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The Fast Company Executive Board is a private, fee-based network of influential leaders, experts, executives, and entrepreneurs who share their insights with our audience.

What you need to know about launching a product in Europe

Some elements of business will apply regardless of where you are in the global market.

What you need to know about launching a product in Europe
[Hurca!/AdobeStock] [alphaspirit/AdobeStock]

For as much as modern professionals talk about international business, global trade isn’t really anything new. The World Economic Forum argues it goes back as far as the first century when people brought luxury goods to Rome from China along the Silk Road. The access people have to international markets is better today than ever, however, thanks to contemporary technology—and the rise of remote work is pouring even more fuel on the global fire.

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Some elements of business will apply regardless of where you are in the global market. Each region has its own quirks, however, and European markets are different than what you’ll find in the United States. If you want to launch a product successfully in Europe, you have to recognize these differences. You can’t jump into the launch blindly. You have to adjust your typical way of doing things and keep a few key points at the front of what you do.

1. EUROPE ISN’T SINGULAR

Business leaders in the United States have state regulations they have to follow, but they tend to think of the 50 states as one big unit. They can set up anywhere in the country with offices potentially hundreds of miles apart and operate without major language or regulatory concerns.

This doesn’t work in Europe. Each country is an individual market with different rules and requirements. Language barriers can create problems, too. People speak French, German, Italian, Russian, and English most in practice, but the continent has 24 official languages and people speak more than 200 in total (and that doesn’t count different dialects).

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The regulatory and language differences mean you have to see each country in Europe as its own individual market. Learn what makes each country unique and important while capitalizing on the elements that set the markets apart.

2. PRIORITIES ARE DIFFERENT

American professionals tend to prioritize the immediate customer relationship. Remember the famous movie line “always be closing.” This tends to place a sense of urgency on a relationship to get the business done and then solidify the partnership. European professionals, however, tend to care more about forming the partnership before discussing doing business together. They look at business ties with more of a long-term mindset. Staying aware of these views can help you not only grow your business but also solidify relationships for the long-term.

3. YOU’LL NEED MULTIPLE PLANS

With so many languages and rules in play in Europe, you need to adjust your plan for every country you’re launching in. When my organization launched new products in Europe, for instance, every stock exchange where the funds were listed had its own approach to what it offered us, such as press releases or social media postings. Be prepared to translate everything along the way and leave extra room in your budget for those services.

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4. ADVERTISING ISN’T THE SAME

Americans are used to having multiple marketing breaks when we’re watching TV or even when streaming online. We’re used to seeing ads at every timeout or quarter for sports games. Europeans take more of a blocked approach. They don’t like being interrupted all the time and want to select when you advertise to them. Instead of breaking every 10 or 15 minutes, they use one longer break in the middle of the program or sports game. You’ll see this in American football versus European football. This preference makes a big difference in how you structure your advertising in terms of length and flow.

USE THIS KNOWLEDGE TO YOUR ADVANTAGE

Launching products in Europe is different than it is in the United States. There’s much more fine-tuning based on individual regions and you have to be more aware of regulations and language. Advertising has a different structure, too, and priorities can be out of sync.

Perhaps the most critical thing to remember, though, is that relationships take time. Don’t expect instant access. Instead, accept that you’ll have to earn trust gradually and put in the extra effort. Be patient enough to get to know each country and its markets. Then adjust your normal strategy according to what you’ve learned for a successful launch.

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David Partain is SVP of Northern Trust and CMO of their subsidiary, FlexShares Exchange Traded Funds.

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