By Len Monheit
Competitive advantage can be as fleeting as the most recent newswire. Plagiarism, and outright theft of intellectual property and research frequently means that companies second or third-guess communication strategies, weighing withholding immediate release against offering a jump-start to the competition. More often than not, the pressure to communicate is extreme, as increasingly, market opportunity depends on frequent, forward-looking communications and active participation at selected industry events – it’s just part of the cost of doing business. At least it is in North America, and we often assume that to be the case anywhere else in the world too.
This point struck home to me in recent weeks as I prepared for a series of international presentations. With both cultural and business differences existing between marketplaces, it was evident that in presenting real North American business perspectives and behavior, it was important to present the dynamics of industry events as well as how to effectively use trade and out-of trade-communication.
In North America, we see both positive and negative drivers. We have to actively communicate when we have positives and new opportunities. There’s also frequently the need to rise above the crowd to gain some attention and interaction- even if there’s nothing new to report. And the space is crowded – industry events even more so. If you’ve got nothing new to report, not only are you in danger of appearing ‘same-old’, but you might even be losing a step to the competition who while being ‘same-old’ too, is at least creative enough to couch their ‘same-old’ in terms of ‘updates’, ‘reviews’, and other terms. So these competitors communicate nevertheless, and succeed in getting their name ‘out there’ anyway. Your organization is then left with a perception in the makret of being ‘behind’, not innovative or not forward thinking.
As more companies aggressively communicate through all channels here in North America, it creates a lot of background noise making it difficult to separate the ‘new’ from the ‘not nearly so’. The price of not participating and not communicating at all is extremely high – measured in missed opportunities and poor event results and ultimately poor sales and pipelines. So companies need to communicate in order to succeed, even if it’s only to remind the world that they’re still around.
We take this type of activity, and the general volume of communication we experience in North America, for granted, and I think this frequently comes as quite a surprise for those from around the world looking to succeed here. Of course there are other market dynamics we also take for granted (the networking experiences and their unique set of expectations, the golf outings etc.). And there is nothing more exasperating then watching a company attempt to attack the North American marketplace, liberally squandering resources on an inappropriate audience, something that can easily occur if an organization doesn’t quite understand the event, occasion or communication vehicle dynamic. We’ve all seen those luncheons or seminar halls with five attendees.
Many groups in the industry are trying to become that gateway for international business, seeing at as the source of innovation, new concepts and new capital. It’ll be very interesting to measure the success of short-term opportunists in this arena, compared to the long-term oriented visionaries who will truly manage the integration of cultures and management of expectations that are really necessary for sustained success and value. Some will get it, others won’t.
It’s also relevant to note that the same holds true for trade opportunities going the other way. As we seek to expand internationally, business and cultural dynamics play a role, just as they do here. Without understanding these dynamics and practices, companies can’t hope to succeed, certainly not in the long haul. What must some of our international colleagues think of us when we make inappropriate use of international events, occasions and communication vehicles around the world or are just plain insensitive to cultural issues?
More and more companies aspire to success through some sort of international activity, whether this takes the form of in-licensing products are of selling in new markets – directly or through agents. The ideal attributes of a good international partner might seem obvious, but frequently take a bit of analysis and careful consideration.