Middle East Markets

There are many areas throughout the World which provide opportunities for British companies but one of the most over looked areas is the Middle East.

The Middle East, according to the Dti, consists of 21 Countries, and has a population of in excess of one billion people. The average age is in the twenties and in Countries such as Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates, the average income is astonishingly high. This high disposable income is rising at a rate in excess of 5% PA and the area, as a whole, is enjoying a growth rate in excess of 5%.

As a result of global communications, and branding, the Middle East has a strong desire for Western products and their desire for British products is particularly strong.

The English language is the language of international communications as is evidenced by its use in shipping, aviation and the computer industry. Almost all those using computers, in the Middle East, have an understanding of English and British software is much preferred to American software, for obvious political reasons.

Prior to the advent of oil the nations making up the region were trading nations. The inherent desire to trade has never left the people. The tremendous wealth enjoyed by so many people now means that many are looking for trading and investment opportunities. The problem is that with so many people enjoying so much wealth, they are running out of trading and investment opportunities. This may seem bizarre to you and me, but if you were sitting on Billions of $, you would find it difficult to find investment opportunities.

The Middle East, therefore, presents two opportunities for the enterprising British company. Firstly, the Middle East is particularly interested in investing in high technology companies and secondly, there is a market for British high tech products in the Middle East.

It may be easier to get into these markets than one might otherwise think.

The resources of Dti’s Overseas Trade Services are available through your local Business Link and they provide a number of services, as follows:

Export Market Information Centre (EMIC)

The Export Market Information Centre is a reference library in London. They hold a large selection of trade directories and market reports and can provide researchers for around £30 per hour.

Sector Reports

Sector reports are published by the Dti and cover specific industry sectors.

Country Helpdesks

Country Helpdesks are based at the Dti in London and provide general background information including free Fact Sheets and trade briefs. They advise on forthcoming promotional events and can arrange exhibitions on a shared cost basis, subsidised air fares and accommodation.

Technical Help for Exporters

This is part of the British Standards Institute and they can advise on the technical requirements of products in different countries.

Tailored Market Information

Tailored Market Information provides the services of commercial officers at Embassies and other overseas outposts in the preparation of tailor-made reports. The cost ranges from £50 to £1,000 and, in my experience, this has always been excellent value for money. The key to success is to ask for specific information with regards the particular products and sectors of the market you are interested in and to prepare a comprehensive a brief as is possible. Very often the report will include the names and addressees of interest parties and if you ask for lists of names and addresses of competitors or suppliers you will be surprised and what can be obtained. The key to success is to know exactly what you want.

All of the above services are available through your local Business Link.

Marketing Communications in the Middle East

When communicating with people in the Middle East it is important to remember their culture is very different from the UK. When you are communicating with Middle Eastern people who have a lot of experience in dealing with the British and Americans it is not so much of a problem. When you visit the Middle East, or start to communicate with technical people who may not be so well travelled, you should avail yourself of the differences in culture which includes the way we dress, the way we speak, our body language and the way we conduct ourselves.

When writing to the Middle East, or designing marketing communications materials, it is important to remember that their interpretation of colours and shapes is different from ours, and more profound. The use of colours and shapes is surrounded by tradition, superstition and religion. A few years ago a public relations company was asked to design a new logo for a Saudi airline. They picked the wrong shade of green and the wrong type of Palm tree. Although the Palm looked like any other to a westerner, to an Arab the Palm tree was obviously Mediterranean and an insult!

The way meetings are conducted appears much more relaxed. You spend hours discussing nothing in particular. Business men in the Middle East are paranoid about causing offence and so they take their time getting to know you and will not approach important issues until they feel comfortable. They base many of their decisions on how they feel about you and one often stands a better chance doing business on the third or fourth attempt.

The cultural differences also vary Middle Eastern country to Middle Eastern country and even area to area within a country.

When conducting business in the Middle East remember:

  • Be a good and patient listener
  • Money is not the only motivator
  • The way business is conducted is as important as the business
  • Find out as much about the people, the market, and the way of doing things in that particular family, company, region and country as possible
  • Research planning and preparation are everything.
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