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Marco Costa talks cultural competence with ClientSide

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Welcome to Episode 2 of our podcast, ClientSide; where global B2B marketers discuss the challenges and changes facing growing, world-leading B2B tech brands. In this episode, we speak to Marco Costa, executive partner of Prospera Marketing, head of marketing and e-commerce at GEN, and until recently, marketing and sales director of Curso Ênfase. Marco shares his unique perspective of global B2B marketing, as well as his own incredible career story which has seen him succeed across the world.

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International marketing careers are built on cultural awareness

“It’s all about gaining cultural competence

Born and currently based in Brazil, Marco has over 15 years of experience, having worked in the French marketing industry for a decade, alongside applying his talents in Spain and the US. Somewhat unsurprisingly for an expert with such global experience, he speaks five languages.

Marco emphasises the change of perspective that his international marketing career has given him, and the level of cultural competence he has developed throughout his career. To succeed in such a wide range of markets, he notes that he had to become culturally sensitive – not just strictly in a business sense, but fully understanding the codes that underpin host cultures in order to properly function within them.

Discussing some of the challenges he faced when integrating two large e-learning companies, Berlitz and TeleLangue, once again, he emphasises the importance of cross-cultural competence in international business. With such a broad a range of stakeholders to cater for, a keen sense of cultural awareness was required to create a functional and positive internal business culture. Marco notes that diplomacy is also crucial when communicating between global companies; without it, the implementation of projects can be seriously compromised.

Marco states: “It’s all about gaining cultural competence. When you work in a different country, it makes you culturally sensitive because you not only have to look at that business environment, but also fully understand the cultural codes of that country you are in – if you want to succeed, of course.”

Choosing an agency? Relationships, feedback, and design sensitivity are key

It’s very hard to manage the balance between the global and local”

When asked about his decision-making process when choosing an agency, Marco first emphasises that he is particularly design sensitive, appreciating the look of a presentation as much as the content. Contact is important too – he states that good client-agency relationships require constant feedback.

His key message to all agencies, however, is that they need to constantly think of their clients, building personal relationships to foster trust. This isn’t the same across cultures, though – in Brazil, for instance, honesty is not a priority – which has meant Marco has had to change and adapt this way of thinking. Often, the best solution is the simplest – clear, honest feedback.

“It’s very hard to manage the balance between the global and local. I think when you choose a partner agency, they need to understand that balance, and if the agency is global and you have a global brand, you may work better together – if they internally face internally the same issues that you have, they will probably perform better” added Marco.

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Business is maturing in Brazil, but still has room to grow

Currently working at Brazilian language learning provider, Curso Ênfase, Marco is back in his home country, but he is still benefitting from the unique perspective his global expertise has afforded him. He suggests that although Brazil is emerging as a major economy, the country still has a lot to learn in order to grow globally. That’s not to say his current position is a step down, of course. His employees are committed, positive and driven, so much so that Marco’s future plans include integrating more businesses into his agency – once again calling upon his well-honed cultural competency skills.

Cross-cultural competence in international business is crucial, and ultimately, Marco reveals that throughout his working life, it’s his knowledge of how to adapt and make the best out of every situation which has contributed most to his success as an international marketer. Be sure to catch all Marco’s comments on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher, or ClientSide.