The distance between Helsinki and Saint Petersburg is just 385,8 km. And still Finnish business has no idea how to communicate with Russian audience. What makes us so different? I do not know for sure, but i will try to guess. First 3 facts you should know about Russians if you want to work with them.
Language. Russians mostly do not speak English (unless they live abroad of course). Statistics say that only 17% of Russians know at least one foreign language and 79% of us have never been abroad. You do not really need English in everyday life there, TV is fully in Russian, all movies at cinemas are translated and have no subtitles, even the brand names like McDonalds and Coca Cola are written with cyrillic characters. Kids study some English at school, but they do not use it and forget it very fast.
Cheap is bad. Most of Russians believe that cheap cannot be good. The cheapest phone will get broken in 1 months, the cheapest shoes will fall to pieces after the first rain. Sometimes it is true, sometimes not. Probably it is more about the brand, not price. But average Russians would not spend much time researching if cheap toothpaste has good quality or not, they would just take more expensive one just in case. So if you need to increase sales – setting the lower price is not always the best decision.
Far on top. If you need to negotiate with top-manager of some company you will most likely spend a while trying to pass the secretary. And you will be able to finally talk to the boss only if you really prove that you want to offer something awesome and it is highly important. Russian managers hate useless conversations. So just prepare short proposal that won't take much time to look through and get ready to call for a several times to check if the manager have seen it.
Still we have lots in common, we love saunas, ice swimming and all kinds of winter sports. We use the same brands and play Angry Birds. Plus Russian market is so huge, so every company has a chance to find its place. Anyway you never know untill you try!