You probably toyed with the idea to make global expansion part of your company’s strategy. This starts with sound market research. At Globally Cool, we specialise in solid market intelligence and export marketing strategies for companies looking to expand their business globally. Both demand a tailored approach, but should you want to enter the European market, here are 5 general tips we can share with you right away.
1. Europe is divided a lot of ways
The continent of Europe consists of 44 countries – or 51 independent states. That’s the case for the continent, but the European Union is a whole other story. To those who aren’t familiar with this political and economic union of countries, the European Union was founded on the 1st of November 1993 by Germany, France, Italy, Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg. Over the last decades, the union has grown to a whopping total of 27 member states. Did you know that there even is such a thing as candidate states, states that are looking to join the EU? As of 2022, six countries are in the process of joining the EU.
It might come as a surprise, but not all countries in the European Union use the Euro – examples are Denmark’s Kroner or Poland’s Złoty. So, before recalculating all prices to euros, be sure to check out whether your target audience actually pays with euros. Fact: the monetary union of 19 member states that have adopted the euro is called the Eurozone.
Now, you probably think; that’s it, let’s move on to tip #2. Unfortunately, we have to disappoint you – there is plenty more you should know. Ever heard of the European Free Trade Association(EFTA) – between the EU, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland – and the European Economic Area (EEA) – the same parties, but without Switzerland? Basically, these agreements allow the involved states freedom of trade and free movement of goods, services, persons and capital without becoming a member of the European Union. Among most European countries, there actually is no border control or travel restriction. The states – 22 of the EU member states plus the 4 EFTA countries – that are part of this agreement are called Schengen countries.
2. Language is kind of a thing
Even though Europeans are known for their language skills, not everyone speaks English. Approximately 50% of Europeans speak English at least well enough to hold a basic conversation – though, this percentage is higher among working people. However, it’s not the same across Europe as a whole. For instance, 87% of Dutch people speak English at a university level, while that level can only be claimed by 17% of people in France.
Since 2004, there’s an EU initiative to make sure all Europeans speak two other languages than their mother tongue(s). Language learning is not only encouraged in schools – but also in adult life. This is called life-long language learning; however, in general, the acceptance of English varies by country, industry and type of customer. Note that automatic translation services on the internet do not work well enough to pass as professional English, so consider investing in professional translation. Tip: always pick a native-speaking translator who lives in the area of your target audience.
3. Varying public holidays
Public holidays and personal holidays are very important in Europe. They also differ per country. In Belgium, for instance, there is a holiday called bouwverlof (construction leave). For three weeks in the summer, all (construction) companies are closed so their staff can go on holiday. During that time, business is at a complete stand-still.
In general, summer is a slow season for new business and so is Christmas. It’s wise to inform yourself regarding the public holidays of your target market. You can find public holidays per country on the internet – Public Holidays Europe is a good example.
4. To call or not to call
European countries have a lot of EU-wide restrictions already – such as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which leads to restrictions in approaching potential customers. It is important to find out what this means for your company.
On the other hand, the countries themselves also often have their own restrictions. Some European countries, like Germany, have introduced strict national legislation to restrict cold calling – the practice in which salespeople call potential customers they’ve never been in contact with before – imposing hefty fines for anyone who violates those laws. In many European countries, consumers and companies can opt-out by registering with a do-not-call (Robinson) list. This means companies cannot contact them by phone, fax or SMS for direct marketing purposes.
5. Business culture and online presence
Get a pulse for the business culture of your prospects. In Europe, a soft approach is required when approaching potential clients. Overly aggressive sales tactics usually do not work. The best approach is face-to-face, but all marketing and sales activities must be supported by a professional website and social media profiles.
Need help entering the European market?We are here to help you find untapped potential and create a sound export marketing strategy. With our team of market researchers, international trade consultants and content marketers, we have helped over 3,000 businesses grow internationally.
Don’t change your culture or convince others to change theirs. Instead, find common ground in understanding each other by respecting and embracing cultural differences. In general, good partnerships require a lot of effort, permanent evaluations, feedback and an open mind.
Creating a winning strategy
A number of differences between European countries exist. This is why you must choose your target markets (and countries) wisely based on thorough market research. We can help you identify target countries with the most potential for your company and create a winning market export strategy. Contact us or check out our market intelligence and strategy development solutions.