A mid-sized company asked me recently whether they needed to have their new websites translated. This is a fairly well known company in their industry. And they now want to create a presence in several foreign countries and want to create several country-specific websites.
Hmmm. . . So if I got this right, they want to create a presence in several foreign countries, and hope to get by with keeping their websites in English. I wonder what their definition of “presence" is.
Apparently someone had taken a decision to create a website for a selection of foreign countries. But they had not thought the business and marketing plan through.
Obviously, their IT departments said yes, they could arrange to have a website set up for each different country.
I wonder how much their marketing department was involved in the decision process. IT and Marketing people need to communicate and understand each other more.
Their assumptions were also probably based on their own international sales experience. This company is big enough to have had foreign clients already. And these foreign clients communicated to them in English.
This is why several company executives thought it would be possible to develop their business effectively in foreign countries without the hassle of getting involved in foreign languages. Their foreign clients are well educated and usually speak English.
Reasons For Foreign Language Content
There is just two other elements to note.
The top competitors are already present in most of these countries and are obviously communicating with some degree of success in the foreign languages, or at least partially so.
Your communication will always bring in more sales when it is more focused and relevant to your specific target markets. Why would international marketing be any different?
Translation Are The Wrong Focus
The problem is that most people approach communication with foreign clients the wrong way. They focus on their own foreign language limitations and see “translations" as the solution to their needs.
This is the wrong approach for company executives to take. When creating your international business development plan you need to look at translations through a different lens.
Translations are a tool that helps you to communicate with others when you do not speak their language.
I only asked this company a few basic marketing questions. They immediately realized they were focusing on the wrong angle with regards to translations and trying to develop foreign business without them.
Remember to plan for future foreign language content on your websites no matter how you start. This will save you time and money when you are ready to make the change.
Foreign Language Content
All of your communication material represents one of your relationship-building tools.
You will need to have good foreign language content if you want to build good relationships with the people you want to sell your wares to.
But good foreign language content is more than simple translations of your existing communication to your current markets.
Culturally Customized Content
In order to develop your business in any country, you will need to adapt your communication to that particular country. Good cross-cultural communication just does not happen without you taking a step towards the other culture.
You will also need to adapt your offer to each country. This is the key to international business success. Your offer may need one slight change. The change in your offer might even be so slight it is only a nuance. Your offer may need a major overhaul.
The only way to find out how to adapt your offer to a specific culture, is to get to know them intimately. And you simply cannot get to know someone well if you always insist on using your own language to communicate with.
Planning Market Change
Instead of focusing on translations and changing your communication into different languages, focus on planning for changes in your market. This will help you to answer all of the translation and foreign content questions you have.
When two people meet for the first time, if they do not speak each others language, what do they do?
In my opinion it is perfectly alright to start off your communication in your own language. But you must also
- Listen attentively to the other person when he tries to speak to you.
- Be ready to start communicating in the foreign language
- Be proactive in communicating in the foreign language
- Move to communication in the foreign language as soon as you can
- Create communication to fully understand what your foreign client wants
Can you see where a “translation mentality" will slow you down?
Can you see where a “relationship opportunity mentality" will lead you into new markets?
Translations are your first rudimentary tools in building your foreign relationships.
Foreign language content is the basic tool you need to create foreign relationships.
Culturally customized content is the precision tool you need to develop your business.
Simply begin your communication where you can. Begin your relationship where you can. This will start the conversation. This will also start your own learning curve.
Delaying communication does not help you.
Outsourcing communication needs can help you in small doses.
But eventually you will need to get into the communication if you want to be part of this relationship and benefit from it.
Plan and expect to communicate in foreign languages as soon as you can. Your international business development and international marketing strategies will take you further.
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Cindy King is a Cross-Cultural eMarketer & International Sales Specialist, aligning businesses with different cultures. She has over 25 years field experience in international business development.