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4 tips for doing successful business in Russia: intercultural perspective

Arseny Veber
/ CEO at Vebcom Translation
According to Santander Trade Portal, the rate of Foreign Direct Investment in Russia is growing again after a significant drop in 2014-2015 due to geopolitical tensions between Russia and the Western countries. After reaching the bottom in 2015, FDI inflows grew from USD 11.9 billion to as much as USD 37.7 billion in 2016.

Does this mean that companies should invest more in Russia again because of its still rich natural resources, largely under-utilised investment potential and qualified workforce? Or should they stay away because of the generally unstable investment climate in the country and pretty complicated and sometimes even contradictory accounting rules and legislations?

It is you who decide! We, in turn, as Business Diplomats, always try to help properly analyse the environment and give an overview on its strong and weak points, on its cultural features influencing the business relations, and on the ways of overcoming the obstacles for successful international cooperation with Russia.

So, what's the best strategy to get to know the Russian business environment:

1. Do you speak Russian?
Obviously, speaking your customer's language is one of the best ways to start interaction and build effective engagement, and then, loyalty in a new market.

About 30% of Russians can speak English to a certain degree, and only 3% are fluent speakers (RbtH).

It is not a secret that Russian is one of the hardest languages to learn. Even Russians know it and give you more credit when you demonstrate positive attitude to their language.

Sometimes, it might be enough that you know only some of their popular words like "Спасибо" (Spasibo) - Thank you or "До свидания" (Do svidaniya) - Goodbye. In most cases, if you are able to provide your written communication or at least your website in Russian, your chances for successful business outcome increase dramatically.

When creating a culturally appropriate and user-friendly website, it is critical that your content is translated by native speakers who know how to position your brand in Russia. A proper translation of cultural nuances and idioms that local languages take on will guarantee that your content is taken seriously by the local audience.
2. Two capitals, numerous regions – just different cultural and social aspects within one country.
The farther in Russia you travel, the more cultural and social differences of each region you face. While Moscow and St. Petersburg are places of numerous offices of international companies, start-ups and technology centres, other regions remain more conservative.

Different Russian regions can be a perfect place for investment due to a cheaper workforce, lower rental prices and higher effectiveness of traditional marketing channels: print, broadcast, outdoor billboards, direct mail, and telephone.

Person-to-person direct marketing also works well. As key decisions are often taken only by one person, it is crucial to show loyalty to a person rather than to an organization. When making proposals, it may be quite beneficial to demonstrate how they will benefit individually.
3. Go for Yandex, not only for Google.
In Russia where the Internet penetration is around 71.3% (2016), Yandex takes the leading position among all other Search Engines. Yandex market share is 58% while Google has 34% of the market.

Why do Russians prefer Yandex and not Google? Is it only because Yandex is Russian and the Internet users may distrust American Google? No, it is not only because of that, but also because it is true that Yandex is better for the Russian language search requests than Google, and because it was initially built to handle specific Russian search challenges. As an example, some Russian words can have up to 20 different endings and all Russian nouns have a different grammatical gender which affects the rest of the words in the sentence. So Yandex is able to parse user intent regardless of the user's spelling.

Secondly, Yandex have announced they will not use links in their algorithms on commercial queries, due to a large number of link spam methods. Instead, Yandex will rely only on user experience and keyword ranking metrics. So we highly recommend that you adapt your SEO strategy to the Russian market.

Finally, Yandex is a huge media aggregator where most online users start their day to read the news.
4. Social Media
Certainly, online communication can differ in different parts of the world. Russia is not an exception where regional platforms are taking the leading positions among online users.

The number or Russian Social Network users achieved 75 millions users in 2017 (Statista).

In order to localise your marketing strategy for the Russian market, you'll need to look at setting up profiles and establishing an effective communication on portals such as vk.com, ok.ru and Telegram in addition to Facebook, Twitter and WhatsApp.

Here is the reason why (Make Use of):

Vk - 46.6 million users per month
Ok - 31.5 million users per month (69% women)
Facebook – 21.6 million users per month
Livejournal – 15.1 million users per month
Twitter – 7.7 million users per month
Telegram – more than 6 million active users in Russia
If you have any questions regarding this report or our localisation services, please contact us:
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