This article originally appeared on Forbes.com. Please find it here.
How can you successfully launch your brand in a new market or country? Let’s use Canada as an example.
Many companies that have an established footprint in the United States are now choosing to expand north in order to benefit from the appealing economics of the Canadian dollar. We share a border and consider each other friends and neighbors, yet we are two very distinct countries, each with our own norms, our own media, our own national conversations and our own identities. Figuring out how to stand out in a new market such as this is critical and largely depends on the thought and consideration you put into navigating this space. The key is to recognize cultural differences and plan for them. Here’s how:
Study the basics.
For starters, you’ll need to demonstrate intellectual curiosity. This is the trait that propels you to learn about the world around you. It involves asking really great questions and caring about the answers. It’s the drive to learn and explore, and the single biggest thing that can endear you to someone from another country or another place. It will also help you understand basic facts about this new market. Research the political landscape, understand what’s impacting the economy and educate yourself on the structure of the media networks and corresponding regulations.
Familiarize yourself with the media.
Every country will have a different set of media protocols and guidelines. In Canada, broadcasting and telecommunications are regulated through the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunication Commission.
Some key considerations:
1. Population-wise, Canada is about a tenth of the size of the U.S. That means that the audience you are fighting for is also a tenth of the size of the U.S. market. This makes it all the more important to really hit the mark with news that matters to Canadians.
2. For the most part, Canadian media’s first mandate is to promote Canadian products and businesses. Therefore, it’s important to tell stories that reflect the Canadian market, economy and communities.
3. In Canada, there are a handful of organizations that control the media. In fact, more than 80% of Canadian media is owned by just five corporations: Bell, Rogers, Postmedia, Corus and Torstar. While this provides some limitations in terms of the general nature of the reporting, it also means there are efficiencies to be realized, since in connecting with one group, you have the opportunity to reach a number of relevant publications.
4. With the rise of Canada as an important global market for technical innovation, gaming, artificial intelligence and virtual reality, there are a handful of Canadian journalists who have emerged as key influencers in this space. To be noticed in Canada, it is key to understand who these players are.
Define your goals and tactics.
As companies and their leaders venture north, it can feel like starting over — this is an exciting challenge. But how and where do you begin? In his book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey teaches that it’s best to begin with the end in mind. This could also apply when breaking into and succeeding in a new market.
Plan for both the long term and the short term. It’s natural to want to see quick, easy wins, but remember that real success takes time. Ensure that you remain top of mind with customers, partners and the government over the long term. Develop a comprehensive marketing plan that involves target customers, social media efforts, lead generation and more.
Consistently inform new and existing customers, journalists and analysts within the market on company news to drive further brand awareness and lead generation. Target key journalists and analysts with outreach and relevant content and actively pitch Canadian media. Make sure to leverage current news to elevate your profile and generate new, locally relevant content by producing bylined articles for placement in local business and industry publications. Identify top target media outlets and focus on relationship building with influencers at these key publications.
You should also identify relevant networking events in the market, especially those with direct meeting opportunities. Consider becoming involved in local organizations and associations and applying for locally-recognized awards. Promote your involvement through related content and share news from the target organizations. Also, look for opportunities for employees to be thought leaders, whether through articles, content contribution or speaking engagements.
Join the national conversation.
Successful Canadian companies understand the importance of being part of the national conversation. One of our clients is the Montreal-based organization eStruxture Data Centers. On their company LinkedIn, they recently posted, “Our CCO, Jaime Leverton shows her ongoing support of our Canadian teams. It was only 4 months ago that we were celebrating the incredible Raptors win with Jaime, as always, cheering them on. Last week in Japan, Jaime continued her support while watching the Canadian Rugby Team represent in the Rugby World Cup.” After the Toronto Raptors won the NBA championship, this CCO had posted on her personal LinkedIn, “It is this collective experience of inclusion, pride, community and joy from coast to coast that is truly #wethenorth.”
For those who are not avid fans of basketball or rugby, this may, at first glance, seem irrelevant to the company’s business objectives. But this isn’t about basketball, it’s about a country — what defines it and what unites it. By engaging in the conversation through event-specific social media or blog content, you demonstrate that you understand what makes Canadians tick.
Track your results.
Last but not least, don’t forget to track your results. Leveraging the latest marketing tools will allow you to see where you have traction and where you need to adjust your approach. Competitive analysis tools will also help you keep track of what share of voice you have across the industry and what trending topics you should weigh in on.