Digital marketing may be perceived as a natural progression of evolution of traditional marketing. It is being developed together with a constant progress and establishment of electronic devices, software and of course the Internet that allows marketers expansion with new possibilities in both digital and undigital world. Internet marketing has been created by people to connect people, especially when it comes to affiliate marketing and networks. All of these terms means that real community working behind marketing related processes is truly dedicated towards predefined goals. And all of them need a proper communication to exist and collaborate.
Working as affiliate or account manager is actually based on maintaining business relationships with partners and preserving value of appropriate, stable communication. If you have ever worked with another person, you certainly experienced miscommunication. Have you ever tried to understand where the misunderstandings come from? There are many factors that can make our communication far from smooth and perfect: language, attitude, perspectives, basic knowledge, beliefs, values, social status and environment. When we combine all of these elements together we will receive scientific definition of : “culture”. So, what culture has to do with business? Our cultural background can be more or less visible even in business situations and it can create something that we call cultural barriers. Our main goal is to overcome them, and it is not as hard as it may sounds.
How to communicate with somebody who has a different cultural background?
To answer this question, we need to understand what exactly intercultural communication is and how it is applied to the business world. Intercultural (or cross-cultural) communication is an exchange of information between individuals who are different culturally. Of course, many cultures have similar cultural characteristics that makes understanding each other easier and communication more efficient, but there are also divergent ones that may cause big and troublesome miscommunications. The most important lesson is that each of us has to learn to not to fear differences, but instead try to understand and accept them. The biggest enemy here is ethnocentrism — perceiving other cultures as inferior to ours. Once we overpass customs of one’s own culture we can not only improve our communication skills, but also start making business in more efficient ways for both sides. This is also a part of being professional.
We all heard stereotypes created over some cultural behaviours and people. It is highly dangerous to fully believe in them and generalise but with an appropriate approach, some knowledge and understanding, can be treated as useful information and can help us in communication process.
Let’s try with some simple examples:
Imagine having a business meeting or a video call set for an exact hour. There will always be people who will be there even before the meeting starts. Other will come right on time and some participants will join quite late. Somebody will not even appear without informing you in advance. What if every person who was supposed to attend the meeting has different background culture? Time is an abstract and feeling of time is cultural. That is why some cultures we call monochronic time cultures and some polychronic. People raised in the monochronic time cultures are time-oriented. They check their watches, they try to go with the schedule, plan everything on time. On contrary, like in some Latin American countries or Middle East you may not see many clocks on the walls. Pace of life is different and not everything must always go exactly with the schedule. Next time when you schedule a call, meeting or even a chat, think about both sides. It is always good to find some compromises.
Here is another example of cultural differences:
You are in the middle of negotiations with your partner who is extremely interested in your offer. After long talks the two of you had an idea what needs to be done close the deal. Your partner says that he needs to discuss this matter with his superior and will get back to you soon, but it does not happen. At least not as soon as you expected. In collectivistic cultures that exist in Asia for instance hierarchy in business is one of the most important values. The person who was involved in negotiations might be responsible for this part of the negotiations, but last word belongs to his supervisor who is in power to decline or accept the deal. In Europe and United States the hierarchy at workplace may not be so visible due to low-power distance kept between the people. Approach is more direct and individualistic. Good will, politeness and helping attitude are some of the keys in intercultural business communication, but not putting too much pressure. Try to find some balance, so both parties can feel comfortable and positive about the communication. If you succeed here, you have also big chances to succeed in making business together.
Next time when you are approached by a new potential partner, you can try to think about it as a new business challenge also in terms of training your business communication skills. Here are the 7 final tips to improve your intercultural communication:
1. Always try to be open-minded, kind and patient. Being respectful is the key to the positive communication.
2. Practice listening and observing. Do not monopolise the conversation or interrupt.
3. Try to speak slowly and clearly. The same with writing — write clearly and be direct. When you have any doubts try to paraphrase.
4. Never laugh at somebody or disregard him/her in any way, because there may be some cultural barriers.
5. Try to explain the matter if somebody has any lack of knowledge about the topic, it will be appreciated.
6. If there are too many misunderstandings, do not get upset or react emotionally. It will only leave a bad impression and make conversation harder.
7. Enjoy it!
For me Internet Marketing and working in affiliation will always be about working with real people and creating business and valuable connections with them. I have always found it fascinating. We need to remember that our mission is to create a modern globalised workplace for everybody. It may sound a bit utopian, but it does not require more than a try of understanding and sometimes a bit of patience. What is more, it is happening now. We need to remember that we are also perceived differently by each person we speak to. We should set it as a goal for both parties to take care of communication for the sake of creating good business culture and hopefully good cooperation that brings demanded and expected profits for both sides. “Culture is communication and communication is culture” — even or especially in terms of the international business world.
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