Cross-cultural marketing: “We try and make the content as country specific as possible.”

Cross-cultural marketing: “We try and make the content as country specific as possible.”

Do you do business with another country?

When you want to learn about cross-cultural marketing, where do you search?

Where do you look for examples of good practice?

International companies with massive teams, budget and resources? Like McDonald’s, Subway, Corona or Cisco?

Does it make sense when you are a SME? Or a young brand? Does it make sense to compare your business with theirs?

Some small brands are remarkable. And can show you the way for cross-cultural marketing.
Let me tell you about Essential Care.

Essential Care is a family business created in 2003 in Suffolk, England. Today it’s an international business recipient of many awards.

In December 2013 they re-launched as Odylique, a range of eco-luxe products for the most sensitive skin.

I met with Abi Weeds, the Director. We talked about export, how they connect with their customers. And her special relationship with France.

Abi, how did you start to sell abroad?

“By chance. A company in Korea wanted to import our products. They approached us in 2005. We had never done anything like this before so we contacted UKTI. They gave us a lot of advice on how we could organize ourselves for export.

We started with Korea. Little by little, we got more enquiries from distributors, mostly in Europe. And particularly after a Trade Show for natural products in London.

We were one of the first brands in Europe offering certified organic cosmetic products. We were the first to market in Latvia, and in Lithuania. Pretty much all our export has been reactive. We are lucky. We have a unique product.”

How do you organize your marketing between the UK and abroad?

“We work with 15 distribution partners across Europe, mainly in smaller European countries. They distribute our products and adapt the content we create in the UK for local marketing.

We write press releases they can translate. Tutorials about our makeup products. Lots and lots of articles about sensitive skin. And how to care for certain problems. We encourage our partners to use it in their own country.

France is a bit different because we manage it as a direct market. I have a particular interest in France. I did some of the business research and planning for Essential Care when I was living there 10 years ago.

We started selling there gradually over the past few years. And it’s now one of our fastest growing markets. We have a country manager for France. She does a wonderful job, managing relationships with people who buy on the French website. And also with retailers who buy from us.”

What part does the Internet (and social media) play in your success?

“Social media is a way of engaging customers. It’s not a way to selling directly to customers.

It’s a wonderful tool to get instant feedback. You put up a survey on Facebook in a matter of minutes and you get an answer from your customers. No need to wonder about it for 2 or 3 days. When we are looking to change a product size or when we want to know the best day to hold a webinar, we just ask people what they prefer.

I love that immediacy. The way you are able to talk to your customers with their permission. And when they want to.

We are active on Facebook and Twitter.

We’ve used both to hold some sessions in English where we spent an hour talking to our customers. We held a webinar when we launched Odylique to get some feedback.

Often it turns into a Q&A session. It can go off the topic but that’s wonderful because we know the questions that are important to people.

They perhaps wouldn’t ask us the same questions by email. We get a lot more interaction with our customers through Facebook and Twitter. There is trust. People feel they are reaching somebody identifiable with the brand.

And we do that in a transparent way.

When we do a webinar we say: “At such and such a time Abi will be there. Or Margaret will be there to answer your questions”. So people know they can have a direct conversation. And they ask personal questions. It’s great.

When we do an session in English we invite people from other countries. From Slovenia, from the Netherlands and Scandinavia. We’ve done 4 sessions and they have been so successful that we’ll do it in French too.

When somebody writes us an email, I answer. Or the customer service manager. An email is more impersonal unless you have the personal email address of the Director. Which most people don’t usually have.

The other things that work well are the online newsletters in English and in French. It’s immediate. You can see how many people open and read the emails. We get a great response from these letters.

We sell on the Internet in both countries but a bit less in France. In the UK people prefer to buy online much more. In France there is still a big demand for a physical network of shops.

People want to go in the parapharmacie (1). They want to take off a product from the shelf, smell and taste it. Which is normal. And perhaps there is a little bit less trust as well in online commerce in France.”

How do you handle languages?

“We try and make sure our content applies to each country. As country specific as possible. We don’t translate everything.

If there is an interesting story in the French press about toxic ingredients and cosmetics we talk about it in France. But not in the UK. And vice-versa.

For example on our French site we talk more about the Soil Association certification because it’s not well known in France. The Soil Association requires a high level of organic ingredients. Much more than the French Ecocert certification. And we explain that on the French website.

The fact we are British doesn’t seem to make a difference because what people are looking for is quality. They can read our ingredients lists on the websites. That’s more important to them than the fact we are British.

We did a survey in 2012 with French customers asking them how we could improve. And what they would like us to do. The French answers didn’t differ that much from the English answers.

The biggest difference was that French customers dislike shipping costs. We set the lowest postage costs possible to France so people can avoid the fees.

We even asked our French customers if they wanted more French on the packaging. Most people were quite happy at the time with a pack mainly in English. Now it’s fifty per cent in English and fifty per cent in French.

No language barrier exists. Even for products like cosmetic products which are popular in France.

Many French blogs and consumer websites recommend us. People like the story behind the brand. Who we are. Real people making the products. A family-run company started by somebody who had a real skincare problem to solve.”

Your best advice for a British first-time exporter?

“For general exporting the best people are UKTI. They have a lot of resources. They can help you with contracts and provide lot of helpful information. Like questionnaires for potential distributors.

My advice is: “Don’t be afraid”.

We were afraid when we started to export. But when you know that the person you are working with is good, when you’ve got a good feeling you have to make that leap of faith. And to trust them.

It’s important because they are going to be a close partner.

You have to have a good relationship with them. It’s a two-way relationship. You go and visit them. You see where your products are. You invest time with them. You can’t just sell your products and close the door. You have to make sure that your partners feel supported.”

What to learn from Essential Care

  • Translation is a means, not an end. Localisation is crucial. Translate your English content when it makes sense. Create bespoke messages when it’s necessary
  • Social media is a great tool to establish trust. Use it to engage not to sell
  • Each market is different. No “one size fits all” solution exists for cross-cultural marketing. Build a marketing plan for each country
  • Work closely with your distributor (or country manager) and support them
  • Care for your products. Care for your customers. Care for your brand.

(1) In France a parapharmacie shop displays health products. And care products you can buy without authorization or any medical prescription. They often also deliver medical prescription.

(To the reader: I am not paid to write this article and I am not an affiliate of Essential Care. I love their products and the way they develop the brand.)




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Leave A Reply (2 comments so far)

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  1. Alastair clark
    4 years ago

    Abi shares some really useful ecperiences and seems to be offering good advice. It is interesting that she says they were mainly ‘reactive’ to demand for their products. They must be good!

    • Veronique
      4 years ago

      Thanks Alastair for your comment. Yes Essential Care products are really good. I think when a company truly has a beneficial service to offer there is no need for using scare or pushy tactics to get customers and little by little they can build trust.