Solutions in a Small World (Latin America): Sealed with a Kiss

Even in today’s Internet-dominated world, in-person business connections still make strong impressions. But face-to-face marketers must be aware of cultural disconnects, explains AMD’s Gerald Youngblood.

This is the fourth article in a four-part series that will examine examples from four key regions--EMEA, APAC, Greater China and the Americas--to demonstrate how solution providers can learn from business innovations worldwide and apply it to drive profitability.

In today’s hyper-connected world, it’s often easy to get so immersed in doing business online that any face-to-face marketing efforts are drowned in a sea of emails and phone calls. However, even in the Internet-dominated reality of today's business environment, a firm handshake (or un beso, in the case of Latin America) still resonates most loudly in a business deal.

I recently had the opportunity to truly understand the importance of backing up an online company presence with an in-person connection. However, face-to-face marketing is not without its own pitfalls. It involves more than surface interactions.

First impressions matter

My first meeting with some of our Latin America team members took place in the US. However, our initial meet and greet was accompanied by several awkward pauses.

I realized that the pause was a split-second adjustment from a traditional Latin American kiss on the cheek greeting (un beso) to a handshake, a typical American greeting. The moment was an example of a cultural disconnect in etiquette, a common situation in international business settings.

In this case, we transitioned to American norms, probably because I’d already offered my hand; there was no going back at that point. It made me realize, however, these cultural and social nuances can have a subtle but important impact on how you go about approaching cross-cultural face-to-face marketing.

The key lesson here is that you should always do your homework on how to best conduct yourself, especially in a place like Latin America where your personal connection to your customer sets the tone for the remainder of your interactions. This handy international etiquette app from Condé Nast Traveler can be a good starting point.

Beyond the greeting

Once we passed the initial greeting, striking the right tone with physical interaction during meetings, deals and casual conversation also became an important factor. In Latin America, more so than other regions, business relationships are expected to be handled similarly to social relationships, which I think partially explains why an in-person approach is so important.

AMD’s regional marketing teams in Latin America have done a good job of taking product and platform messages and physically presenting them to distribution partners and solution providers. The team leverages a variety of techniques to make direct connections with our audience, including floor days at distributors, AMD-sponsored summits, and installations at plazas where hundreds of resellers cater to do-it-yourself audiences.

A great example of an in-person connection was at the recent launch of a new brand in our Latin American channel. We supported this with 10 floor days with our top distributors, 10 system build events, and 20 partner summits that spanned 8 countries from Mexico to Argentina.

While events like these certainly take place in other markets, I continue to find that in-person marketing events tend to resonate strongly with Latin American customers and partners.

Breaking through the Clutter

The next question is how to make an impact at these in-person events. It’s not always easy to get face time at larger events, but one step in doing so is to leave a physical imprint wherever you go.

For example, we might approach 20 resellers with all of the point-of-sale materials and booth adornments to create a sea of AMD green or AMD red (graphics) in a section of plazas. Why the emphasis on AMD-branded material? In a previous article, I discussed the difference between low-context and high –context cultures. Latin America is classified as a high-context, more-image and symbol-aware culture, which means that presenting your brand via symbols has the potential to pack more of a punch. With a collection of AMD materials, we can make a powerful connection between our representatives and the brand even before a conversation is started.

Like all types of collateral, this content alone does not cement the marketing message, but it creates a strong first impression and opens the door to awareness and conversation on the show floor. Once we reach the audience in person, we then focus our energy on repeating the communications with customers via on-line activities and in on-going conversations.

For any market, it is important to leverage a strategic mix of communication tools and techniques to develop a dialog and ultimately loyalty with a customer base; however, in Latin America, I find it most effective to start the business relationship offline before transitioning to online.

SMBs: The Latin American Touch?

As I’ve alluded to earlier, in Latin America business is social and that in-person connection is crucial. However, the Latin American in-person business approach can be related back to segments of the US market. Typically it’s not uncommon for many small and medium-sized businesses to begin their sales with a one-to-one interaction that often kick starts a longer and more personal sales cycle – it comes down to adding a human touch.

Many companies feel most comfortable making a deal once they have established a personal connection with a vendor and their brand. Customers also feel more comfortable working with those who also make the effort to understand their business and culture.

Regardless of where in the world you are, first impressions matter. Whether online or off, they help set up an on-going dialog and to establish a strong business relationship. In Latin America in particular, it’s advantageous if you can make that first impression in-person rather than online, and even more advantageous if you can adapt to the other person’s cultural norms.

For my part, I have personally resolved to embrace the communication styles of customers and co-workers from other cultures. Now I greet my Latin American counterparts with a kiss instead of the awkward American handshake.

Gerald Youngblood is AMD Manager of Worldwide Component Channel Marketing. His articles are his own opinions and may not represent AMD’s positions, strategies or opinions. Links to third-party sites are provided for convenience and unless explicitly stated, AMD is not responsible for the contents of such linked sites and no endorsement is implied.

The AMD worldwide channel blog can be found here.

TAGS: marketing,AMD,channel,Gerald Youngblood,Latin America

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