Understanding cultural and behavioral expectations and traditions will enhance your global marketing prowess.

Marketing is the art of providing the right information in the right way at the right time and in the right form to a specific target market – those people able and willing to buy your product or service.

Multi-cultural marketing is a complicated combination of art and science. It involves knowing how the people in your global market listen to and receive your information, how they process that information and how they use it to make specific buying decisions. It is the art of presenting the information based on knowledge of how the cultural, social and political values of multi-cultural buyers will be affected by the information.

To do business globally you must understand world political, social and cultural orientations. As the Faranda maxim states, “Culture is the soul of tradition and the heart of action.” When you understand culture, you understand behavior.

This short course will help you understand how different cultures process and use information to make purchasing decisions.

Cultures are classified as low-, medium- or high-context. Each has a specific set of values and behaviors which affect personal relationships and business decisions.

Low-context cultures include Americans, Australians, Britons, Germans, Scandinavians and Swiss. Low-context cultures expect to give and to receive a great deal of specific information about product or services. They do not like it if the seller assumes they know something. They like to be educated and informed about it from an “expert”. They need detailed background information on the product, process and the person selling it. They are less aware of non-verbal clues and cues as they have not been trained to utilize these selling and relationship aids.

Low-context cultures like to stick to an agenda. They are punctual. Americans, for example, like to get a great deal done quickly. An agenda is critical to their thought and action processes. Germans do not like to change an agenda because it requires them to explain and apologize. The Swiss, Scandinavians and Britons are not very flexible on time and agenda because they have been socialized to live in very structured and rigid environments.

High-context cultures include Asians, Arabs, Russians and Eastern Europeans. High-context cultures expect their listeners to be educated on the basics and thus, they expect to give and receive less information on products or services. Time and agendas have less meaning to them. They seek consensus of the group. For them even setting an agenda can be a long process.

When working with Asians in a group process situation, for example, it is better to name a group leader than to ask them to choose. They would spend a great deal of time deciding who had the status to be named leader before they could focus on the task at hand.

High-context cultures are more focused on people and relationships. They feel comfortable that destiny or fate will help them choose the right path. Arabs, for example, preface decisions with the phrase, “I’Shallah,” which means, “If God wills.” These cultures are pleased to let a meeting go over the scheduled time or take more time to make a decision if that enhances the communication process. This drives a low-context person crazy, as they expect things to occur on a specific time line and are inflexible in this regard.

A German, for example, would consider it very rude for an Arab to go overtime in a selling situation or conference. The Arab, however, would consider it rude for the German to be upset when, in their opinion, they were doing so to benefit the German.

Middle-context cultures include Africans, South Americans, Southern Europeans and some Northern Europeans. Their behavioral expectations and response tend to fall in the middle of the low-high-context groups.

A marketing expert should always remember that not all people of one nationality fall into the distinct categories of low-, medium-, or high-context cultures. Within each culture there will be differences based on how and where the person was educated and what the political and social environments are at the moment.

Eastern Europeans, for example, are now in the process of transforming from rigid, centralized, communist societies to loose, de-centralized, democratic societies. This will eventually move them from high-context to medium-context cultures with all of the behavioral changes inherent in that cultural change.

Multi-cultural marketing is the key to success in the global marketplace. Become an expert and the doors of the world will open to you.