It is often said that the buying process is now dependent on the customer. If the target market can access information and conduct research, then they can be targeted and marketed to. How?
First, through smart phones, tablets, laptops and desktop. For instance, despite the economic disadvantages that characterize some parts of Asian and African markets, one thing remains certain: You can generate leads in much the same way you would in the West, as long as your target market has internet connection and a device (computer or smartphone). Case in point, devices like BRCK allow remote areas without electricity to connect to the internet. Additionally, Low-priced smartphones like the Obi Worldphone have allowed people who would otherwise not afford a smartphone to have one and interact with brands and other people.
Secondly, depending on your target audience in any market, social media is still very much in play. For B2B, LinkedIn is still the platform of choice. For B2C, platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Snapchat among others work. Of course, in some countries, local platforms outperform FB and LinkedIn, hence succeeding in those countries is a matter of figuring out how to create a presence in those platforms.
Lastly, in any market, word of mouth holds a lot of power. Hence exploiting lead generation avenues such as referral marketing is still important.
But, even with these shared attributes between the US and the rest of the world, if you are you trying to take your business global, there’s something you should know before you do: Lead generation services may not operate in the exact same way in new markets as they do in the US. Why? Because every geographical region (continent and country) has different cultures and norms. Hence a one-size-fits-all lead generation approach cannot succeed everywhere. Plus, it is human nature for audiences all over the world to demand advertising content and an approach that is tailored to suit them.
That’s what this article is about. If you operate in the US market and want to expand to international markets, or vice versa, here is what you should know.
Does the USA Have a Head Start in The Field of Lead Generation?
Since the creation of the mobile phone, there has been an upsurge of lead generation avenues such as websites (via search engines) and social media networks (Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, to name the main ones). Through likes and dislikes, brands tracking social media activity on their accounts can gauge their visitors’ preferences more accurately. Every year, thousands of lead generation apps are created, giving consumers new ways to engage with brands.
The fact is, a lot of these technologies have their roots in North America, specifically the USA. The wider and more robust technological capabilities of the US, and the economic ability to market themselves and influence the way business is done globally, gives the US an advantage in this area.
Lead Generation in Europe Versus The USA
Although both Europe and US fall under “the West”, they are markedly different. In an article published on Salesforce, Graham Curme, CEO of LiveHive, Inc., gives his experience about selling in the US vs the UK. According to Curme, to sell in Europe, you must employ a different approach that considers the culture, geography and business behaviors in European countries. Understanding these 3 things will promote how you engage your buyers and how you sell to them. Curme further breaks down these 3 important aspects as follows:
In Europe, face-to-face interaction is considered a better way to build relationships. 75% of customers prefer to meet salespeople in person. Although this preference will prolong your sales process, accommodating it will help you to connect better with your European audience. The opposite is true for US buyers, where majority of transactions and interactions are done online.
Business centers in Europe are concentrated within key cities. For instance, London accounts for 85% of business done in the UK while 90% of business is done in Paris. The concentration of business in these hubs makes it easy to do business.
In addition, European business centers are within proximity to each other, hence physically getting from one city to another to conduct business or in different areas within one city is practical. Consider this map of Germany for instance. Berlin, Hamburg, Dusseldorf, Munich and Frankfurt, the main German business hubs, are spread around the country’s borders. Not only is it easy to access each of those cities from anywhere in Germany, those business hubs are also within proximity of other European countries.
In Europe, cellphones are considered a work tool, hence when you have a database of phone contacts, you can cold call them and generate business. On the other hand, in America, phones are primarily viewed as tools for personal communication and therefore people rarely pick calls from numbers they don’t recognize.
This means that to generate leads in the US, phone calls alone will not work. A phone call should be preceded by engagements on social media, email, conferences, etcetera. This leads to overly long sales cycles that can include up to eight touch points and a higher likelihood of lead abandonment. As such, US lead generation processes have widely adopted automated sales processes to fill up their pipelines with more leads.
Lead Generation in Asian Countries
Asia has one of the highest rates of smartphone penetration and social media use in the world. According to Statista, by 2015, more than 38% of China’s population had smartphones. In 2019, smartphone users stood at nearly 675 million. This high rate of smartphone and internet penetration is also noted in countries like the Philippines, Vietnam, India, Singapore, South Korea and Indonesia.
With the exception of China where all social media channels that aren’t of Chinese origin (apart from LinkedIn) are banned, a majority of the population in most Asian countries use social network platforms that are popular in the US, such as Facebook, Instagram and Youtube, lead generation on those platforms is a must.
However, this is easier said than done, for the following reasons:
A marketing approach targeted for areas such as India must account for the multi-lingual, multi-cultural aspects of those communities. Indians for instance, speak 23 languages and each region in the expansive country has unique habits, dietary preferences and climatic conditions that dictate dressing preferences. As such, generating leads in such a market means doing more research and more legwork.
In Taiwan, where each city is as diverse and dynamic as the next, you will require you to personalize your message for each city in order to market effectively.
Differences in Social Media Marketing Platforms
In China, lead generation services have to go a step further to accommodate platforms that have Chinese origins. For instance, Baidu is Google’s equivalent, hence it’s important that your strategy incorporates such search engines. Popular social platforms in China include:
- JingRi Toutiao (Today’s headlines). This is an important for enterprises entering China. With over 40 million daily active users, your content can find wide readership on this platform.
- Zhihu, is yet another valuable platform for b2b. It’s just like Quora and has major popularity among professionals who want to share their expertise.
- Youku, which has been labelled the youtube of China, is important for video marketing.
As earlier mentioned, in other Asian countries, an effective lead generation on social media should incorporate mainstream channels and local channels.
Figure : Social media channels popular in Asia. E.g Taiwan (source: via InfoCubic)
Note that all these platforms play by different rules, and it’s important to familiarize yourself with those rules to guarantee greater success generating new leads.
A Nuanced Influencer Marketing Approach
Influencer marketing is important in Asian countries. For instance, according to Vero, 81% of millennials and Gen Z would buy based on a recommendation from an influencer. In china and Thailand, KOL marketing (key opinion leader marketing) could make all the difference for lead generation and social media platforms are key areas for finding recommendations for reputable brands. According to a study by TNS global, in Singapore, brand messaging is ignored by 1 in 5 consumers, influencer marketing and word of mouth remain a key way to reach potential buyers.
Be that as it may, the nuances of influencer marketing depend on the target audience. For instance, in South Korea, influencer marketing is also relevant, except branded content is more popular than individuals when it comes to marketing on platforms like Facebook.
Differences in The Retail Landscape
Addressing the topic, “How to break into the Indian market, Vijay Govindarajan and Gunjan Bagla noted the important role played by the more than 10 million mom and pop retail outlets spread all over the country. While these outlets stock products that satisfy daily needs, they don’t have the capacity to stock aspirational products that you would find in American markets. With over 400 million people expected to own smartphones in India by 2020(Source: Statista), there is a lot of online-selling opportunity yet to be exploited in India.
In addition, due to the large presence of mom and pop outlets, experiential selling is key. Hence in addition to online marketing, you cannot ignore other marketing media such as brochures and pamphlets.
Consumer Interaction with Apps and Other Technologies
Annet Aris, an Adjunct Professor of Strategy at INSEAD says in an article, “Asian digital giants have built a fundamentally different ecosystem with completely different rules of the game”. She notes that some factors that drive these differences include:
Apps tend to have multiple functions
For instance, in China, with WeChat, customers can do more than chat and call. They also use the app for taxi booking, online banking, ordering takeaway, watching tv, and so much more. Like China, apps in India tend to be multifunctional. Whatsapp for instance, now offers payment services. This is also the case for Hike.
Internet access is different.
In North America, search engines are key to find websites. In Asia, apps are instrumental in finding websites. This helps deal with challenges posed by limited spread of fixed line broadband as majority of people use mobile. There are however exceptions, such as South Korea, which according to the 2019 Global Digital Insights Report, has high speed internet and a robust IT infrastructure.
Complexity of interfaces
App interfaces and marketing material must be more complex, otherwise they are considered “empty”.
Lead Generation in Middle East and Africa
The growth of technology in the Middle East and African markets is driven by trends in the US. The big players in the US are still the same players who trailblaze the digital space in Africa and the Middle East. For instance, Google Inc and Amazon.Com Inc are some of the key players in the SaaS business. The most popular social media channels are also Facebook, Youtube and twitter. In addition, LinkedIn is the leading B2b channel for lead generation. When it comes to messaging apps, whatsapp leads in that space.
Furthermore, when it comes to generating leads in the b2b space, as much as LinkedIn is an important platform to use, information hubs such as Africa Business Pages are just as vital. Not only can you find high quality leads on such a website, but you can also advertise your products or services on the platform.
In addition, automation is vital for any online marketing process, and although tools like Hubspot and Zoho, which have international support are in use in Africa and the Middle East, it’s important to look into local options available in each country.
However, just like in Europe, the human connection matters when it comes to doing business. People want to hear from you on phone and to meet you in person. Outdoor, print, tv and radio advertising also carry a lot of weight. Therefore, a successful lead generation approach must be multi-faceted and include not just web content, social media, PPC and email marketing, but traditional advertising media as well.
That’s it. The USA is a unique market in that it pioneers a lot of areas in the world of business, including lead generation. But, lead generation in the US has as many similarities as differences with the rest of the world. At the end of the day, all businesses, regardless of their geographical location, want higher levels of engagement and more conversions. The trick for any lead generation service is to take each country on a case by case basis. Once you understand your audience, you will know the best lead generation approach to take.