Often British companies assume that simply using marketing material which has worked well in the UK by simply translating the copy in French will foster similar positive results. Unfortunately, nothing could be further from the truth. Marketing campaigns which might have done exceedingly well in the UK could seriously backfire in France.
First impressions matter. To successfully convert first approaches into credentials meetings and sales, you will need to tailor your marketing message to the needs and expectations of the French market.
Communicating to a French-speaking audience isn’t a matter of just a literal language translation; the meaning needs to be communicated in a way that makes sense to a local audience very different from British audiences.
This is why it pays to have a good understanding of the cultural and socioeconomic differences of your specific French-speaking target audience. Other aspects of marketing, such as positioning, branding and your online and offline communications will also to be carefully designed to win French hearts and minds.
To successfully convert first approaches into credentials meetings and sales, you need to tailor your marketing message to the needs and expectations of the French market.
1) Start with positioning It is critical to accurately assess how best to position your products and services to the French market before making initial approaches. More often than not you will need to position your business offer differently than in the British market.
For example, a small family-owned brewery in the UK might find itself in the British market in direct competition with numerous businesses with similar offerings as well as leading British beers brands with large advertising budgets. As a result, to differentiate itself, it might be forced to position itself as a very local producer, emphasizing its strong geographical roots and historical heritage.
Also, its pricing will be dictated by the average price competitors charge for a similar product, directly affecting margins and bottom line. Its core UK customer base might be rather traditional and middle-aged, as a younger crowd might shun traditional brands. On the other hand, in France, the same product will only need to compete with far less family-owned breweries with a similar British heritage.
More often than not you will need to position your business offer differently than in the British market.
As a result, it could be seen as rather exotic and will attract a younger crowd who likes to be recognised as discerning drinkers with a knowledge of hard-to-find British beers.
To attract this market, the advertising message will need to be entirely different than the one used in the UK. The exact same product will be positioned at a higher-end of the drinks market and will command higher prices, generating better margins than in the UK with each sale.
Your brand is a the centre of how your business is perceived and ultimately its reputation, especially abroad.
2) Have an unforgettable brand Your brand is a the center of how your business is perceived and ultimately its reputation, especially abroad. The role of your brand as a business tool to grow sales is even more critical in a foreign market than in your home market, where other factors such as a long-established presence will play in your favour.
Once you have established what your business positioning will be in France, you’ll need to adapt your brand messaging and brand identity accordingly.
Here cultural differences play a massive role, especially in business to business relationships.
If your brand doesn’t resonate with your French prospects, they won’t make any attempt to dig deeper to find out more about your products and offer; they’ll just walk away.
Cultural differences play a massive role, especially in business to business relationships.
Every aspect of how your communication will come under scrutiny: how your present your business on your website and brochures, but also the kind of colours and imagery you use.
In some cases the right approach is to emphasise the Britishness of your brand, in others, you’ll need to do the complete opposite and have the kind of brand French people are very familiar and comfortable with. 3) Build a solid digital presence In today’s digital world the most reliable source for up-to-date information about any organisation is its official website but also the sum of all its online activities.
Depending on what you are trying to sell, it might be better to create a dedicated French-speaking microsite fully tailored to the sensibilities of the French market rather than having a French-language section on your main website. This would be particularly effective when trying to push specific products, which might not be the ones you usually promote in the UK market.
A well-crafted website will give your business significant exposure which will only grow over time. Also use social media proactively to connect with other like-minded French businesses, advertise events and attract traffic to your website.
A lot of communication is now digital, but the ultimate goal in business to business relationships is for people to meet people.
Sadly, all too often, event-specific communications such as exhibition stands, brochures and leaflets are overlooked and cheaply produced. When taking into account the costs and time involved in attending events abroad it is important to remember then how you promote your business at events will have a direct impact on the number and quality of leads generated.
Entering a new market takes time, but today it can be faster and easier than ever before.
5) Define a time-bound plan of action In any endeavor, the hardest thing is often to get started. Also, things might take longer than what you are used to in the UK. Start by writing a 12-month marketing plan or get a specialist to help in drafting a realistic plan of action. This will enable you to assess how much time and resources you will need to allocate to tackle the French market on a monthly basis. Entering a new market takes time, but today it can be faster and easier than ever before. Effective marketing activities will play an essential part in enabling you to connect with prospects and convert them into paying customers within a reasonable time frame.
During Emmanuel Macron’s visit to the UK last January, France has expressed its long-term commitment to retaining strong links with the UK post-Brexit. This makes 2018 is probably the best year for UK SMEs to consider trading in France.
Just over a year ago, in January 2017, the International Trade Secretary declared 2017 as the ‘Year of Exporting’ and encouraged British businesses to seek new markets abroad? It's worth noting that the export trade, notably to Europe, contributes a staggering £511 billion to the UK’s GDP.
A year on, many British SMEs still struggle to find clients abroad and are often unsure as to whether they should trade in Europe given the uncertainty about the future trading relationship with our closest neighbour, after Brexit.
In times of uncertainty, the common prevailing wisdom is to wait and see. However those who proactively seek new opportunities while everyone else stands still are more likely to achieve substantial growth.
So why specifically explore the French market, and why now?
We all know that France is the closest and easiest market to access geographically, but we often forget it's also Europe's 2nd largest economy and the 6th largest in the world.
Overall it is a similar market to the UK with regards to its regulations, and the French economy has proven to be historically resilient and stable. It is less prone to boom and bust cycles and was less affected by the recent recessions than other countries. Because of the market profile similarities between France and the UK, business in demand in the UK is in good standing to find a market in France.
Furthermore, 2018 is a good time to approach the French market as the current French government is committed to making it easier for foreign businesses to trade in France. So we can see, many things are aligned to help British SMEs trade in France: ease of access, new export grants, and a desire for foreign investment..
In 2018 many things are aligned to help British SMEs trade in France: ease of access, new export grants, and a desire for foreign investment.
Whether you are looking for clients, resellers or strategic partners to grow your business, France offers a wealth of opportunities across all industry sectors. Don’t let Brexit lead you to think that you shouldn’t consider this huge market, because, in fact, the time is ripe for trading with France.
The real question is: is there a market for your specific products or services in France and if so why leave it to your competitors?