German Market Can Be Tricky. Try Anyway.
February 12, 2009 | By Peter Bihr |
Recently I’ve noticed a lot more inquiries coming in from agencies abroad, mostly the U.S. or UK.
Two Three things I found noteworthy there.
1) There’s more and more agencies specializing on Social Media. Over are the days where one ad agency covers all web needs. The agencies are going niche, which is mostly a good thing, I think. There might be a consolidation at some point in the future, but for the time being we’re (hopefully) going to see some more specialized agencies, or at least dedicated units.
2) Some feedback I’ve been getting is that said agencies get in touch also because of the simple fact that I blog in English, i.e. I’m accessible. I never expected to be such an important factor, but it is. The German internet scene (or rather, the whole country, to some degree) operates mostly in German. Not too odd, obviously, but still something to keep in mind when entering the market.
3) Interest in the German online market is increasing. It seems like there’s a strong trend, but that may be my skewed perception. The problem for particularly American companies and agencies: Europe is perceived overseas as one market, but within Europe it’s perceived as a large cluster of individual markets. (European countries do operate within a certain European framework, but culturally and most of all language-wise every country needs to be addressed separately. I know that at least Nicole Simon will agree with me on this one.)
It’s the last point that leads to some trouble – the German online market, particularly the blogosphere, can be a bit tricky at times. There’s no way you can just waltz in an push your content at bloggers and get away with it. You need to invest time and effort to build connections to bloggers. (Same should be obvious for bloggers world-wide, obviously. But trust me, Germany can be particularly tricky, and I know a number of you have made similar experiences here.)
Yesterday I emailed a few times with Monique Elwell over at U.S.-based Social Media agency Conversify, who seem to get it right. There’s a few brief thoughts I shared with Monique that I’d like to share with all agencies and companies thinking about tackling Germany, copied & pasted straight from my email:
- The German blogosphere is oddly under-developed compared to the U.S. and France (which has an extremely rich blogosphere), with sometimes strong anti-commercial notions, but it’s changing rapidly, with more semi-pro/event/corporate blogs popping up quickly.
- Pricing structure for consultants etc is similar to the U.S.
- The German blogosphere is, language-wise, very German-centric. Not too many bloggers blog in English, but a good deal understands/speaks English. It won’t be a problem to find folks whose English is good enough to do everything you need.
- Technical infrastructure for event bloggers (wifi, 3G and all) is ubiquitous and very well developed (equally or better than in the U.S., minus the Bay Area)
Of course that’s not to say that you shouldn’t touch the German market. Quite the contrary! Just do it right. Take the necessary time (I know it’s hard, working on a tough deadline), and build lasting relationships. Get someone on the ground to cooperate, and give them the freedom and autonomy to adapt your client’s message to fit the community. Don’t assume that you can jump a cultural gap without any friction. I’m sure you preach the same thing to your clients for your home markets.