In our first discussion on Cross Border Marketing, we noted that for many companies with existing and well established international networks for which foreign investment is an integral part of their livelihood, virtual marketing has a clear downside. Others companies, those on the brink of product line expansion cannot afford to COVID-retrench themselves entirely. In either case, management must devise alternate import/export solutions that make sense in today’s highly restricted environment.
We also noted that for the foreseeable future, and probably beyond that (to be truthful), cross-border marketing by dedicated, regular traveling personnel will continue to be severely limited. We do not see a clear end to this at least for nowt. In its place, as we noted, a variety of virtual communication solutions have arisen since early 2020, and its a trend that will most likely accelerate as the technology improves. This is a significant sea change for organizations both large and small.
However, we noted that virtual communication has its limits. In particular, while it can sustain existing relationships and business lines, it can’t reasonably be expected to generate viable new ones. We state, perhaps the most obvious point, that other considerations come into play, cultural ones for example. In emerging markets, clients attach far more importance to physical contact than they do in more developed ones, and there really is no real substitute for it. I would restate what I noted from an HBR article in an preceding blog that "global teams are more vulnerable than domestic teams to misunderstandings and breakdowns of trust, especially after long periods without in-person contact." So many cultures need that "face-to-face" connection with a customer and certainly on a business deal. Looking to communication platforms such as Teams or Zoom for that level of business assurance will not and cannot replace a real and meaningful connection.
Our experience, R.H. Rogers Global Consulting, LLC, is based on accumulated experience in the US and in multiple foreign markets, together with an established in-country network and we have developed a proprietary strategy whereby SME’s outsource their cross border needs to dedicated global consultants who effectively become a mirror image of their employers. SME reaction has been immediate, welcomed and growing.
Our strategy has four essential features:
* First, our consultancy must be viewed as a two-way intermediary and broker
Consultancies have traditionally been a one-way street – with an SME contracting for its services. The typical relationship is expected to be objective and focused, and the function is to prescribe. To ensure this, the consultancy deliberately does not get absorbed into the texture of the company it contracts with. This is very different from the typical relationship between an SME and an in-country representative – an agent, or a partner or a distributor – which is not only close but strongly focused on the bottom line.
However, in today’s post COVID environment, and especially because of severe restrictions on travel, consultants are now being asked to fill precisely these roles. The ideal consultants are the ones who can do so themselves – or they might have just the right kind of existing network to support them.
In our strategy, consultancy has now evolved into a two-way street: first, with the SME we contract with; second, with the in-country representative(s) we bring to the table. Both relationships are equally close. Both are focused on the bottom line. The mutual trust we enjoy from both parties is a significant expediter of new business.
* Second, our consultancy is becoming SME-customized and personalized by necessity
Because of our new role, we aim to function as the alter ego of SME’S and the brands they represent – in very personalized and customized ways. Because of this, we are able to substitute for regular travelling sales teams, spread the word and generate new business in association with our network.
* Third, consultants are becoming the in-country experts of SME’s
Because we have trusted personal relationships, area knowledge, and cultural awareness, we increasingly substitute for the in-country expertise and “human relations value” which formerly needed to be built up laboriously by traveling sales teams.
* Lastly, “Let your alter ego do the flying”!
Selectively, of course, but at significant cost savings to SME’s. Our business travel, if and when necessary, is part of a highly focused strategy built on our in-country expertise as mentioned above, and always agreed upon up-front with management.
I look forward to your comments.