The “Ins and Outs” of Inbound Marketing and Inside Sales Models in Europe
November 19, 2011
The United Kingdom often appears to be the logical choice for an American company’s first beachhead in Europe. It is certainly one of the geographic opportunities where products can be sold with a minimum of internationalization and localization. But the United Kingdom is often not the right location for companies employing an inbound marketing model with significant sales volume booked by inside sales.Local language shatters the economies of scale that successful companies have realized from telecommunications and Internet marketing technologies in the United States. The EU is comprised of 27 countries with 23 different official languages, heavily weighted toward English, German, French, Spanish and Italian. Economically speaking, the United Kingdom, Germany and France account for about two-thirds of the total GDP, with Germany having the largest share.
To the extent that sales and customer service relationships can be carried out via email and chat, local accents are not a factor. But when it comes to booking revenue and customer satisfaction, accents do matter. An inside sales person with a Moroccan French accent will perform poorly when selling into Paris compared to his peer who speaks Parisian French. Likewise a customer service representative with an East Indian English accent servicing the United Kingdom will be reviewed poorly in comparison to his peer who speaks English with a British accent. To the extent that conversion of inbound marketing leads rely on telephone communication, the business enterprise needs to be located where there is a rich labour pool of multilingual people who speak with the native accent of the targeted country market. There are only a few places in Europe where this can be accomplished effectively, Ireland, the Netherlands and Germany. Intuitively one would expect a rich multilingual labour pool in the London area but salary, operating and real estate costs are prohibitive. Further, government subsidies are limited to capital intensive businesses. As a result, one does not find sales and service operations directed towards the entire European market in the United Kingdom.
Large sales and service operations of Microsoft, IBM, Oracle, Facebook, Google, LinkedIn, Amazon, EMC2, eBay, Amazon and Yahoo are located in Ireland. There are a few firms such as Cisco/WebX, IBM, NetApp and Blackboard located in the Netherlands. When considering smaller companies, LogMein moved its sales and service operation from Budapest Hungry to the Netherlands because the multi-lingual labour pool was too shallow and SolarWinds opened sales and service operations in Ireland.
I can find representative offices of many of these American technology brand companies in the London area, but these are direct sales operations servicing local customers.
B2B technical support can be located where there is language proficiency. Customers will tolerate quality technical services delivered by a person in their local language, though accented. Such is the case of Getronics and Deutsche Telekom’s technical support centers in Hungary and Siemens’s technical support center in Turkey. If technical support can be delivered via email and chat, this function can be moved almost anyplace. Lionbridge and IBM have a promising technology that permits real-time semantic and idiomatic translation for email and chat facilitating a conversation between two people who do not know the other’s language.
In building a European sales and service capabilities, one must always remember that language fragmentation limits the consolidation of business processes using communications and Internet technologies. It takes time to implement an inbound model and opportunity will be lost if the operation needs to be moved because of high cost or an insufficient labour pool at a time when it should be scaling smoothly.
For inside sales models to work, websites need to be internationalized and localized and paid and organic search strategies localized.
Achieving measurable results in the local market with global web marketing campaigns can be expensive because much of the creative and web technical resources need to be replicated in local markets with contractors or employees. Strategies and tactics need to be adjusted for local culture and preference. The thresholds and conversion expectations for SEO are different from country market to country market and require local expertise.
Translation needs to be idiomatic and contextual because buying search terms and creating content that is meaningful to potential customers is necessary for the inbound marketing to produce clicks, conversions and leads for inside sales.
Below is a table that explains by example how context is critical without the complexity of translation into a second language.
|United Kingdom||United States|
|Toss the rubbish in the dustbin||Throw the garbage in the trashcan|