Israelis have built a tech powerhouse. If many of the early successes were based on tech innovation, many of todays strongest brands are built on a combination of tech and business innovation (Waze, Wix, Fiverr, MediaMind, Viber). While Israelis have gained a a reputation for being smart and aggressive salespeople, they have not yet built a reputation for marketing savvy.
Iv’e been working in Israel for a few years now and it’s time to start summing up my time here. Comparing the Israeli marketers their american counterparts seems only appropriate.
Israelis are often seen as arrogant, there is some truth to this but in general I find that, when it comes to marketing, they tend to suffer from an inferiority complex. Startups that raise a round A funding will rush to relocate the marketing and sales to the US. But even before they get to that point, they will look for american immigrants to fill marketing positions. When it comes to marketing, they know their limitations which helps them make better decisions and build on strategies that circumvent traditional marketing methods.
The business plan is… Wait, what’s a plan?
In the US, the business plan is everything. A plan is generally something one follows (Why else put one together?). The typical Israeli startup will throw some numbers together at an excel spreadsheet, show them to the Investor and then forget about the whole thing altogether. The most common complaint I get from Israeli marketers is that they were handed a goal to meet (usually something like 20-30% monthly growth) with no budget to execute. Were they ever consulted with about what would it take to make it happen? typically not.
I have been known to preach against this phenomena. I find it sets marketing leaders up for failure and shows a lack of business leadership. When these lofty expectations are not met, CEOs might look for a rock star CMO, a magician who can somehow bring the growth that everyone else seems to fail at.
The silver lining is that this creates a tremendous strain on the marketing department to think outside the box and do whatever it takes and Israeli marketers are not afraid to be unorthodox, or even play dirty.
Stumble into success
Ignorance is the fool’s savior. Everyone knows that no one does business between Christmas and New-years. Everyone in the US that is. Your typical Israeli has no idea what life is actually like in the US (What DO americans celebrate Labor Day?). So while most american firms may be naturally inclined to cut back advertising budgets in the second half of December, Israelis discovered that during that period they actually have far less competition which provides them with certain advantages. I’ll take luck over brains any day. Problem is, I don’t know how to repeat the results.
Marketing as an applied science
Due to distance as well as language and cultural differences, Israelis lack access to new knowledge and mainstream US marketing know-how. They make up for it in two ways.
Some will flock to online marketing Gurus like Neil Patel who provide an endless flow of digital content on SMB marketing. But most go back to the methodology that they understand best.
How do you research something new in applied sciences? You run many experiments and measure results. Some Israeli startups have no idea what they are doing, but when they stumble upon something that works they capture it and repeat the success. It’s growth hacking at it’s best.
Israelis have also developed a vibrant scene for knowledge sharing. It is quite common to call up fellow colleague and pick their brains for an hour or two. You can email almost anyone in the scene and invite yourself over to a lunch meeting to get their opinion about something. It’s a system of it’s own, and it’s quite impressive.
The next big thing?
In the past 2 decades Israel has become a tech-powerhouse so large that it’s second only to Silicon Vally. 40% of the country’s GDP comes from the tech industry. Currently, Israeli startups are focused mostly on B2B services and products but that is quickly changing. There is a lot of buzz around new B2C initiatives, online media and even eCommerce. Everyone seems to understand the critical role User Experience plays in these markets (even if the talent is almost impossible to find). Marketing is starting to get the respect it requires and it might just be something Israel will become really good at.