The following is the latest guest blog entry from Greater Boston Chamber members detailing valuable strategies and insight for the Greater Boston business community.
You’re ready to expand your company internationally. You’re working hard to get your website up and running and figure out the tax code and shipping procedures, but have you given enough thought to the cultural differences between the U.S. and your new market? Different languages, aesthetics, and values all create challenges to your expansion efforts, but by adjusting your marketing strategy to fit local markets, you can provide your company with a competitive advantage.
Once it was sufficient to have an English-only website, but now customers in other countries demand sites in their own languages. US firms that do not adequately localize their content lose out on $50 billion each year, according to the U.S. State Department. And a survey by Common Sense Advisory, “Can’t Read, Won’t Buy: 2014” found that 75% of global consumers in ten non-Anglophone countries prefer to buy products in their native language.
So how can you adapt? Here are four ways:
Professionally translate your website into the local language: Don’t rely on Google Translate to do your work. The translation quality will be sketchy at best, and the user experience will likely be clumsy, making your company look amateurish to the local consumer. After the translation is complete, check that the translated words fit into the buttons. Does the text scroll nicely? If you’re marketing in a character-based language like Chinese, have you modified the site design appropriately? Additional design challenges may need attention if you’re translating to a language like Arabic that reads from right to left.
Consider aesthetic differences: For example, Swedes tend to like clean, minimalist designs, Israelis tend to like animation and flash, and South Africans like a lot of color. You don’t want to change what your brand looks like and you probably can’t afford to radically change your site for every market, but you can think about choosing colors that are pleasing to the local market, pictures that make sense within the cultural context, and site usability.
Examine your messaging. What does the local market value and how does your product fit into the mix? Different cultures care about different product features. For example, if you’re planning to market a car in Europe, you may want to emphasize that your car is small, easy to park, and highly fuel-efficient. But if you’re marketing that same car in the U.S., you’ll be better off talking about its leather interior, up-to-date gadgets, and over-sized sunroof. It’s the same car, but you’ve related the details that are most important to your local market.
Don’t forget social media. Chinese consumers are especially responsive to social media, often making purchases based on recommendations within their networks. Make sure you use social media to your advantage by hiring a native speaker who knows the current slang, and who knows what’s in and what’s out. Social media is extremely sensitive to local differences, and if you don’t do it right, you’re likely to be remembered more for your gaffes than for your product.
The bottom line is that while international trade is bringing us closer together, consumers like to buy from companies that speak their language and understand their needs. To fully participate in foreign markets, you need to take the time to make your business feel like it belongs in the neighborhood. Following the above steps will help ensure your international expansion efforts are successful.
Kirstin M. Gray is a Sr. Marketing Specialist of Red & Blue International, a provider of globalization solutions, with experts in interpretation, translation, voice-over, technical writing, and staffing services. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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