EU Language Barrier – Completely Underestimated

After 2 years engagement across Europe, and helping businesses to expand within the one digital market Europe, we recognize that the language barrier is bigger than originally anticipated. The vast majority of mid market businesses in particular in Spain, Italy, France and Greece are incapable to conduct international business in Europe, let alone on a global scale, due to the lack of English language knowledge. Looking at those countries and the general language skills of their population show a striking pattern: Countries with a relatively high distribution of the English language do rather well and those with a pretty low popularity of English have some serious problems. After all we consider the language barrier the single biggest obstacle for a European success story and a healthy European Economy.

Language barrier, Europe’s single biggest business obstacle

When the European Commission in Brussels decided to support all the European languages, it actually supported the idea that EU countries maintain and continue working with their own language. However, this behavior makes it almost impossible to make any significant inroads in a Pan European trade engagement. Obviously it was important for the EC to get the ‘buy in’ from all the various countries. In addition it is certainly important to not exclude countries right from the beginning by building a language barrier, requiring everybody to speak a common language.

Also we from the DSEU decided to add a foreign language page for each country to make it easier to understand what we are doing. Yet, whether it’s easy or not – there is no effective digital single market without overcoming the language barrier and everybody speaking English.

A great example is the island of Malta. With its approximately 450,000 inhabitants, Malta makes great progress as a EU member country. Malta is able to attract businesses and also able to conduct business across all Europe. While locals still speak and practice the local language ‘Malti’, English is the primary language.

To the contrary, in Spain for example most senior business people speak only Spanish or some of the other Spanish languages like  Catalan, Basque and Galician. For quite a while French was the first foreign language and only in the more recent past English became the first foreign language at school. International information flow is not making it deep into the Spanish population and as such foreign technologies, foreign trade initiatives and global competition is just not comprehended well enough. A very similar problem is in French or Italy, where English isn’t a preferred second language. Those rather large European nations are dependent on their inner economic stability. France is even actively trying to promote the idea of focusing on french products to their citizens – not understanding that this suggestion is weakening the French economy even further.

 

Our Suggestion for the European Commission

After all, we still recommend to support all the currently supported languages in order to make it easy to get access to European Commission initiated programs. However we strongly recommend the EC is undertaking three major efforts to increase the inter European trade and stimulate more business, resulting in more jobs:

1) English Language Stimulation Program

We recommend putting some significant pressure on countries with rather large business population between 35 and 50 not speaking English and create highly motivating programs to motivate those to learn English even at an age of 35 plus.

2) Language controlled funding and grants

We recommend the EC is no longer funding any program or company that is not able to introduce or sell there products in countries outside their own and have product or service descriptions available in English language. While there maybe a need to support some of those businesses, the funds however should not come from the EC but from local governments if at all.

3) Joint Government Engagement

We recommend that the EC is closely collaborating with all European government officials and helping the various country representatives understand the importance of speaking English in order to be able to compete on a global scale and at least within the European Union.

Summary

Without a common business language, a European Economy will remain to be in danger and further weaken the already weak countries.  The EC must find a way to close the economic chasm between those healthy countries that are easily able to conduct trade with other countries such as Germany, Sweden, Denmark, Austria, Netherlands, Belgium, Malta…. and those with major language issues such as France, Italy, Span, Portugal, Greece…

 

Creating an alternative growth strategy

The Digital Sunrise Europe team volunteers helping European small/medium businesses grow. We put together a webinar introducing the concept and sharing with the audience how they can develop their own alternatives to traditional growth strategies.

Instead of investing 200,000+  Euro to hire a person, rent an office, do some advertising campaigns and hope to grow your foreign business, we show you alternatives at 10% of the cost, what you can do and how it can get done.

Thursday November 22 Continue reading “Creating an alternative growth strategy”

Economy Differences In Europe

Looking at Europe as a whole we obviously know about all the economic differences. We know that the average income in Romania with roughly  350 Euro is about 20% of the European average. This maybe an advantage to bring production to some of the low cost countries in Europe, but often times work ethics and education is below equivalent countries in other low cost countries in Asia or Latin America. From a pure business point of view we may not care – but from a pan European perspective we need to care. We need to care – meaning help those countries – if we want the European Nation become a leading nation in the world. {EAV:7057dd17e15ae45a}

DSEU Situation

The Digital Sunrise Europe project is about stimulating the small medium businesses across the EU. And that includes all the 27 member states. We are currently offering education and see the roadblocks already. Despite the general heavy discount, it is still too much of a burden for people from the “Yellow Zone” so we need to invest – that they can invest in the future. We basically need to create those markets so that they will become attractive markets in the future.

Suggestion

We may actually create three pricing zones for our professional services offering. The “Growth Starter Kit” which starts at roughly Euro 10,000 may cost only Euro 7,000 in countries from the “Green Zone” and Euro 2,000 in countries from the “Yellow Zones”.

Since there is directly associated cost to all our services, we may actually structure our cost level accordingly. That means for every Euro we pay to people in the “Blue Zone” we only pay 70 Cent in the “Green Zone” and 20 Cent in the “Yellow Zone”

That way we would be able to heavily discount services in the low income countries, but also only pay the low income.

Macroeconomic Development

The downside of the above is obviously that those countries would theoretically never pick up. However if we help to grow then that growth would feed also the increase in income and that is how most healthy economies grew over all.

Education

The only area where this model is not working too well is when education from Blue zone countries need to be made in yellow zone countries. There is nothing to discount and therefor an uneven play – but that must be considered an investment and maybe one that can be sponsored by the yellow country governments?

Love to get your thoughts

How the alternative growth model works

Small and medium size businesses with more than 25 Employees have an enormous opportunity to expand across Europe. There are probably more high quality product producers in Europe than anywhere else in the world. We aim to help be known in a world that is more and more entering their markets and competing with them.

Business expansion was risky and very expensive.

Business owners who left “the old world” as Europe is often times called know and learned how to compete on a global scale. I am one of them. While that experience is certainly helpful it is actually not what it takes to make a big move. Modern technology, a hyper connected business world, experience with globalization and modern marketing techniques – all together – allow to make a significant change, drastically reduce expansion cost and decrease the potential failure rate. Continue reading “How the alternative growth model works”

Privacy Problem Social Media

Privacy is a big challenge when it comes to Social Media. The privacy policies seem to be difficult and actually not helping a lot to protect the privacy of the individual participants in those networks. In particular those who just now get on the band wagon of social networking often times hear about privacy issues of Facebook or Google and other platforms.

 

5 concepts to eradicate privacy issues Continue reading “Privacy Problem Social Media”

Global 500 insights

Things go well in Europe.

The fastest growing business in the world: Baden Wuertembergische Landesbank. The bank in Stuttgart in southern Germany jumped from position 128 straight to no.1 in the Global 500. And right after an Arabian and a Chinese company Spanish Construction company ACS is the No.4 in the world and the fastest growing construction business world wide!!! International Airline Group in the UK, a newcomer to the global 500, is the fastest growing Airline business in the world and No.7 in the Global 500 growth leaders. OMV Austria is one of the fastest growing gas station businesses and No.19 in the Global 500 growth list! On the global 500 list of most profitable companies, Dutch Shell made it to No.4 and to No.1 in the Global 500 biggest Companies!!! VW boost profits to staggering $21 Billion and makes it the most profitable automobile manufacturer in the world and No. 13 in the most profitable businesses of all.

Both, the biggest and the fastest growing business in the world are from Europe. Congratulations Europe.

Now – not all is that well. Over 50% of the “exits” – meaning companies that were kicked out of the top 500 – were European companies. One reason is that Chinese companies move fast into the top 500 and only 7% of the newcomer are from Europe. In other words European businesses need to prepare themselves better than ever to keep up with global competition.

The DSEU will keep providing global and European business updates from a Pan European perspective. Flexing the European strength is one of the many tasks we see ahead of us.

What the 1% successful sales people do differently

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Sales is undergoing the most massive changes since many decades. Compare it to the change from Hawkers tray to selling in tie and suit. Or the transition from horse drawn carriages to taxis. Yet 90% of the experienced sales people will deny that change.

Here is a process we introduced about 2 years ago with good success after lots of learning:

Social Selling as a process one can learn

1) Identify the companies you are going after.
2) Then look up the company in LinkedIn and find employees that may be relevant or influential to what you want to do.
3) Consider other business networks depending on the country (Xing in central Europe, RenRen in China…) .
4) Find other presences of the people you want to build relationships with in Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, FourSquare…
5) Follow them on Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest (do not even try to connect at this point).
6) Visit their profiles as they may track visitors, try to join groups they are active in.
7) Think as if they may be a potential friend for sharing some hobbies.
8) IMPORTANT focus entirely on the personal side or whatever challenges they expose. Know what is on top of their mind.
9) Once you know them, start being helpful. Completely forget that you want to do business, forget about the pressure to sell and so forth. Keep in mind nobody want to be sold. RT their content, like their posts, but be honest and not linking stuff you don’t like or have no clue what they are talking about. Make helpful comments or make meaningful introductions.
10) After two weeks see if you have a relationship :) You will have a dialog with more then 50% of the contacts if you DO NOT sell AT ALL (compared to a 1% success rate on cold calling).

11) From here on everything else is a piece of cake: You know everything about the person, and they know everything about you if you are open and if they are interested. You even know if they are in the market – way before your competition goes through the old pattern of “Budget, project, authority blah blah blah”. Most importantly: The prospect will initiate the business conversation with YOU instead of you selling to THEM (which is the beginning of the end in 82% of sales engagements across industries and markets).

12) The entire negotiation process which is not only about terms and numbers, but an important way to get to know each other is now significantly shorter which improves the sales efficiency quite nicely. More so forecast accuracy grows and deal stability is entirely different – I’m sure you know many of those deals where you think the buyer is a friend of your competitor, you still don’t know exactly and so forth. Now you are a friend in every single deal.

NOTE: While it is still a process, it is far less mechanical than the traditional cold call or sales initiation process. “Social Selling” is way more human and it can be learn in a similar spirit as we learn to make friends of find a partner in life 

Seven Skills that you will develop over time

1) Digital body language (It’s like your first introduction to physical body language)
2) Network Time Management (how many, how much, how often, when, where…)
3) NCP handling (Network – Contribution – Participation) How big should your network be, what contribution to the network works best, how do you measure network success?
4) You will develop skills to significantly grow your network WITHOUT scarifying relationship strength or depth
5) You will get more face to face meetings then ever before but less with the same person
6) You will develop more people skills than can be explained in this one post
7) You will develop networking skills and senses that you only develop when you are “in”

 

What is so successful on that process?

Emotionally it feels much better but economically you may wonder: a very successful cold caller can do over 100 calls a day with immediate response, while our social sales person will take two weeks to get to a relationship. But after two weeks the actual result summary looks very different:

Traditional sales:
100 cold calls a day, 2 successes equates to 20 successes in two weeks

Social Sales:
300 touches a day, every other day = 600 people in two weeks
50% response rate = 300 people and 20% success rate out of that = 60 successes

BUT: There is no free lunch! Implementing this process is not easy

 

Why is it so difficult to implement?

Even though it may look very natural and obvious to many, it is very difficult to implement in a business with traditional sales processes. The number of business who can’t implement this outnumber those who can:

1) You can’t mix and match hard core selling with social selling. It’s almost like allowing to preach Buddhism in the Vatican. Obviously a single cold call would blow the the process in a second.

2)  The larger part of a sales organization, in particular the more experienced sales people will have a hard time to adopt this new technique. It took them years to practice and perfect their sales techniques to eventually master it. Almost starting from scratch is an astronomic burden – unless they understand how fast they actually can adopt and realize that the past experience is actually very helpful in the adoption process and getting them back to a “master” in a year, while junior sales people may still learn 3 to 5 years to get even near that level.

3) Most of the times it requires to change KPIs and how the sales team is compensated, even redefine what is success etc. Many highly experienced sales executives won’t take that risk.

The social selling technique remains to be an option only for the most agile companies on the planet. From a macro economic point of view it maybe actually a good situation as it helps small companies to outperform large organizations. And that in turn provides the much needed growth of mid market businesses.

If you want to know more about it in greater details, feel free to ping me any time. In the next few weeks I will turn this into a white paper with much more details.

Here is my social presence:
http://xeeMe.com/AxelS

 

Thousands Of Social Media Agencies/Managers At Risk

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I recently wrote a post “Over 70% of Social Media initiatives FAIL“. I received more personal responses on that one post than on all posts I wrote in the past 5 years together. It inspired my to write this response to the overarching question: “What shall we do“.

No project success – No Reference

The consequence of failing projects – beyond the fact that it failed: here goes a potential reference customer.
Agencies have to come to a bitter realization:

Taking a print brochure to the web was an important transition
Taking a webpage and share it with friends is meaningless

Tens of thousands of agencies and social media consultants struggle to run their business. The social web is just NOT what so many people think: “just yet another marketing channel”.

10 things successful agencies do differently

Successful teams think entirely different and help their business clients to think through the entire chain of implications of a social engagement rather than just selling followers, fans and a page. And this is no different whether it is a 25 people small business company or a 25,000 employee global enterprise.

1) Understanding the opportunity

The biggest opportunity for any business is to grow the number of recommendations. Depending on the research, between 50% and 80% of all educated purchased decisions are based on recommendations. Taping into that potential is the best a business can do.

2) Ability to coach and guide

Now – in order to be recommended, the company need to develop a good relationship with their customers. And outsourcing that relationshp building process is not only a bad idea it is actually *counterproductive* to the overarching objective of becoming more recommended. A good agency or consultant knows that and can coach the client to build large sustainable networks with strong relationships.

3) Strategic thinking

It isn’t enough to be just nice. That cost too much time and often time has no impact on the bottom line AND is no real help for the customer. Businesses need to develop a sound plan and need to know what customers actually want, what they love and what they get frustrated with. A superficial analysis again is a killer. The findings determine the strategy and if they are not a true reflection of the market – the strategy will be equally superficial. This is no rocket science – because there are robust models to do that and successful agencies just use those techniques.

4) Compelling Engagement

Customers want to be compelled, we need to excite them and engage them in a way its fun and worth spending time. Plus – and most importantly – it need to be of value to the customer too. Successful agencies work equally close with their clients customers to know what they want and understand what values they need. The outcome are compelling engagements that are fun for the team and their clients.

5) Social Media Monitoring

Businesses want new customers and need to ensure that existing customers are happy – so happy that they help new customers make a decision and help them understand advantages and disadvantages of a product or service. The top agencies understand the power of professional social media monitoring tools and how they help businesses actually “manage” to navigate a whole team through the engagement.

6) Amplification Strategies

Smart agencies know how to build amplification strategies on top of the social media engagement to stimulate conversations and buzz. Understanding the true anatomy of buzz is a key knowledge of a well oild agency or consulting organization.

7) Timely Execution

A highly successful agency or consulting organization knows about all the permutation of the social web and focuses on a methodical execution of a project to ensure fast delivery with out any trial and error. Methods simply help teams to stay on course and show customers a professional execution path.

8) Organization Alignment

Nothing is more frustrating than a shiny front and a dirty back operation. Helping businesses to streamline their back end based on customer needs is a huge challenge but also the biggest opportunity for extraordinary success. Customer recommend businesses if they are happy with how they can do business with a company. If a company fails to provide that support, a recommendation will not happen and all the Social Media engagement is worthless. Top agencies and consultants know how to help a company to amke necessary adjustments without putting an organization upside down.

9) Developing Manageable Plans

We all know, if we can measure something we can improve it. A social media engagement is no different. Manageable plans and procedures are important – despite the fact that everything is much more fluent and we want to let go on many of the stiff procedures. But without any guidance, milestones, objectives no social media project will be successful. Top agencies know what to do here.

10) Knowing the impact on the bottom line

In the end very successful agencies and consultants are able to help a client understand the revenue opportunity and the impact on the bottom line for a business. If more and more customers begin to publicly recommend a business, the revenue grows even without additional sales people. If more and more customers get empowered and motivated to help others, the support cost goes down while ties to a brand get actually stronger. If more and more recommendations from the market are getting realized in new product generations the risks for product flops get dramatically reduced and advocates and fans help launch the new product.

 

Summary

All of the above is neither complicated nor requires an enormous amount of work. But it requires to understand the inner workings of a market, it is very helpful to have proven methods, models and frameworks to work with as an intelligent toolbox and it requires a few projects of practice – ideally in conjunction with people who have been through the drill before :). After going through the above list you will probably also realize why an agency is not necessarily “advertising” their successes but rather be recommended by their clients – the same way they suggest to the clients “get recommended”.

 

Axel

http://XeeMe.com/AxelS