Marketing Up North (905 words)
Canada and the United States share many things in common: a border, a language, a hockey league. However, it is its own sovereign nation, not the 51st state. So while we share many things in common with our Canadian neighbors, there are some pretty big differences you need to be aware of if you want to sell Yankee up north.
According to the Canadian Marketing Association (CMA), Canadians get half the mail that Americans do, but tend to spend twice as much via direct mail. Because the bulk of the Canadian population lives within 100 miles of the U.S. border, Canadians are exposed to U.S. products and services. This is not to say you can simply mail extra copies of your domestic control into Canada. Rather, you should consider making a few changes. Adapting your package for the Canadian market can have a positive impact on response, says Jim Grant, vice president of list brokerage at Cornerstone, a Toronto-based list manager and broker.
Creative revisions involve more than changing the spelling of a few words. It should be a creative adaptation, not a copy translation. This may include pointing out the ease of ordering goods from the United States as well as omitting Americanisms from the copy. If you are a member of the CMA, you may want to include its indicia on your mail piece; the organization's code of ethics lends credibility, suggests Grant.
"Most U.S. companies mailing to Canada price in U.S. currency; however, this pulls down response," says Sheryl Storey, a consultant at J.R. Direct Response, a Vancouver-based list services provider. "Most (consumers) would prefer to pay in their own currency," she adds. Of course, the only way to determine what works best for a product is to test.
As with any international mailing, you will want to give significant care to your order form, including ordering, payment, delivery and return processes. Specify whether prices are in U.S. or Canadian dollars and list payment options, including major credit cards and checks. Be sure to include a toll-free number for customer service.
"Quebec is as different from the rest of Canada as Canada is from the United States," points out Grant. If you are mailing to Quebec, consult a local expert versed in the province's legislation and culture. Local language laws require all advertising material to be printed in French, unless the recipient has requested English-language materials.
One of the biggest deterrents Canadians have to ordering from U.S. direct marketers is having to pay duty and tax at the door. Take a hard look at how you are shipping to Canada. Are the Goods and Services Tax (GST) and duty figured into the purchase at the time of order or are they being collected at the time of delivery? "Ask yourself, 'How customer-friendly is my system?'" suggests Sally Down, business development consultant for Russell A. Farrow Ltd., a Canadian customs broker.
Says Down: "Canadians know they have to pay applicable duties and taxes; U.S. direct marketers are able and should load these charges in the front end for customer-friendly delivery." One way to offer Canadian customers hassle-free delivery is to use a customs broker which enables a mailer to access the duty rate at the time of purchase. Pre-collecting duty and GST eliminates the need for customers to pay these fees at the door.
Another benefit of using a customs broker is that customers are able to return merchandise to a Canadian address, eliminating the burden of export declaration and international postage. A broker will apply for a refund of duties and taxes paid on returned merchandise on behalf of the customer. If you ship COD, the customer has to locate the appropriate government agency, obtain the proper forms, supply documentation and wait for a refund.
"If treated properly, Canada can be the icing on the cake. It doesn't have to be a costly expedition," Down says.
The issue of consumer privacy is heating up around the world, and Canada is no exception. A national privacy bill is pending in Canada's parliament and is expected to pass this May or June; it will come into effect 12 months later.
Unlike its U.S. counterpart—a proponent of industry self-regulation—the CMA was active in calling for federal privacy legislation. The CMA has had a comprehensive privacy code since 1993, but realized it was not compulsory outside its organization. It found that legislation was essential to build consumer confidence, and that it was better to introduce legislation in a thoughtful debate rather than in the heat of a crisis, explains CMA President, John Gustavson.
Two parts of the pending bill are relative to direct marketers. The first says you may not collect, use or disclose information without permission. However, the CMA has negotiated the concepts of implied, negative-option and express consent.
The second part of the bill concerns access to public information. The way the current bill is worded it would shut down access to public information, says Gustavson, who is working to amend the bill to allow limited access to information in the public domain. For example, direct marketers may have access only to names and addresses on mortgage records.
According to Gustavson, CMA's challenge is to get the legislation through parliament with only the one amendment pertaining to public information. Afterward, Canada's provinces have three years to implement their own legislation or adopt national legislation in its absence.