It’s a Small World, But It’s Still a Big Deal
For months, companies all over the world had been gearing up for May 25, 2018, not because it was my brother’s birthday or because it was the 41st anniversary of the release of the first Star Wars movie—which we now know was really the fourth—but because it marked the day when the European Union’s dreaded General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) took effect.
The day, dubbed by some as Privmas, had been circled in red on the calendars of every company that has ever sold even a single product or service to someone in Europe and still maintained data about that transaction in some database somewhere. For privacy advocates who believed that it had been far too easy for far too many companies to harvest, use, and share consumers’ private information for far too long, the day couldn’t come quickly enough.
But, in the end, when all was said and done, Privmas Day seems to have come and gone without any major calamities. Fears that the world would end were unfounded, just as they had been at the turn of the millennium. Now, several weeks later, the world’s financial markets continue to operate, and global commerce continues.
What has changed is that customer data is now a very big deal, and companies that operate in European Union nations now need to be more up front about what personal information they collect and how they intend to use it. And consumers have much more power over the process.
But GDPR is not the only change to affect businesses whose borders extend beyond their own national boundaries. Brexit, and now the speculation over whether other countries might join Great Britain in withdrawing from the European Union; new technologies, including the ubiquity of the internet; and changing cultural sensitivities, economic climates, hiring conditions, regulatory environments, and resource availabilities have all altered how business gets done around the world. Add to the mix President Donald Trump’s tough talk about tariffs, overcoming trade imbalances, and levying or strengthening economic sanctions against rogue regimes anywhere on the planet, and U.S. companies today rightly struggle with decisions about expanding into new foreign markets and/or increasing their presence in ones where they already conduct some business.
To help companies navigate this global marketplace, we have devoted the bulk of this issue to globalization, offering some good advice to U.S. companies looking to become “Businesses without Borders.”
Whether it relates to marketing, sales, or customer service, companies looking to branch out first need to decide whether it makes sense to enter new international markets at all, and if so, which ones. It’s not an easy choice. As Paul Korzeniowski writes in our first feature, “Extending International Reach Doesn’t Guarantee Marketing Success,” “What sells on Main Street USA might not be as popular on Minzhu Road in China.” And aside from what and where, there’s also how. As Korzeniowski notes, “Selling a product in Germany is vastly different from selling one in Greece.”
Once those initial tough decisions are made, companies then need to decide whether it is better to open their own local sales, marketing, and contact center offices in the new geographies and to move internal employees there to staff them or to turn those functions over to outside firms that already have a presence in the area. There are benefits to both approaches, and the answer to this question all depends on a wide range of factors, including company cultures, objectives, budgets, resources, and capabilities.
And these are just the first steps in the process. There are many more considerations and plenty more questions that need to be asked before spreading out across the planet.
Throughout the three features in this issue, we highlight a few success stories, with a few examples of epic failures sprinkled in, to help guide you on your way. The world is a smaller place today, but that doesn’t mean that it’s easy to navigate. When you’ve finished reading the articles, you might not come away with all the answers, but we are very confident that you’ll be asking the right questions. How far you go from there is up to you.
Leonard Klie is the editor of CRM magazine. He can be reached at email@example.com.