Marketing in Israel vs US

Marketing in Israel vs US

By Avi Hein

Israel-FlagAs an American working in high tech marketing who has lived and worked in Israel for almost a decade, I’ve been privileged to see both sides of Israeli and global business, and the differences of high tech marketing in Israel and America.


Marketing in Israel and marketing abroad have some key differences. Let’s understand why this is.


The State of Israel has a total population of less than 8 million and is one of the world’s smallest states, geographically isolated. It’s smaller than the size of New Jersey, America’s fourth smallest state, and has a lower population. Israel’s domestic market is tiny.


Israel is a tiny island. The scope and scale of marketing and running a business in Israel - even one throughout the whole country - is similar to running a small, local chain in the United States. Local business owners in the United States can benefit from networking and community available from neighbors in other states. This networking is not available in Israel, unless you are fluent in languages other than Hebrew.


It takes more market share to become a market leader when your audience is hundreds of millions or a billion compared to less than 7 or 8 million.


At the same time, because Israel is not the target market, Israeli technology firms have been forced to go global from the start. And thus they can look at any market: Europe, Africa, Asia, etc. Businesses in America are more likely only to focus on America and Europe. Israeli tech companies did not suffer as much during the global economic crisis because they were able to focus on the emerging markets, when a flight to China or India is shorter than flying out to Palo Alto.


One of the major weaknesses with Israeli businesses is that there is a dearth of marketing talent who have spent significant time abroad and are fluent in English, and have been exposed to global standards. Unless you have lived or worked abroad, this has the potential to lead to a misguided view of the market. It may lead to a false assumption that Israeli consumers and businesses act the same as markets abroad.


One of the highest values in Israel is creativity. However, this creativity is not always attractive to the target audience and may even be viewed as offensive or inappropriate. This leads to incidences such as this Jerusalem store, as one American-Israeli comedian made fun of.


Doggy Style


Creativity and a lack of English fluency, including cultural nuances, lead to embarrassing mistakes that may work in the streets of Israel, but are offensive or off-putting to non-Israelis.


Israeli startups tendency for early acquisitions and to export their marketing and sales abroad leads to a continual spiral in which the marketing field is less developed. Since marketing strategy is business strategy, this keeps Israeli businesses from scaling globally.


Israeli marketing is also less developed. Always in danger, they are focused on short term campaigns, like PPC and affiliate marketing, and sometimes lack a comprehensive strategy that can get them where they need to be in the short term to long-term success.


While short term is essential, advertising is overemphasized as a promotional challenge. Other forms of promotion do not get the necessary attention.  Public relations and analyst relations is not as common. Startups, in particular, are less familiar with the import role analyst relations provides in getting investment and enterprise customers. In Israel, you can buy the complete printed list of Israeli media for less than 500 NIS whereas global databases like Vocus and Cision cost thousands of dollars.


In America, a business plan is a guideline to follow. In Israel, a business plan is something you have because your investors require but otherwise ignore. However, in an Agile world, following a plan and not deviating from it when circumstances demand has gotten American companies in trouble, whereas Israeli innovation and ignorance of the guidelines has allowed for creative ways to overcome obstacles. This lack of respect for rules has led to great innovation but not as great marketing and business. There are guidelines for marketing. While the Bible may be from Israel, the marketing bible is from Silicon Valley. Geoffrey Moore wrote the marketing bible, Crossing the Chasm and Inside the Tornado for high tech marketing. Yet, none of Moore’s books are available in Hebrew translation and are not as widely known in Israeli marketing circles as their assistance because Israelis traditionally don’t like rules.


Hence, there are several important, strategic, key differences when marketing in Israel and in America. When going global, make sure you are aware of these differences.


*Avi Hein made aliya from Washington, DC in 2004. He was the marketing manager at Typemock, a software company making software development tools. He blogs at Reach out to him on Twitter at @avihein.


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7 Responses

  1. Dan
    <em>Very True.</em> Excellent article. As someone who has spent a few years in the high-tech industry in the US and in parallel listens and known many start-ups and companies in Israel. Their conception of the US market is most often a total misconception. The numbers might be correct (taken from surveys such as Gartner) but the understanding of the mindset in the US is totally wrong. most often totally opposite. I think that in order to Market to the US and the rest of the world- you need to live there... at least for a while .
  2. Galit
    Thanks for the excellent article. I would add links to the mentioned books.
  3. Avi
    @Dan - Absolutely. It's important to spend time in your target market. For Israelis, a few years abroad is a must. In fact (and I say this as an American in Israel), Israelis with international experience or people who have grown up in 2 countries are often the best because they understand both their target market and the Israeli employees and CEO, so they can better explain how Americans or others think and how that differs. Galit - Here's a link to Crossing the Chasm from Amazon.
  4. Daniel Beaulieu
    Many thanks for the post. Much thanks again. Keep writing.
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