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What Ah-boout those Canadians?

October 11, 2008


~ by Marty Shaw, Global-Z Sales & Business Development

Growing up in Montreal in the 60s, 70s & 80s it was clear; we loved stuff from the States!  There was such an appetite for all things US.  The first McDonald’s came to the island of Montreal in 1972.  It was the place to dine! Well, for an 8 year old it sure was. When I was in college there was a group of friends that would plan their annual pilgrimage to Freeport, Maine to buy up the deals at LL Bean’s outlet store.  Winters?  Florida knows Ahboout the economic benefits of the “snowbirds”.  Now I live in Vermont within a few miles of the Canadian border with my wife and children.  With the growth of the Canadian dollar relative the US dollar in the past year a resurgence in the number of Quebec and Ontario license plates in our region of Vermont has been phenomenal; not to mention how many Canadians headed south for black Friday last November! In brief, Canadians want what US marketers have and they want it now.

With BtoB Magazine recently publishing their survey results concluding that international budgets are up, with the US’ neighbors to the north there lays a huge opportunity for direct marketers. Here are a few figures to consider that may help highlight why Canadians are so influenced by and interested in US products and services (source: Canada Post unless otherwise noted):

  • 80% of Canada’s 32 million residents live within 60 miles of the US border;
  • Canada is the US’s largest trading partner;
  • While 82% of Canadians prefer to buy from Canadians, better selection & price, more ecommerce sites, and better quality goods and services have nearly half of them buy from the US or abroad;
  • Canadians regularly tune into the three largest US broadcast TV networks: ABC, CBS, NBC.

Opportunities and challenges to consider when marketing into Canada:

  • Average income is $66K/yr (vs. $52K/yr in the US [source:]);
  • Canadians are voracious debit card users; surpassing cash as the preferred method of payment;
  • B2B accounted for 93% of ecommerce revenue in 2003;
  • Canadians prefer to pay in their own currency and prefer Canadian-oriented customer support;
  • Statistics Canada highlights that Canadian response rates to direct marketing are 25% higher than in the US.
  • Speak with your DM peers that have been there and done that, or contact a DM agency or consultant specializing in international market expansion;
  • Speak with your mail consolidator to help you find the optimal way to get your mail into the Canadian mail stream.
  • Cleanse your lists to qualify for SERP discounts (the CASS equivalent in Canada);
  • Canadians are mobile; consider processing your lists through NCOA to help assure you keep up with your best customers and prospects;
  • Know import and free trade opportunities and limitations for your business;
  • Contact Canada Post for their expertise in their own back yard.

Overall, as with every country in the world, direct marketers must position offers and promotional materials in direct line with country-specific cultural concerns and issues.

In last month’s issue of Direct Magazine there was a good interview by Larry Riggs.  He spoke with Laurene Cihosky, Canada Post’s senior vice president for direct marketing (“Northern Exposure: Weaker dollar could make Canada a good target for mailers”) that will provide more insight into the opportunities and issues to consider as you look toward marketing into Canada.

If you are reading this issue of GZ News in the US you know that the Canadian’s 2.6 direct mail pieces received per week makes the Canadian market very much one which is underserved when compared to the US.  The opportunities abound.

For those unfamiliar with Bob and Doug Mackenzie this is a glimpse into what we Canadians get a laugh out of, and it may give you some market insight. Enjoy, and best of success marketing into Canada and beyond! Now, I’m going to get a Big Mac, ah.

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