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Are You Speaking Your Customer’s Language? It’s Key to the Client Relationship

Being able to speak your customer’s language is the first step in building a successful client relationship.

Zuckerberg speaking Chinese


by Martha Spelman


Imagine traveling to a land where, because of a language difference, you couldn’t understand anything someone said to you. Unless you became proficient in their language, communication was at a standstill. Envision trying to do business with them. Because of this divide, it’s doubtful that your potential customer would feel comfortable and trust you enough to give you business. That customer might rightfully think that you couldn’t understand enough about their business to help them.


Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook, recently traveled to China. He participated in a 30-minute Q&A at Tsinghua University in Beijing. And he spoke only Mandarin.


China is the last frontier for Facebook…one of the few places on earth that has scant access to Facebook because it is blocked by the government. But China has the world’s largest population and represents a huge revenue potential for Facebook.


So what did Mark Zuckerberg do? He learned to speak Chinese. Each year, Mr. Zuckerberg sets a goal for himself and in 2010, he made it his mission to learn to speak Mandarin. His reasons? Says Zuckerberg: “The first, my wife is Chinese. Her grandmother can only speak Chinese. When I told her in Chinese I was going to marry Priscilla, she was very shocked. Then I want to study Chinese culture. The third: Chinese is hard and I like a challenge!”


And no doubt, there’s a fourth reason: a 30% penetration into the Chinese market would potentially increase the Facebook share price by $3 to $4.


Bottom line, Zuckerberg’s Chinese wasn’t great but the University audience and much of China, appreciated his efforts. Zuckerberg was attempting to bridge a difficult gap and build the ultimate client relationship.


When pursuing a new customer, in a new industry, you, too, should make every effort to speak their language. How? Do online and print research (the company website, LinkedIn company and individual profiles, corporate documents including marketing collateral, annual reports, advertisements, industry publications related to their industry,etc.) and ask questions — of those who work at the company and others who have knowledge of the company and its industry.


You may also need to educate a prospect about your services or product — what you provide, what your process is, what deliverables they can expect; teach them your language. Don’t assume that they completely understand your world.


Mark Zuckerberg may personally be worth over $33 billion and head up a business valued at over $200 billion, but by making the effort to speak the language of a new clientele, he’s not letting his reputation do the talking. When you speak the language of your client, they may “Like” you more.



Martha speaks marketing – want to chat? Contact Martha for a Free 30-minute ConsultationMartha Spelman is a Los Angeles-based small business branding, marketing and social media expert. She is the author of The Cure for Blogophobia: How to Easily Create, Publish & Promote Your Business Blog. 


Martha Spelman is a Los Angeles-based branding and marketing expert and the co-founder of Packbands silicone storage and organization straps. Martha is the author of The Cure for Blogophobia: How to Easily Create, Publish & Promote Your Business Blog. Click to connect on LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook.

To find out more about Packbands, visit the Packbands website. Martha can be reached directly at: 310.266.6992 or