Once established in your national market and sales are ticking over nicely, the natural step forward is to break through boundaries and go international. Whatever the product, there is normally a market to be found abroad. If you are operating in Spanish or in English then the initial steps to globalisation are covered. However, nudging your way across Europe or into Asia, you will come across, not just cultural barriers but language barriers too. So how do we overcome these?
A Universal Language?
Some companies, presumably to avoid expense and logistical headaches, just stick with English adopting it as the universal language. This could work, for example, if your customer is of an international trade or industry with an established network around the world, or if your customer is typically highly educated. If this is your chosen approach, keep the language simple and try using universal buzzwords your customers will be familiar with. Take the word ‘Chic’, for example, it’s unmistakably French but we all know what it means. Or ‘Cool’, as seen on T-shirts around the world. Even the Japanese ‘Kawaii’ resonates with the young kids of the world. Of course, universal buzzwords depend on your market and product, so choose them well. If English is your intention, make good use of visual tools. Images and videos draw customers in and the need for language is much less.
More often than not, using the local language wins. And by local, we mean native. This is not the time for Google translate. While it has its uses, this translation tool will not cut through language barriers, let alone cultural barriers. Instead, a professional translation will bring nuance and a skilled sales voice will add value. By using a native speaker, the translator will know the local area that you are marketing to and should have the cultural awareness to use the keywords that resonate with customers (and local search engines).
While you have the services of a professional translator with a skilled sales voice, think about the extra pages on your website. Your About Us page is important, as are the FAQs, contact, blog pages. These vital sections of your website need to look and sound professional. If it’s sloppy, your company will come across sloppy. Your potential customers will think you don’t care about them and they will switch off. Also remember that localising your site is not just about the language, you also need to think about address formats, date formats and other cultural differences.
Selling to foreign language markets face-to-face is a whole different story. Sometimes you cannot hide behind the computer screen, sometimes, you simply have to go and meet people. Putting a face to a name, an actual smile to the service, is invaluable. Daunting it may feel, remember that they are people too. Start by getting all your sales and marketing material into the language you want to win over. Then write yourself a script with pertinent phrases and call them up and send them your newly translated material. Following up is the tricky part, and it’s probably easier to just schedule an appointment. Tell them you are in the area, don’t give them an excuse to say no! Once you are facing your potential customer a little bit of humility, a big smile, and passion for your product or service will go a long way. The slightest attempt to speak the language is always a positive thing and can get you places. If your product or service is well positioned, you can fulfil with ease, and there is a need or desire, the language barrier will be surprisingly small.