You’re on the LatAm bandwagon. A big push and—nothing. Or worse—your company gains traction in some markets, but not in others. What is going on?
First of all, forget about “LatAm.” This meaningless phrase—“Latin America”—has caused far too many business ventures to fail.
Let me give you a personal example of what I’m talking about.
“Oh! Are you from Mexico?”
These are the first words I usually hear when people pick up on my accent, at least in North America. Immediately followed, of course, by stories of the wonderful vacation they had in Acapulco. Five minutes pass before they let me get a word in edgewise and I can explain that no, I’m not from Mexico, and that lots of other people speak Spanish too.
There’s nothing wrong with Mexico. I’ve never been, but people say it’s a lovely country. But you know, Latin America is so much more than just Mexico.
Lumping “Latin America” together as a group (led by Mexico!) is a bit like lumping together Europe from Ireland to Romania and calling it “Europe.” Saying you understand Latin America because you vacationed in Acapulco is a bit like saying you know Norway because you vacationed on Corfu.
But we all speak the same language. Spanish. Right?
It has been famously said that America and Britain are two countries divided by a common tongue. Any English-speaker who has travelled to Australia or India or South Africa knows just how different English can be. The same applies to Latin America.
Eighteen (yes, 18!) different Spanish-speaking countries, all divided by a common tongue. Eighteen different accents. Eighteen different vocabularies. Eighteen different cultures. Eighteen different economies. Eighteen different political and legal systems.
None of them Mexican.
(Except for, well, Mexico.)
But you all eat the same food. Right? Spicy chile con carne with enchiladas and burritos and tacos and all that stuff. With tequila shooters for breakfast. Right?
Tell that to Colombians (like me), who as a rule abhor spicy food. Tell that to the Argentinians, famous the world over for their wine and beef. Tell that to the Chileans and Peruvians who adore their ceviche.
So when the time comes to do business in Latin America, you need more than one business strategy. Your guy in Chile? Has no clue how to do business in Colombia. Your dude in Miami who came over from Cuba? Couldn’t sell in Argentina to save his life.
Getting the drift here?
Every country in Latin America is different. And if you want to do business in Latin America, you need to customize your marketing and sales strategy for each different country. You cannot assume that one size fits all. If you do this, it will not work.
The last ten years belonged to China. The next ten years belong to Latin America. A monster boom of investment and growth that you – and I – can be a part of. But if you want to ride that wave and do some serious business, you need to take a step back.
Take the time to understand each market individually. Develop contacts in each country. Do not assume that successful sales reps from one country will be successful in the country next door. Do your research and it will return the investment tenfold.
At Go South! Consulting, we take this advice to heart. We have a proven track record selling in multiple markets, and the humility to know when we need to work with a local contact to close the deal.
Miryam Lazarte, Founder & CEO, Go South! Consulting
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