5 things you should know about sales and marketing in Europe

Expanding your sales and marketing into Europe may be a strategic move you are giving consideration to at this time. What should you know ahead of any move, about sales and marketing in Europe? 

Despite the fact that the European Union is homogenized — one set of rules for all 27 countries — it’s vital to also remember that Europe is a continent with almost double that number of countries speaking more than 20 languages. Europe is simply not a homogenous market when it comes to sales and marketing.

Pan-European marketing views Europe as a distinct geographic segment to be treated in one uniform way within Europe, but different from other global regions. That would appear to be more myth than reality, and any company would need to reassess their European marketing strategies and adapt their operations and programs accordingly before embarking on any sales and marketing venture into Europe.

If you’re planning to do business in Europe, whether you’re coming for the first time from the U.S. or are already based in Europe and want to branch into another country apart from your own, you need to respect local laws, culture, and languages. Read on to know more about five things you should know about sales and marketing in Europe allowing you to plan perfectly and avoid any prospective pitfalls.

Define your target market and its location

Clear communication is key, and you may adopt different practices in order to create and maintain effective business strategies. Start by knowing who your products will appeal to in your target countries, and the best way to market that audience most efficiently. Define your target market and your ideal target profile. 

Top sellers use top sales intelligence tools. Which are best for contact with customers, depending on the location? Certainly you will be expected to deal with leads, sales and customer service in a different culture and setup than you are used to dealing with at home. 

LinkedIn is unsurprisingly strong in most countries but there are clear exceptions. In German-speaking countries, Xing stays in first place among professional networks, in French-speaking countries globally, Viadeo is the most popular — although these are professional networking trends and open to change. Poland is home to the most competitive IT sector in Eastern Europe, and its platform of choice is GoldenLine. WhatsApp is a popular way to move a sales process along in Spain. Facebook retargeting has a huge ROI pretty much everywhere. The point is to go where your tech prospects are most comfortable, where their guard is down. 

Adherence to the General Data Protection Regulation  (GDPR) is strict but also creates a secure environment for your organization’s sales and marketing in Europe. Rather than seeing rule changes as an obstacle to overcome, look on it as a solution to create better, more proactive and more secure business practices. Although GDPR was drafted and passed by the European Union — which included the UK at the time — it imposes obligations onto organizations anywhere, so long as they target or collect data related to people in the EU. That means if you are calling into or even have your website viewable in those 28 countries, you need to be compliant. Unsure? You can hire a GDPR-compliant European lead generation company to save you bad face and fines.

Financial stability and how far you can stretch your budget

How financially stable are both you and the country you have chosen to sell your products to? So you have a debt-to-equity ratio measured and you know you have a good growth revenue, with flat expenses and profit including new customers and repeat orders. All good, but it might take up to a year to see your first deals in your new market, so you will also have to factor sufficient budget for that.

It’s also worth investigating the financial stability of the European country you have chosen to expand your business to and the general EU market for sustainable investment. Trusted, local partners should tell it to you straight, and let you know if your product has a chance in your target vertical at this time.

The recent pandemic caused severe economic disruptions. Lockdowns and other measures to contain the outbreak have sent an unparalleled shock through EU economies that also tested financial stability and integration. The effects of the crisis are still unfolding and some countries are more affected than others.However, per CBI, among others industry analysts, the EU is still a booming marketplace for IT offering good opportunities and there’s a lot of successful business still to be done with European buyers.

There’s an expanding ecosystem of partners offering an ever-widening array of products and services. According to BCG, European marketers require the ability to quickly anchor this ecosystem, as they illustrate confidence to consumers in the recovery process, post-pandemic. 

Again, local partners are key here because borders and travel restrictions are fluctuating, and you don’t want to miss the opportunity of European expansion just because you missed your flight.

Trends, working models and multi-channels

Whichever social media or communication platform is the right fit for your European expansion, you’ll be required to develop a distributed and international sales team in order to use it to sell abroad.

Be aware of changing trends and statistics. Germany, for example, leads the way in direct selling retail sales, in fact, more than three times greater than France, the second-largest European market. It’s the powerhouse for SaaS companies, according to the ecommerce Germany blog. One of the top company names on their list is JustWatch, an online streaming search engine that has expanded into 28 countries besides Germany. The top telecommunications company in Germany is Deutsche Telekom, and is also the third largest in the world by total revenue. Staying with Germany, post-Brexit Berlin is a vibrant start-up hub. Your location will depend on your vertical, your specific niche, and demand. With regards to the banking sector, Neobanks (Fintech) are particularly attractive to start-ups and online businesses, as they are fully digital and accessible by app. The English market is the largest — think Revolut — launched in 2015. Then comes France, Spain and Germany and Poland tie in after that. N26 is the veteran neobank, headquartered in Berlin and founded in 2013.Germany, the Netherlands and France dominate Europe’s retail scene according to The Balance Small Business.

According to Linkedin, the top trend shaping sales in Europe is the ability to establish trust when closing deals. Of the markets they reviewed, well over half of all sellers place trust as one of the most important factors, including 59% in Germany, and 58% in France. The ability to form a human connection with buyers remains vital across the region. You need to find the dream team to achieve this and the best working model. This trust can usually only be built in the local language and with the local culture and mindset.

It’s perhaps a good idea to embrace the hybrid working model which is a mix of remote working and meeting in-person maybe a few days a week or a few times a month for bursts of creativity and collaboration, all easily outsourced for your local European lead generation and sales teams. Additionally, this is a good solution to avoiding often stringent European employment laws, especially before you know if you’ll find success and growth in a new market.

Today’s consumers expect to be able to make a purchase anytime and anywhere.You will need to consider combining your online and offline channels, allowing your website,  on-the-ground sales representatives, and office-based sales and marketing employees, to work seamlessly on a shared, localized message. In turn, this offers your customers a boundary-free buying experience — and a unified message when they inevitably google you in their own language. It all starts with a successful European lead generation strategy, the essential first step in cultivating consumer interest in your product or service in a new market or vertical so that your product gets in front of qualified buyers faster. 

Your route to market in Europe

 While there is no right or wrong way to approach this, it’s important to plan and know your route to market in Europe. Once you have a feeling for where and how quickly you want to expand, you can start considering the different routes to market. 

It’s a good idea to connect with local partners that know the culture and have the contacts already in place, instantly identifying the talent you require in Europe, making for simpler . There’s an ever-expanding ecosystem of partners offering an ever-widening array of products and services. Post-pandemic recovery will demonstrate the capacity and talent of European marketers, as they move quickly to illustrate confidence to consumers in these uncertain times. There are advantages to quickly hiring team members in a new country without the legal, tax and HR burdens, and without setting up your own entity or subsidiary. Most importantly, partners like Sales Force Europe can increase your speed to market and lower your risk.

Drive around the barriers

There will always be an issue with the language barrier. Most Europeans, especially in cities, are fluent in English but you shouldn’t assume that they prefer to be addressed in English, or communicate professionally in English. 

There are a couple of ways around this. Using an outsourced sales and marketing team of local employees is one way. You will be working with native marketers and content writers for each language you wish to promote your product to. Visual content in marketing is another, and also helps to get over the seemingly latest trend of lack of concentration for the written word while still being creative and up to the minute! Additionally, be aware of different areas of a country and their co-official languages, like in Spain — you’ll be more successful selling in Catalan in Barcelona. Aim specific marketing campaigns in local languages, local branding.

The best strategy for efficient and successful sales and marketing in Europe is to tailor the needs to the requirements. Know your customer. Adapt your product and sales and marketing content to your specific target market in their specific countries. The better your research, the higher the likelihood of success on your road to Europe.

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