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Oct 22 2012

Podcast – Deploying Education Programs from US to Europe

This article comes to us from MCI Brussels where they have been working with US clients in recent years to collect local market intelligence and  customer data to help clients build more locally relevant go to market strategies for their training, education and meeting product portfolios.  Geraldine Damar shares her thoughts on lessons learned for US associations in Europe. 

US associations generally face a diversity of challenges when bringing their education programmes to the old continent. Indeed, Europe is an extremely competitive market and it does take some time and effort to successfully penetrate that new territory.

Basic things can challenge US organisations in organising programmes in Europe – online trainings scheduled without taking time difference into account for example is a common mistake. Similarly, organisations organising a live programme in Europe would want to avoid local public holidays to ensure maximal attendance. But there is much more to it.

Obviously, language is another obstacle that US organisations may overlook when launching new products or services into the European market. US English and European English are different things, with main differences in the spelling and in the tone – even also in the vocabulary, which can challenge the understanding of a European audience.

Marketing channels to promote are similar to what an organization would use in the US, but these will be utilised differently.

  • Email blasts are inexpensive and impactful, but they will need to be prepared with special attention, as the messaging really needs to avoid giving the impression that the programme and promotional piece was copy pasted to Europe. It is tempting to use the same email blast templates and content, but this really needs to be avoided at all costs.
  •  Printed brochures sent by postal mailing seem to make a bigger impact seeing as more and more organisations use electronic communications nearly exclusively, making it often usual to receive brochures by post. Their look, feel and content should be specifically targeted for European customers, again in order to avoid that copy-paste feeling.
  • Social media cannot really be avoided nowadays. It should however not be used as a raw promotion tool, but rather as a soft way of positioning the organisations as an education provider by sharing some specific content to the audience and ideally prompting interaction.
  • Partnering with carefully selected established local related organisations can work wonders: it can enhance the US organisation’s credibility, demonstrate the local relevance of that organisation and its programme and broaden the organisation’s outreach.

Additionally, database segmentation is crucial; the more specific you can be in your promotion message, the better. Segmentation can be done per industry sector, by product or by country, recognising that there is no such thing as ‘United States of Europe’.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Generally speaking, to try and ensure the successful launch of educational products or services in Europe, US organisations would before anything else want to undertake some research and acquire some in-depth knowledge of the region they want to launch an initiative into. A broad market scanning will be instrumental to identify high potential countries and cities, to find potential partners and to assess the needs/expectations of potential customers. If the US organisation has any members or ‘champions’ in Europe, their recommendations should also be taken into due consideration.

[important]Watch the latest podcast interview with Geraldine Damar as she discusses in more depth the keys to deploying education in Europe. [/important]

The organisation’s customer/member database also is a powerful instrument that will be used in the research, to analyse the background of the organisation’s community, translate it into opportunities and then draw the relevant conclusions as to which sector and region should be targeted to ensure success.

In parallel, that piece of research will also be an interesting exercise to measure the US organisation’s brand perception and assess what the reaction of the market could be – in many cases, a brand building exercise would be desirable before actually launching an educational programme to Europe.

Lastly, US organisations should be aware that bringing any service or product to Europe has some important legal and financial implications (eg VAT) that are sometimes wrongly minimised. Ignoring or mismanaging those requirements can have heavy consequences – both legal and financial – for non-compliant organisations.

Besides, making business and engaging into negotiations with suppliers, such as event venues or technical providers, can also prove challenging due to different business habits and codes.

To summarize, it is crucial to avoid copy-pasting whatever the organisation is doing in the US, and this principle applies to all steps that need taking when launching a new initiative to Europe, ie marketing, promotion and delivery.

Do Don’t
Develop localized and data based marketing plan Take European customers’ expectations for granted
Undertake both quantitative and qualitative research Adopt a ‘rest of the world’ approach
Ensure strong positioning of your brand Hard sell your product and services
Collect insight from local community (voice of the customer) Compete with local organisations
Ensure compliance to European regulations (VAT) Stick to US business culture
Build content based social media presence

By Geraldine Damar, Client Manager at MCI Brussels

 

 

 

 

About the author

Peter Turner

As MCI's Senior Advisor, Global Development Strategy, I help associations build and execute global growth strategies. Over the past 30 years I have served three associations (ASAE, MPI and IEEE Computer Society) as a leader of business, product and partnership development.

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