Tim Eldridge has been helping companies sell to expatriates for more than 25 years. Since he started, the industry has gone through significant changes – and not all of them are positive.
One of the major dangers for Tim is the loss of industry experience due to centralization. “The current trend to centralise media buying through a single agency is often driven by procurement to gain short term cost benefits”, says Tim. “In many cases, this means specialist business units are forced to end long-term relationships with market specialists to conform to group policies.”
For marketeers targeting the expat segment, central procurement can come as a bitter pill: “A couple of years ago we had a case of this with a customer we had been working with for 24 years. The marketing staff at the company didn’t want to make the change, but weren’t left with any choice.”
Of course, centralization also impacts agencies specializing in the expat market. “We have lost 5 expat media buying accounts to worldwide centralisations”, says Tim. “This includes one of 24 and another of 12 years standing. During these years, we hadn’t lost those accounts despite of up to 20 changes in marketing managers. That suggests we were doing something very right, and the same applies to our specialist competitors handling offshore/expatriate business.”
Centralised buying can provide real cost savings overall for customers, but it can generate significant problems for expatriate marketing. The ‘expat division’ of a business is normally disproportionately profitable, but a relatively small, part of the overall business. In addition, it requires specialist attention and unique marketing.
Tim commented, “We handled for 12 years a major international banking group and they centralized their Jersey marketing into the UK, losing much of their experienced local staff in the process. Fortunately the UK Marketeers quickly realized they were out of their comfort zone and that the offshore market was absolutely different and the policy was cancelled.”
Poorer relationships with expat media
In practical terms, the total marketing budget for the offshore business unit will not be very large, so this tends to end up in the hands of the less-experienced and junior members of the agency team – and almost always with people without any specific experience of selling to expats. The less senior, the higher the churn of staff and the less the relationship. This in turns leads to a poorer relationship with the specialist media too.
“I am convinced that there is something very specific about selling to expats”, says Tim. “For a start, there is no ‘one’ market. In a single city like Dubai, there is a world of difference between the builder on a 6-month contract and the corporate lawyer on a three-year placement. In the same way a Brit in France will have a completely different profile depending on whether they are living in Paris or Provence. Companies are losing a lot of expertise and large agencies rotating junior staff through accounts every three months mostly don’t even get it.”
It’s not just about raw data
For Tim, it’s pretty clear that the biggest challenges facing marketeers targeting expatriates are firstly understanding and segmenting their audiences and then translating this in efficient and robust campaigns. His advice to professionals is to seek expert advice: “There are a small number of specialist agencies – ourselves included – with strong experience in this market. Include at least one of them on the list next time you are reviewing your strategy! Expat marketing is not just about raw data, it’s about the vagaries of people. An HNW in South Africa has significantly different obstacles to clear than the retiree in Marbella before they invest and that needs to be explained with the ROI data (or lack of as is the norm).”
Eldridge Ranger Advertising is a media buying agency which specialises in the expatriate, financial and health markets.
http://www.eldridge-ranger.co.uk /++44 (0)1983 555 180.