For many Canadian companies, the potential of the Quebec market is matched only by how difficult it is to penetrate. Recently, we asked readers for their best tips and tactics for successfully entering la belle province. Here are some of our favourite responses:

Adapt your identity

“When you expand into Quebec, there are two things you have to understand. First, you’re going to have to become a fully bilingual company. And second, you may have to change your logo and perhaps even your name. The last part, for us, was a pretty dramatic thing to do; we really had to do some soul-searching about it. But we did it—we changed our logo and changed our name in Quebec, because Quebecers’ tastes are slightly different than those of the rest of Canada, as are their values around work, play and family time. I think it showed that we really respected the culture of the people of Quebec.”
—John Stanton, CEO and founder, The Running Room (or Coin des Coureurs), Edmonton

Read: More Great Advice from John Stanton

Speak the (real) local language

“Some companies try to save money by taking the exact marketing message they offer in other regions and simply translating it into French—but not into Québécois French. Quebecers pick up on inconsistencies and a failure to recognize local nuances. Adjusting your offer and adapting your messaging will go a long way in creating stronger bonds with customers in that market.”
—Éric Blais, president, Headspace Marketing Inc., Toronto

Show your commitment

“We made some alterations to our menu—we knew Quebecers like table d’hôte menus. We don’t do those anywhere else. And we hired an agency in Montreal solely to handle our Quebec ads. Two years ago, when the Montreal Canadiens and Boston Bruins met in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, we temporarily changed the name of the restaurant to Montreal Pizza. It was a bit of a gimmick, but it generated buzz and showed our connection to the community.”
—Mark Pacinda, president and CEO, Boston Pizza International Inc., Mississauga, Ont.

Lose the hard sell

“People in Quebec want to build a rapport. You have to get in there and socialize with them. Don’t be that guy trying to get business in an aggressive manner.”
—Linda Farha, president, Zenergy Communications, Toronto

Go all out

“The saying that we’re a country within a country is true, to an extent. The values of Quebecers differ significantly from those of the rest of North America. We have very progressive values, we have a more hedonistic approach to life and we consider value more important than price. We’re more emotional than rational in purchase decisions. We like companies that create an experience. If you’re going to convince Quebecers to choose you, you have to do something pretty special—especially if you’re in retail, which is already a pretty full market in Quebec.”
—Jean-Guy Latulippe, vice-president, Francisation InterGlobe, Montreal

This article is from the October issue of Canadian Business. Subscribe now!

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