Business Strategic Planning: Avoiding Cultural Confusion

Making the decision to extend a business into another country can be a crucial turning point in achieving the next level of success for a business owner. Crossing cultural boundaries and learning to operate in a foreign environment are both challenging and complicated. Without the proper knowledge of how to go about it, it can often seem an impossible task. Business strategic planning is easier and more accurate when a consulting firm in the foreign market is involved with this task. Pitfalls and problems can be avoided with the assistance of those already familiar with the new market.

Relations with clients overseas can be muddled by misunderstanding on the part of either party. Translations of language do not always hold up and even simple things, such as improper greetings and dismissals, can be a source of tension. All of the work that goes into a company’s business strategic planning can be undone if communication is not understood or is interpreted in the wrong way. Knowing proper etiquette helps in dealing not only with business contacts, but also in understanding the proper way to deal with relations between competitors. Being perceived as an obnoxious American as opposed to a respectable businessman may break a deal before it even has a chance to come to the table.

Marketing and sales rely heavily on cultural context, meaning that if one wishes to promote their product or service in an effective manner, understanding these cultural differences is essential as well. Unintended confusion may create mistranslations and end up making a product look undesirable or even offensive. Proper branding patterns should be observed for each new region, rather than trying to stick to the “tried and true” methods used in one’s homeland. Cultural symbolism can go a long way towards generating the proper emotional response from customers. Marketing is challenging enough without losing meaning in misunderstanding.

Even such simple and overlooked aspects of business such as proper labeling, packaging and hiring practices all rely on an understanding of the differences from culture to culture. Knowing how to recruit workers and keep them happy requires knowledge of their culture and the best ways to approach them in order to achieve the desired results. Even simple misunderstandings can result in the loss of key personnel and end in huge setbacks in time and losses in investment, as many expanding businessmen have discovered too late.

Having someone to handle these tasks can help a business owner navigate the unknown landscape of a foreign market. Proper business strategic planning should be coupled with thorough research and attention to the details of the cultural differences which may pose problems. Many business owners simply do not have time to do all the footwork themselves, which is why outside consultancy is usually the best idea. Success or failure ultimately rests on being properly prepared, and no where is this truer than when expanding into a foreign market.

Author is a freelance copywriter. For more information about business strategic planning, please visit

More Cultural Landscape Articles