Hotel Online  Special Report

Global Marketing: Does One Size Fit All?

by Brenda Fields, December 15, 2008

The advancement of technology has made the world a smaller place. Movies, television, and the Internet have created a world which has fostered a better understanding of and access to different cultures. Teenagers in remote areas of the world dress and speak like teenagers in the most urban areas of the world based on their journeys thru the Internet. And a rural homemaker has access to shopping at Saks Fifth Avenue in New York City just by logging onto the Internet. 

But, does this familiarity and exposure lessen cultural characteristics or nuances? Is it correct to assume that this familiarity creates instant purchases of your product? And does this also ensure that your product will be selected over your competition in these markets? This article will address key components to consider when planning and implementing global marketing campaigns or initiatives or in just reaching specific international markets.  Understanding the key elements of marketing combined with a campaign that is tailored to an in-depth understanding of the targeted markets will guarantee the most effective return on investment. Whether you are McDonalds, The Gap, or a small bed and breakfast on Cape Cod, Massachusetts, there are basic tools to apply and areas to address to ensure that you capture the desired international business.

Web Site:
Without doubt, the Internet has changed the way we connect with people, conduct research, and buy products. The Internet has leveled the playing field, allowing a small, independent property to compete with its local global brand counterpart. Your web site, properly designed and optimized, is the most cost effective component in reaching international markets.

So, after identifying your targeted international markets, have your web site translated into those languages. At the same time, consider paid search advertising and local language banner ads in those identified international markets. Look into the most popular local search engines. For example, in China, the otherwise prolific search engine, Google, ranks well below the most popular (and inexpensive) search engine, Baidu. So it will be worthwhile to research those targeted markets to determine the most cost effective way to reach them thru search engines, paid search, and local banner ads.

Language and Currency: 
Language is powerful. In a remote African tribe, words for “sadness, worry, and disappointment” do not exist, and as a result, that culture has a group of happy and optimistic people. And in another culture, there is no feminine word for a business executive. As a result, there are very few women executives. So continuing with the concept that language is powerful, if you had to choose between two similar products, one in your language and one in another language, which one would you choose? With the exception of choosing Carla Bruni’s CD or a George Clooney movie in any language, it is probably safe to assume that one would choose the product in his own native language, since you know what you are getting. To add to that, it is important to have the correct translation to ensure that your message reaches the target audience and compels them to buy your product. Have you seen English from America that has been translated from another language? A technically correct translation will not always reflect the local flavor and tone of the desired message. The reverse is certainly true when English is translated into other languages. So it will be very beneficial to have the translations represent the local style in order to truly appeal to those potential customers.  Rather than hiring a basic translation service, it is important to ensure that those local nuances are communicated into the translated language.

In addition, how many of us will buy a product without knowing the price? So why would we expect a foreign customer to book our hotel when we ask then to figure out on their own, the currency conversion? You can increase your reservation conversation rate when the potential customer has immediate access to the cost of the room in his or her own currency. Once they leave your site to get information, it is unlikely that they will return. 

Localization is the key to global marketing, or reaching international audiences. As Americans, we are a diverse group with different experiences, interests, climates, and hot buttons. An effective marketing message for a New York City audience will be different than a message to an audience in San Diego, California. Certainly, the same is true for many other international locations, especially from the emerging markets of Brazil, Russia, India, and China where there are numerous dialects and cultural differences within one country. Therefore, it will be effective to narrow the targeted markets to specific regions or cities and base communications in that language, incorporating that specific culture. A “one size fits all” marketing plan or web site optimization will not result in the best return on investment. Greater efficiency will come from specific messages tailored to a specific audience. 

Having your web site translated into the desired languages, with specific translations, and placed on the local popular search engines, is the beginning to tap into those targeted international markets. The final step is to ensure that the customer can book your property easily and with confidence. Not all countries or regions have established on-line buying habits. So for those markets, you may want to have a toll-free local phone number to handle the bookings and placed on the web site. For those markets which are comfortable booking online, ensure that the credit card payments that you accept include those credit cards used by the international customers. An added plus is to have the reservations page translated into the other languages, with an automatic confirmation back to the customer in that language, as well.

“One size fits all” may work when buying some tee-shirts, but not necessarily when cost effectively penetrating key international markets. With a few basic, but critical, components in place, owners and mangers are in a great position to compete, cost effectively, for international business and to lay the foundation for future growth.

About the Author:
In her more than 27 years as a marketing and sales pro in the hospitality industry, Brenda Fields has emerged as the "go to" consultant for independent and/or privately owned hotels and resorts seeking real-world solutions for today's market challenges. 

From small boutique hotels to large convention properties, Brenda has created and implemented highly successful Strategic Plans that enable owners to achieve target results despite market conditions. With extensive expertise in pre-openings and repositionings Brenda was responsible for the successful opening and stabilization of the Paramount Hotel in New York, one of the first boutique hotels. 

With a "who's who" roster of clients, Brenda has worked with a number of industry leaders and real estate investment companies including Starwood Lodging Corporation, Planet Hollywood, Choice Hotels International, and Olympus Real Estate Corporation, among others.

Brenda is a member of ISHC (International Society of Hospitality Consultants); currently President of the Hospitality Sales and Marketing Association International Greater New York Chapter of over 500 members; and was recently awarded "The Top 25 Most Extraordinary Minds in Sales and Marketing by HSMAI. She also received “The Best of the Best" award from HSMAI for the Awards and Recognition committee work. Brenda can be reached at: 518.789.0117/phone or,

Fields and Company
1011 Smithfield Road
Millerton, NY 12546
Phone: 518 789 0117
Fax: 518 789 0118


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