpful. You really do need someone on the ground in that country who understands what is going to work, marketing-wise, and what's not going to work? And so you should plan to engage those people. We should seek them out.
And then ideally I mean you should you know, if you're ready to expand internationally, you should be prepared to have a person in the house who is going to own the global marketing side of things, who is going to take the lead on that and who is going to have an overview of your global marketing strategy, who understands that strategy understands the brand who owns all that and who can manage the different vendors that you're going to be working with to make it a success. Is so someone at least one person doesn't have to be a whole team. But at least one person in the house who owns the global marketing part and who can liaise between your in-house marketing team and your external vendors with whom you're working to make it successful.
KRISTINA: What should organizations be looking for when they're looking for a partner to help them out and to maximize the global reach. What should they be looking for on the ground? You mentioned a few examples of you know, knowing the language the culture, etc, but it's their checklist may be that the people should have in hand and think about?
KATHRIN: I think a great place to start looking for the right people to work with these days is probably LinkedIn, right? It's the easiest place to start. Everyone who would probably be worth working with who is reputable who has good connections and experience is on LinkedIn now, so it's actually your best sort of search tool. Then you can narrow down your search to people who are really specialized in your sector because, ideally, you want to be working with people who understand your industry and who have worked with other companies in that industry. And so that's one way to narrow down your search, and then, of course, people who are intimately familiar with the new markets that you're targeting that's the next way and you know, those people might be freelancers. They might be independent consultants. They might be small agencies. You might end up working with a larger company, a localization company that has all these services that you're going to be needing all sorts of Under-One-Roof, and that can be very convenient. But the main thing is you need to make sure that they have a demonstrated area of specialization in your vertical that they're up to date on all the issues that come with expanding into that market and that they if it's an agency that they work with really in-country experts whether it's translators or marketers so that you are really going to be able to be as effective your dollars. Your marketing dollars will be as active as they can be and not spent on things you don't need or in ways that are not going to be effective for you on the ground in those markets. So, I mean, that's one way to find people, another way, of course, is to attend relevant conferences and you know when it comes to localization, for instance, there are some excellent conferences that you understand our industry-specific, but they're very much open to the client-side.
And people who are looking to find the right vendors. So one of those would be, for instance, Loc World, which is short for localization, Loc World is a conference that happens three times a year. Did they usually always have a North American Edition a European Edition and an Asian Edition typically, so those conferences are beneficial because all the vendors go there and you can talk to them, you can see who's doing what and how they can help you and true sort of may be best suited to work with you given your particular target markets and you're at the vertical that you're in, another good conference to check out is the GALA annual conference. Well, as the Globalization and Localization Association, so they have an annual conference, which is actually about to happen now in March in San Diego and again very very helpful for client-side people of that industry.
You just need to pick someone who really understands your industry and the issues involved and who understands what the competition is up to also in that industry. Be very skeptical. I would say vendors who claim to be experts in every vertical they're out there. There are lots of them, and it's just, it's hard to be a specialist in every vertical. Let's face it. So be kind of a little skeptical of those agencies who claimed expertise in everything and anything. And who will offer you fencing's translation services in any language, you know under the sun, so that's usually not what you're looking for. You want specialists, and sometimes those specialists come in the form of very small agencies and freelancers.
KRISTINA: What would you say are sort of the budgetary considerations that people ought to think about if somebody is looking to kind of expand their marketplace, is there a rule of thumb in terms of how much they should be looking to invest what should organizations be set aside in terms of the budget in your experience.
KATHRIN: So as a rule of thumb, I would say, for each new market that you're planning to enter, be prepared to invest at least the same amount of money and human resources as you have been investing for your own domestic market. You can't just copy and paste your domestic marketing strategy or even your domestic marketing collateral on to foreign markets and expect to succeed. You also can't just have a budget to launch in the new market, but then not follow up with sort of ongoing marketing efforts, right? So building your brand in a new market is going to take you at least as much time as it did in your home market, and so it's a long game, and you're, and it's not a one-time investment. Once you kind of launching a new market, it's going to have to be part of your budget every year and just like in your home market. You're going to have to think about how you're going to going to provide good customer service for those new customers in those new markets. So, in essence, you need to allocate the at least the same level of resources for each new market that you're planning to enter, and it's kind of like launching your business all over again, but just in a new market that you're not as familiar with, so allocate your resources accordingly. And if that means just targeting one new market at a time and making that suggest success before moving on to the next market, then that's how you need to approach. Don't stretch yourself too thin.
KRISTINA: That's really great advice, and oftentimes, we ran across some of the websites that have been run through Google translate, and it makes my hair stand up. I can't imagine what it does for you.
KATHRIN: Google Translate is a great tool for certain things, including the sort of in the moment communications, perhaps with people that you're on the phone with or emailing just to get a sense of what's what they're trying to communicate to you. But anything that's public-facing like, for instance, from marketing communications, please stay away. It's not a good idea. It will get you in trouble. And remember that your most important, your most valuable asset is your brand. So the last thing you want to do is, do damage to your brand as you're trying to enter a new market and you can do a lot of damage to your brand by using substandard translation services or using Google translate or not taking the time to do market research, not taking the time to engage with in-country marketing experts who will be able to tell you ahead of time whether this campaign that you're about to launch is going to be potentially quite successful or whether oops, there's actually something really offensive in there that you weren't aware of because you don't know what you don't know right and you know catch that in time before you do damage to your brand? So that's why it's so important to work within country experts.
KRISTINA: Sometimes when we're working within country experts is still might be hard to understand where some of the minds are if you will I'm thinking about some of the headlines that we've seen in that we're both familiar with in terms of China versus Taiwan, for example, where a company might have a presence in both countries, but China certainly considers Taiwan part of its country. How do organizations deal with that?
KATHRIN: Well, it's funny you mention that because I was just doing an interview with someone who's a marketing expert based in Hong Kong. And that was exactly one of the questions I asked was, how should western brands approach? What's the best way to approach this potential minefield of, how do you refer to Taiwan versus Hong Kong and in relation to China in the way, you've got your let's say your website set up for different countries where there's a sort of a pulldown menu for the country you're in, all the way to marketing messaging. It's a potentially quite tricky and the long and short of it is if you're hoping to do any kind of business in China, toe the line, like don't treat Taiwan and Hong Kong as separate countries. They are part of China. They are part of the whole, and so you should sort of referring to them as such.
KRISTINA: A lot of things to consider here for many businesses, whether they're small or large. I think a lot of the lessons and insights that you shared with us apply to both but great to have you provide that perspective, especially for small businesses that are struggling, and I'm thinking to myself. Wow, lots of implications for digital policies from what do you translate? When do you transfer?
It how do you localize it which goes beyond translation into localizing content to the cultural and business norms of the country things like China versus Taiwan versus Hong Kong and making sure that you even do the quote-unquote small things like labeling of countries correctly lots to think about, lots of policy implications there. So, Katherine, a big bigthank you for getting us started, and it will be thinking about these issues some more, but we're definitely starting that, and so I hope you'll come back and join us again for another conversation.
KATHRIN: I would love to Kristina, and thank you so much for having me on the podcast today.
KRISTINA: Thank you again.