German business culture is "a far cry" from that in the rest of the Western world. For instance, compared to the United States or United Kingdom, business communication in Germany is more formal. Germans may be offended if you address them by their first name when sending them an email or if you ignore their academic qualification (e.g., a German with Ph.D. expects to be called "Herr Doktor"). And there're more nuances you need to consider when trying to establish business with German clients. Here're some tips that may help you reach out to the German businesses more effectively. However, do note that we Germans are generally cautious and respond differently to the concept of sales methods and techniques you are used to in a non-German environment.
So, when you prepare a strategy to enter the German speaking market (that I'll further refer to as DACH), focus on the following key areas:
1. Branding and image
In order to achieve public acknowledgement in Germany make sure your messages and overall positioning fully match your website or blog content. Also, even though many Germans speak fluent English, we still prefer to get information in our native tongue, so a German website or blog will undoubtedly add value to your market winning strategy.
2. Information and education
Make sure you generate and deliver only original high-quality content for the German speaking audience. An article alone may not suffice, but a well thought over and structured white paper or industry report that link to credible sources may work well for German readers. We do like facts and figures, so this type of content is usually well appreciated by the readership in DACH.
We, Germans, are not as risk taking as other nations. We really need to be well educated about the issue at hand prior to making a business decision. So, if you want to sell nearshore development services, make sure you invest your time and efforts into educating the German business community about the concept of nearshoring and HOW it can actually benefit your target company. So, prior to moving to the DACH markets, prepare a strong infomercial package and make sure to include recent market studies, business environment and conditions, case studies, cultural aspects, etc. Remember - a good PR is always more important for Germans than blatant advertising. However, a decent mix of PR and infomercials will work even better. But never use aggressive advertising or sales pitch when you deal with German decision makers!
Also, a good way to educate your audience is to hold, sponsor or attend industry specific events such as conferences, trade shows, informal meet-ups and others. Some of the most important events on the DACH IT scene are:
- Shared Service Woche - the biggest annual conference for SSC and BPO that takes place each November in Berlin;
- CeBIT - the biggest IT trade show with a huge outsourcing division that is held each spring in Hannover;
- BITKOM Entscheiderforum Outsourcing, an annual IT event held in November in German only
Visit out Outsourcing Journal to get the most up-to-date information about the upcoming DACH events and forums.
Another very effective method of reaching out to the German speaking businesses is a webinar or a videocast in which you prove your company's expertise, showcase your portfolio and provide your audience with thought leadership.
3. Competitive environment
German IT market is highly competitive with service providers from all over the world trying to enter it every day. So mind it when preparing your collateral and make sure you create a unique value proposition to compete with your rivals for German clients.
Building links to industry associations, event organizers and local business networks can be a huge advantage when seeking direct contacts within your target groups on the DACH market. But entering them in order to list on your website is not enough! You really have to participate in the daily life of these communities, contribute web content, attend / present at the events and panel discussions in order to expand your personal and business networks and add "a human touch" to your communication with Germans.
And last but not least...
Even though price is an important marketing factor in Germany, quality always comes first! A German IT service buyer is unlikely to choose your company if you bid very low but do not sound persuasive with regards to quality delivery. So, never try to "buy" a German client with low prices. They really matter only in conjunction with strong client portfolio and proven expertise!
If you need more tips on how to create a marketing strategy for entering the DACH market, please read this article as well as Outsourcing Journal.