5 Things to Consider When Expanding Your Business Internationally
Taking your business global can be an exciting time in your company’s lifecycle. Opening shop in a new market comes with the opportunity to expand your brand, increase your customer base, and win new revenue. Today, doing so is easier than it has ever been in the past, but still not without its challenges, especially when it comes to local culture, languages, and regulations. When planning your global expansion, consider these 5 factors to help you connect with your new international audience:
1. Local Laws & Regulations
From labor law to mandated language requirements, carefully research what you can and cannot do when establishing and running your business. You may find new and unfamiliar regulations that have a direct effect on your operation. For example, opening a facility or expanding an operation that uses any environmental resources or could be deemed potentially polluting requires an environmental operating license to be able to conduct business in Brazil. And in Canada, any labor relations in the Quebec Province must abide by the Charter of the French Language (la charte de la langue française), which, among other things, mandates employers to conduct official communication with prospects and employees in French and cannot require an employee to know a language other than French, unless that knowledge is directly related to the nature of the position’s duties.
Whether your company has a physical presence in a foreign territory or only relies on your website to generate international revenue, consider that a vast majority of online consumers prefer to shop in their native language. Even with the prevalence of English in many foreign markets, according to a recent survey by One Hour Translation, 79.5 % of Germans, 82.5% of Italians and 90% of Japanese respondents would much rather buy in their own language. Besides the language consideration, think about how other elements, such as your imagery and colors, would be perceived in other cultures. For example, a simple photo on your website of a happy customer showing a peace sign could be interpreted as a sign for Victory in some East Asian countries, detracting from your original message. Even worse, the same sign, when reversed, is considered to be a lewd gesture, like the middle finger, in England and Ireland and could potentially limit your chances of a prosperous business. Localizing your website for your target territories can help you connect with your international audience and convert more prospects into customers and fans.
Consider translating and localizing your marketing materials the way you would do your website. It’s simple and clear enough: the people you are marketing to need to be able to understand and relate to the message that you are communicating. This applies to all marketing that you plan on deploying in international territories: window store fronts, packaging and labels, flyers, brochures, TV & radio ads, search and online banner ads, landing pages, local email campaigns, and even social media posts. In fact, depending on the size of your international presence and available resources, it’s a good idea to have separate social media pages for separate markets, where your communities can connect and communicate with you in a way that’s convenient for them.
4. Sales & Communication
In the case that your international business is anything but a transactional e-commerce model, and requires actual human interaction to make the sale, whether inside the store, over the phone or at a conference table, become familiar with the territory’s cultural intricacies, sensitivities, norms and expectations. In China, business tends to be conducted in a much more indirect way than in the US and some other Western countries. It is not customary, for example, to tell someone a flat-out “No.” If your executives exhibit this direct approach when communicating with potential clients or partners at a Chinese company, you run the risk of offending them and losing their business. On the other hand, if your sales team does not pick up on the indirect approach that the potential client takes to let you know they are not interested in your business, it can lead to wasted resources, time and money, as your team keeps pushing the sale that will simply not happen at this time.
Another thing to consider when doing business abroad is how to price your offering, considering the cost of doing business in a given territory, local currency, tax and competition’s pricing. Look for an ecommerce platform that supports the use of multiple languages, currencies and tax or VAT rates. Do careful research and adjust the cost for your products and services accordingly.
This list only brushes the surface of everything that an international expansion might entail. However, language, culture and regulations play a huge part in how successful you are in reaching your new market audience and winning their business.
To learn more about website and marketing localization and document translation, drop us a note and one of our savvy localization consultants will help you with your business’ foreign language needs.