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Speakers: Canadians Are Cautious — But Loyal

NEW YORK — If you want to try direct marketing in Canada, there are several things you should know first: Canadians aren't all the same; they're cautious by nature; and though they like humor, just don't make fun of them.

“We're allowed to make fun of ourselves. You're not,” Jim Wentzell, a direct marketing consultant born and raised in Canada, told members of the Direct Marketing Idea Exchange during a luncheon yesterday.

Wentzell spoke about marketing challenges unique to Canada with Andre Leclipteux, president and co-founder of Wings & Ink Inc., a marketing communications company based in Toronto.

For one, Canada has longer buying cycles.

“Get used to it. If you're used to six months in the U.S., expect nine months in Canada,” said Wentzell, who joins Wings & Ink next month. “But Canadians are also very loyal — and once you have them, they're yours.”

However, because of that cautiousness, Canada also is nearly two years behind the United States in e-commerce. Its inhabitants also are not very big on catalog shopping.

“Don't use catalogs as an entry point,” Wentzell warned. “They want to know who you are first. Once you have them from a retail outlet, you can, but don't start out with that.”

Canada's mail delivery system, Canada Post, is nothing like the U.S. Postal Service, said Leclipteux, whose clients include Adobe, Xerox Retail and D&B.

Rates and discounts differ. Canada Post doesn't deliver on Saturdays. Square formats are OK to mail. Also, sizes are different because Canada follows the metric system.

“Twenty-five years ago, Americans announced that they'll switch. Well, we switched,” Wentzell said as the room erupted with laughter.

Use of American words — couch, ZIP code, freeway — will be noticed. Canadians also have a different spelling for certain words. And if you're in Quebec, everything must appear in both English and French.

Leclipteux said to allow for at least 25 percent more space to translate a marketing message into French. Also, don't just translate the piece word for word.

If you have a call center staff, they must be able to speak French and have a Quebec accent.

Wentzell cited two things Canadians don't like: toll-free numbers that don't work in Canada and no service during U.S. holidays.

“If you're doing business in Canada, you'd better be open on American holidays,” he said.

However, he added, companies who do their homework will be rewarded: “We have a high per-capita income, and we're highly educated.”

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