5 Things To Consider When Expanding Your Business Internationally
Expanding your business into foreign, overseas territories is a difficult challenge which requires precise and lengthy planning, irrespective of how successful your organisation is on your home turf. Agencies specialising in providing professional translation services have a huge part to play apart from only translating your content; as advisers and consultants who help you to execute your objectives effectively.
Before deciding to venture into a foreign market, there are key factors which must be considered. You should also bear in mind that businesses should be flexible and willing to adapt to new environments in order to succeed abroad. Selling goods and services internationally will in many ways differ to the company’s home market.
Businesses entering a foreign market should expect to face numerous challenges. Laws, consumer demands and local regulations should all be taken into consideration. Obstacles are often compounded by language barriers and cultural differences.
In this article, we will focus on and explore five key business aspects to consider before moving your business into a chosen overseas territory.
1. Sales and communication
Regardless of whether you plan to establish a physical presence overseas or rely on your website and other digital channels, strong communication with customers is the key to conversions. It is therefore essential to prepare your website and marketing materials in the native language of your target audience.
Reports show that 72 per cent of internet users spend the majority of their time online visiting websites that publish content in their own language. Consumers also conduct searches in their own language.
To allow your website to be organically visible in the search engines, it’s essential to publish content in the language of your target audience. And also remember to update all the relevant SEO signals in the target language as well, such as page titles or page descriptions as this will allow your visitors to have a better experience.
Furthermore, the majority of consumers say they prefer to purchase merchandise from websites which are written in their native tongue. Other marketing materials such as brochures, posters and coupons also need translating into the dominant language of your market
Language is not the only aspect which marketers have to take into consideration. Images, colours and the general layout are all perceived differently by audiences in other countries, which can be directly influenced by socio-cultural nuances. For example, in Japan, white is traditionally worn at funerals thus associated with mourning whereas in the western countries, it symbolises cleanliness and freshness.
Businesses also have to choose images carefully. Cultural appropriation is a sensitive topic in today’s world. If you use a stereotypical image of your target audience that is not relevant or even true, you risk alienating the market.
In order to efficiently prepare your sales and communication, it is recommended that you choose a translation agency which provides professional localisation and transcreation services.
Furthermore, it is a wise choice to use an expert linguist who is a native speaker of your target country because they will be able to better understand the consumer mindset of your target audience.
Localising your website and marketing materials helps you to connect with your audience. Subsequently you increase the odds of earning the trust of consumers and converting more leads.
2. Cultural connections
Understanding the culture of the local audience, together with the dangers of cultural appropriation are extremely important elements a business to a foreign audience.
Subtle differences can impact on how and when you conduct your advertising. The channels you choose may also be different. Different countries use different search engines, social media networks and publications. Businesses need to know which magazines their target audience reads.
Cultural values and beliefs also differ from one country to the next. They can even vary within one nation – Spain is a prime example. Using a translator with knowledge of the local area can prove invaluable.
When advertising to an international audience, you also need to consider what is culturally appropriate. If a foreign audience finds your ad offensive, they will not look favourably on your brand and it could take a while to recover.
Not only that, but it is not unheard of for an advertising standards authority to ban ads for references they consider to be inappropriate. For example, China banned a Nike ad that featured the basketball player, LeBron James engaged in a battle with an animated Kung Fu character and dragons, because it was considered as an insult to national dignity.
Asian countries value respect in business relationships more than we do in the west. For example, in China, a direct “No” is taken as an insult and can seriously damage your relationship with potential partners.
If you are expanding internationally with a view to a merger or partnering with a foreign company, learning something about business etiquette and local culture is a smart choice.
Even something as innocuous as an incorrect greeting or not presenting your counterparts with a business card can be taken the wrong way. Regardless of whether you are hoping to engage with another business or consumers, understanding their culture is imperative.
Another benefit of indulging in local culture is it enables you to recognise the sales and marketing tactics of your competition. This too can provide valuable insights into how you approach marketing campaigns together with how you set up your business model.
3. Understand the Laws of the Land
Before rushing straight in to a foreign territory, it is prudent to understand local laws and how they will impact your business objectives. There are several things to consider including marketing regulations, taxes, compliance requirements, liability, customs and restrictions on import/export.
The costs for international businesses will be higher than local businesses. You need to therefore consider whether the legal obligations imposed on international businesses make your venture into foreign territories a viable option.
Furthermore, the regulatory mechanisms can reflect on how your brand may be received by the country as a whole. Do your legal obligation reflect the open or closed-mindedness of your target audience?
The cost of market penetration will have an impact on your pricing. International businesses usually have to incur additional costs such as licences, visas, higher VAT and tax obligations plus the expense of hiring local lawyers and accountants.
4. Entering an overseas market
The way in which your business enters a foreign market can also have a direct impact on how well it performs within a new, international environment. For example, it’s important to decide if you should enter a market on your own, or whether it will be more financially viable to partner with a business which is already established in your chosen market.
In some Middle-Eastern countries such as Dubai and Abu-Dhabi, international businesses are not permitted to set up a business without a sponsor from a local firm. This means you owe a share of your earnings to your sponsor – rather than paying tax to a government.
Whilst this may seem unfair, establishing a partnership with a local business may have advantages. Benefits include ensuring that you are not targeted by local unions, overheads are kept low, and you have first-hand insights into local consumer trends, which help facilitate sales.
As part of your due diligence, you should also consider whether there is a requirement for your product in a particular market or whether it needs adapting to suit local needs. Is there an emerging market you can tap into or is the market already saturated?
Foreign markets have the potential to present companies with unique opportunities to innovate. In the modern era, innovation and the ability to be agile in fast-paced markets is a crucial aspect of today’s business survival.
How you choose to enter a market, and the timing of your entry, could be a significant factor in how well received you are by your target audience.
5. Hire local professionals
Some of the potential barriers you face when expanding a business abroad could be expunged by hiring the services of a local lawyer and accountant. It is also advantageous to hire the services of a translation agency which has contacts with local linguists who are specialists in marketing and law, preferably with a first-hand experience.
Other than being able to offer advice about your legal requirements, recruiting local professionals can also open other doorways to potential partnerships and business contacts that benefit your business.
Solicitors and financial firms are certainly useful when dealing with foreign governments. As you can imagine, legal documents and tax forms are difficult to understand, and subtle rules you are not aware of could seriously delay the setting up of your business.
Hiring locals should also extend to your suppliers and customer support team. When your frontline are native speakers they can connect better with your audience and appreciate the cultural differences.
This plays a huge role in projecting your brand values onto the minds of your audience. When foreign consumers see an international brand making great strides to understand the needs of their customer and working with locally based providers, public perception towards your company is more favourable.
There are many advantages and benefits of internationalisation; from higher revenue and market share to brand growth and social awareness. Nevertheless, the number of challenges is also significant. Working directly with a translation agency specialising in international business can be extremely valuable.