Why knowing the cultures you are selling to is key to international success

Intercultural competence is one of the most important factors for international success.

Your usual sales and marketing strategies might work well in your domestic market. But will they be as effective at convincing your new customers?

People from different cultural backgrounds will most probably perceive what you have to offer differently.

In this article, we’ll look at three different aspects that illustrate why knowing your target culture is key to successfully selling to it.

Time and place matter

Imagine you have a social media ad campaign planned for a special occasion. Say Thanksgiving.

Since you recently decided to target different countries with your products and services, you’re planning to run the campaign across these countries, and in different languages.

But the results a few weeks after the campaign are disappointing: The reactions to your promotion weren’t nearly as good as expected. What happened? The answer is simple: Thanksgiving isn’t celebrated in all countries you targeted.

That, however, doesn’t mean you constantly have to reinvent the wheel for every market. Quite the opposite.

Let’s look at Germany (my specialty) as an example: While Thanksgiving is something Germany doesn’t celebrate, Halloween is widely known there. So, running your Halloween campaign in Germany makes a lot of sense. Also, other occasions like Black Friday have definitely reached Germany and many other countries.

???? You need to look closely at your new customers and find out which of your seasonal content and offers would be suitable there as well.

In the same way, it’s wise to find out what occasions are specific to a certain country you’re targeting. Use that information to create tailored content and offers for those audiences and show them that you really know them.

Expectations and preferences differ from country to country

People across the world have different preferences when it comes to shopping. Some nations like things to be quick and easy. Others don’t want to give away too much of their personal information. Others won’t buy if they can’t pay by credit card.

That means by simply offering the exact same shopping experience to all your markets, you could miss out on potential customers.

By contrast, knowing a little bit about the expectations and shopping preferences of the countries you’re selling to will contribute immensely to your international success.

Could you maybe offer a different payment method for certain markets? Or adapt your returns policy? Offer a live chat? This will all show you know your audience, and remove barriers that could make your shopper hesitate.

Your regional competitors are insiders

Offering your products and services abroad can open a huge new market to you.

But there is a downside to it: more competition, both from companies selling from abroad, like you, and from homegrown enterprises. It can seem like competitors who are based in your new markets have an unbeatable advantage.

After all, they are themselves part of the culture they’re selling to. So, knowing your new customers’ culture is important if you don’t want to fall behind.

My tip: Take a look at the competition in your new markets. What shopping experience do they offer? Maybe you can use some of their ideas for your own business – or even apply an improved version of them.

On a different note, remember you have two cultural advantages over your competitors.

The first: You look at your new market from an entirely different perspective, with a pair of fresh eyes. There might be some experiences from your own domestic market you can put into practice which are little known in your new region, but very effective.

The second: Being a newcomer from abroad might be what makes you extra interesting to your new market. Maybe you can use certain characteristics associated with your culture as an effective sales argument.

Germans, for example, are usually known for attention to detail and strict rules, but also for their high quality. So, many German companies have turned that into their international sales pitch.


When taking your business from local to international, simply copying your existing marketing and sales strategies won’t be enough.

Different people across the world have different ways of thinking, living – and shopping. In the same way, we ourselves as business owners live in our own cultural bubble.

Opening your mind to different cultures and learning about them will help you take their perspective on board and tailor your marketing to them. As a result, you’ll be able to build a business that’s renowned and successful in different parts of the world – which, if you ask me, sounds pretty exciting.

Want to learn more about cultural aspects of your German market? Then keep an eye on this blog or head over to Instagram and LinkedIn for more content just like this.

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