How to market your startup in Germany (and why you can’t treat it like any of your US marketing) – Part 1

Forabilis, blog

Your startup is doing well in North America – the funnel is working, the leads are coming, and it seems that your marketing and sales efforts are finally paying off. You can pat yourself on the back (when no one else would). Another sign you are doing well is hearing your CEO tell you it is now time to conquer a new territory – Germany. Considering this is Europe’s largest economy and the world’s 4th largest economy, and keeping in mind Germans speak English – what could go wrong?

Well, many things. Ask Walmart, which failed miserably in Germany after losing a billion dollars in the process, trying to apply the same US formula that made it the largest retailer in the US.

Your startup is no Walmart; you can’t afford the time, and you certainly can’t spend billions of dollars. So, we have collected a few basic tips to support you in your initial marketing efforts in Germany. And because we wouldn’t want to wear you out, we split the list into two parts. Here’s the first one –

1. The German culture plays a role in your marketing

For once, the German thoroughness, punctuality and precision are not a myth. Germans research and compare competitive solutions, even if the solution they are looking for is inexpensive. There is hardly any buying impulse, so you should prepare in advance; Germans would expect you to hold to the same principles.

If you tell Germans a certain feature is “on the roadmap (the Israeli way of saying: “Good idea! We have no clue when we are going to have it!”),” they will expect to know exactly when they will be able to see it live. You should keep your promises!

As for your marketing efforts, English is not enough. Germans do know English; however, they expect you to make an effort for them, at least at the beginning of your relationship. So at the very least, have your landing page and product brochure in German.

2. Your funnel and sales cycle are about to change

You will need to rethink your funnel. If you have a low-touch-funnel, where conversion happens with hardly any offline efforts, you may need to rethink your approach; as you get closer to conversion, it is highly likely that you will need a face-to-face interaction to close a deal in Germany (we are talking B2B, of course).
Brace yourself. It is not going to be a quick sales cycle. Germans tend to have a long decision making cycle, which is no surprise considering their thoroughness. Prepare for a long lead nurturing process, and adjust your content marketing strategy accordingly. The upside is that Germans are considered loyal customers, and are not likely to switch easily.

3. Your product value proposition may need a facelift

You may also need to rethink product value proposition “Free” is not a good value proposition in Germany. Free product demos or free consultations might not work well with German customers, and may even cause you damage. Germans usually don’t trust free offers, and would rather pay more for higher value, rather than get something for free. In other words, in order to market in Germany, you need to rethink your value proposition. For example – improving workflow and efficiency; increasing value from existing investments; optimizing a business process; etc.

We hope you found some helpful and practical tips in this article. If you have any comments, please share them – we would love to hear what you think!

Stay tuned for the second part of this list.