Strengthening Cross-cultural Ties through Home-court Advantage

As featured in Dynamic Export eMagazine.

Exporters understand that planning for market visits is integral to not only understanding their target market culture but also getting to know their potential business partners.  In many cases, businesses may need to demonstrate their products to win over clients or engage the right distributors in their chosen foreign market.

To achieve this, they must rely on complex logistics to stage effective product demonstrations. This can present a considerable financial risk – particularly when taking into account freight and executive travel or when planning to attend international trade fairs to showcase goods to potential partners and clients.

Whilst market visits are integral to understanding the culture in which your product or service will be marketed, there is a strong case for extending an invitation to potential partners to visit the ‘place of origin’.

By extending an invitation to potential distributors or clients to visit and experience the product in your home country, you can open up the opportunity to win business through carefully planned hospitality.

Extending such an invitation may not only benefit your team – after all, you are interacting within your business norms – but can also give you the competitive advantage and reduce your financial risk.

Unique opportunities

Hosting an overseas delegation presents unique opportunities to strengthening cultural ties.  As much of business development is about the people-to-people engagement, knowing how to host your foreign visitors still calls for cultural awareness and business protocol nous.

Careful consideration of your visitors’ culture and integrating aspects that will be familiar to them in a foreign land will help both parties interact with greater ease. However, this doesn’t mean having to compromise your own business culture norms for the sake of impressing your potential business partners.

As with any cross-cultural strategy – knowing your visitors culture is integral in extending the best possible experience.

Cultural values still come into play so making room for subtle cultural elements is an effective way to build cross-cultural ties. A generalisation but nonetheless an effective illustration of this level of consideration is mapping out a schedule that prioritises business discussions over lunch or dinner for your Asian or Latin American counterparts.

Attention to detail is the key

What might be considered a more productive agenda of boardroom presentations and site visits may best resonate with American or European counterparts. For some cultures, you might need to consider end-to-end hospitality – in other words, being prepared to look after your guests from when they arrive at the airport to when they depart.  Attention to detail is the key and the clues to what details you’ll need to attend to can be found by understanding your counterpart’s culture as well as looking into the individuals involved.

Some may not need much looking after – or expect it. Nevertheless, the effort you’ve taken to research and provide for a market visit that addresses not only the business objectives but the vital relationship-building aspect will benefit your export endeavours in a unique way.

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