By Jess Docherty
Europe is a thriving home to an array of different cultures, languages and economies, so knowing where and how to focus budgets and resources can be challenging. A one-size-fits-all approach won’t wash. From content localisation to product positioning, each market needs its own finely tuned strategy to successfully drive business performance.
We interviewed some of A+P’s key leaders, with a proven track record of growing companies to success in European markets, for their top tips to grow business in the region in 2020.
How do you grow a business in Europe?
Jill Coomber, Managing Director of Integrated Marketing, Europe
The key to great growth rests on data and insights. Really understanding the market, the key trends, the hotspots, where the ‘white space’ exists for your offer and insights into your specific audiences and their behaviours are all vital. You can ultimately see how much of a product or service you can sell into a particular geography, at what price point and with what messaging to which variation of your audience. Being able to focus and prioritise driven by this data and insight means you can scale rapidly, and drive ROI more efficiently.
Plan to scale as rapidly as you can build your team and infrastructure. Team experience is a vital component here. You can either recruit the talent who can bring this knowledge or hire agencies with the right skill sets.
Understand the power of local language. Working in a single language is often easy whilst focusing on the early adopter and innovator audiences but you reach a ceiling where language is a blocker. Translations and bringing in true localisation into play is an art rather than pure science. Again, experience plays a big part in getting this right: being able to regionalise and localise in an optimum way. Given so many products are in fact experiences nowadays getting omnichannel customer service in local language to resonate is also critical to growth.
How do you stay on top of the trends in Europe?
Heike Schubert, General Manager, Germany
My day starts with reading two newspapers every morning, I try my best to always have my eyes and ears open to daily news from politics to culture and sport. Don’t only live in your bubble, everything can spark innovation and ideas – stay curious and don’t just stick to communications or marketing news. I listen out for conversation everywhere, from the grocery store to new podcasts so I can get a rounded understanding of everything from what is driving our economy to what gets people talking.
In Europe, you have to be aware of cultural backgrounds and societal norms. Self-awareness is key to help you and your business interact with stakeholders in other markets. Take steps to identify your own patterns and understanding while building up your knowledge of other cultural backgrounds. What can seem like small differences in phrasing, meanings and expectations can cause unnecessary damage and confusion. It’s not always about changing how you do things, but it is always about understanding the actual needs and desires of the opposite party. In international communications a key misunderstanding is that you have to adapt or assimilate, but that’s not what helps you in business, it’s about being transparent, authentic without prejudice or judgement of the other party.
How do you start to build up a network for recruitment and new business in Europe?
Jim Selman, Partner, Managing Director, UK + Ireland
My biggest piece of advice is don’t try to switch on talent at short notice but build up a network of entrepreneurial people over time. Investing in your network and building trust in partners and talent allows you to have a surgical understanding of their capabilities, allowing you to work effectively in the region.
Focus on building trust and camaraderie, and as much as possible be there face to face to get to know their struggles and ambitions. Make sure your connections feel like friends and colleagues even if they aren’t directly part of your organisation, as this will ensure that when things heat up, your extended team will have your back.
I always remember the Scout Motto: Be Prepared. Even if you don’t need/cannot afford to invest in a particular skill set or service now, be prepared and build up a swiss army knife of options for when the need arises.
How important is it to stay connected to your brand values as you expand into new territories?
Cathy Planchard, Global President of Integrated Marketing
The value that we place on our company's core values is what differentiates us from other large and mid-sized agencies. These values stand the test of time and drive our approach to the business, the brands we align with, who we hire and how we think. It creates the guardrails for a healthy, productive and satisfying employer-employee relationship.
Keeping culture first is a high priority, but it is no easy feat. It requires a mindset and a commitment by hiring managers and leadership of all levels. We’ve joked that we have a ‘no jerk’ policy, but we mean it. It can be so easy to look at someone's experience or background and want to make a hire, but if their perspective of how they do the work, how they treat their team, and how they approach client service is not aligned with our organisation’s values, it will cause more long-term harm than good.
Every market has a unique perspective and backdrop. As an example, the media landscape is incredibly different in Europe than it is in the US, which impacts how we think about the available channels of communication. But the tenets of what makes for a great story are universal: emotional and rationale resonance and empathy for the audience.
Every European market has its own nuances, behaviours and preferences. Every business is different, but one thing is clear: careful preparation is key. Investing in research and insights, quality localisation, strategic talent and impactful storytelling will set you up for scalable success.
Jess Docherty is a senior digital account manager in Allison+Partners’ London office.