Ahead of Enterprise Nation's trade mission to Dubai on 26-30 November, Greg Carroll, from Dubai-based digital marketing agency Neesh, shares tips for how to market your business in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and the cultural considerations to be aware of.

A visit to the Neesh office is one of many exciting sessions during the trip to Dubai for which a few places are left. Government funding to cover part of the costs may also be available. Find out more here or email Emma Greenfield on emmag@enterprisenation.com.

Everything in Dubai is sparkly and new, from its sky-high spires to its shining office parks.

Even more amazing than the Emirates' incredible buildings is its transformation into a business hub.

The government is a huge supporter of creating an environment synonymous with innovation. Alongside that it is trying to make it easy for businesses to come and contribute to the UAE economy.

In the event that you are thinking about setting up shop in the UAE, consider these tips when marketing your business.

1) It is difficult to do business without a physical presence in the UAE

Expect to do face time with your customers.

Even though these days everything can be done using technology to communicate remotely, the UAE business population loves a meeting, and in some arenas of business it is impossible to do business without one.

Expats are a bit more flexible on this, but the hotel lobbies are still full of people meeting face to face over coffee.

2)  Remember cultural differences are important

Although the UAE (especially Dubai) is seen as modern and innovative, it is more traditionalist than it might appear.

Opinion and judgments are not always as welcome, nor accepted, as in the UK.

Be circumspect and patient, understand how the local culture works, and craft your marketing with that in mind.

3)  Weekends are Friday and Saturday, with Friday being a worship and family day

Few people will reply or work on a Friday, especially the local population as Friday is a day of worship and is taken seriously.

You may also need to interact with people on Sunday, eating into your weekend in the UK.

Schedule your marketing messages accordingly so that your audience is there when you think it is.

4)  Remember that for a great many people, English isn't their first language

Keep it basic. Do short sentences.

When using social media, it is wise to intersperse your messages with Arabic. The local population like to see that you are making an effort.

5) Meeting etiquette is important

Marketing yourself is as important as your product or service.

For example, never hold out your hand first for a handshake with a local woman, simply put your hand on your chest. If she offers her hand first, then you are free to shake her hand.

6) Networking is still an important part of marketing

A lot of business is done face to face in the UAE.

Locals are very pro meetings, and less likely to work virtually.

Also, remember you are in the same boat as every other expat. By nature, they have left their home and are adventurers.

Although there are still chancers in Dubai, there are less of them than in 2008 when the crash forced many to leave. So, get out there and meet people face to face. Take plenty of business cards.

7) Be socially mindful

Ensure you dress appropriately. Know about working limitations in Ramadan for example, when Muslims are fasting.

Ensure that your messaging respects the position of women as well as cultural issues. Making jokes that involve cultural differences is generally frowned upon. Never make any jokes about religious issues.

8) Stay up to date with the latest legislation

Laws change quickly so be aware of what you can use in your online messaging.

Be careful what imagery you use as you may need to get permission when you least expect it.  

9) Take time to understand the demographic breakdown of your target market  

There are a lot of nationalities all with different personas, and the demographics of the UAE are not like any other, so take time to understand the market there.

When using online advertising, optimise your campaigns before scaling your spend.

You may find there are a lot of surprises when you analyse the feedback on your analytics.

10) Beware the gatekeeper  

In the UAE, almost to the point of being a false economy, low cost labour is employed. 

Unfortunately, they can prevent your marketing getting through to the decision maker.

Try where possible to get your message direct to the right individual. Don’t assume that your email is going through to the person in the email address. Follow up with a call and get that meeting (see points above).

Overall there is a lot of opportunity in the UAE although it may be somewhat behind the curve in comparison to marketing in the UK especially digital marketing, however with the right preparation you can definitely achieve great success in the UAE.

Join the trade mission to Dubai to learn how to do business in the UAE, meet large, niche and online customers, make sales and connections as part of a pop-up showcase and form collaborations with Dubai partners and fellow mission go-ers.

The Go Global trade mission to Dubai is supported by:

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