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Educate – Don’t Sell: Cultural Differences and Learning Styles

Posted by Nara Venditti on April 2, 2010

Dr. Nara Venditti

Every professional needs to have a little teacher in them. I believe that one of the best ways to persuade and  influence people or market your product or service is by educating.  Educating your customers on the value of your offerings demonstrates your knowledge and expertise and will build credibility and promote long-term, trusting relationships. In any industry, be it education when teacher needs to persuade their students on importance of their subject, in healthcare, when a doctor or a nurse needs to gain patient’s buy in into the treatment, and in just about  in any other industry educating your customers on your offerings and ideas will build your credibility, trust and long-term relationships.

This especially applies to multicultural customers because they are more likely to be unfamiliar with many products and services and how things are done in the US. Yet, learning styles vary across cultures.

Although there are individual differences, consider two studies that indicate generally most cultures can be grouped by how information is absorbed.  One study shows that Hispanics prefer hands-on (kinesthetic) learning. They prefer group activities and better grasp the benefits of a product or a service when they can try it. They also prefer the use of illustrations, graphs and drawings over listening. While another study of academic achievements of international students in the US, showed that Asians tend to be more visual, probably due to the hieroglyphic nature of Asian languages. Both cultures tend to perform worse when the instruction is primarily verbal.  However, verbal instruction is just about the most common in the US and, often than not, sales presentations are delivered verbally. We can see why this may not work well for multicultural customers.  Add here language differences and you will see how effectiveness of educational marketing may suffer.

So, for better results know the learning preferences of the culture you are interacting with. Also, remember that some people may have a mix of learning styles and display a certain learning style that may change depending on situation.

However, as is often the case, what to do when dealing with mixed cultural groups such as in the classroom or in some workplace situations?  Simply use multimodal presentation, employing oral explanation, written materials, images and hands-on activities if possible.


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