By Simon Davies
As the marketplace at large continues to spread into new international territories, no matter the industry, an increasing number of businesses are looking to take their goods and services to global customers. In 2018, around a quarter of British SMEs stated their intention to “grow their customer base” abroad, across a huge range of sectors.
However, when it comes to actually making this a reality it’s easy to overlook granular details in favour of larger-scale plans. You can conduct all the necessary research and make all the investments you want, but if you can’t communicate the essence of your business to your international customers, you will probably struggle to make your mark within your target marketplaces.
Localise your website
Considering your website is likely to be most people’s first interaction with your business, ensuring that it can be understood by your target audience abroad is vital to your overseas success. Indeed, 84% of consumers will be more inclined to buy from websites written in their own language. One key way to do this is through website localisation, which is a form of translation taking “cultural and aesthetic factors into consideration”.
This includes the design and development of a website, which may need to be adapted to fit any expanded text in translation, as well as altering images to be more relevant to your new international audience. Of course, you may create a cross-culturally appropriate website, but it’s still worth taking the time and energy to diversify your web presence alongside your global marketing efforts.
Make sure your staff speak the right language
Before your business physically ventures into new territories, you will need to have a team who can communicate with customers and clients in your target markets. This can be easily achieved as part of your expansion, but needs advance planning to be done successfully. Ideally, you should make efforts to advertise for bilingual staff as soon as you have made the decision to take your business global.
Otherwise, considering the current linguistic skills gap resulting from fewer graduates taking language GCSEs or A-levels, it may be advisable to upskill your current staff by paying for language courses. More cost-effective than hiring new staff, giving your team the chance to learn a language online lets them prepare for your business’s global efforts while picking up a beneficial skill at their own pace and convenience.
Network with international local businesses
Identifying your industry and local competition is a crucial part of overseas expansion—there’s no point in growing your business in another country if there’s no market for its services. However, you needn’t necessarily consider your company’s competitors in an adversarial way. Getting to know your enemy, as it were, can actually help you work out how best to tailor your marketing efforts to your target audience.
Thanks to the internet, you will be able to do much of this from your home base, sparking conversations with other key businesses through LinkedIn or simply via email. Networking, or even partnering, with existing local frontrunners in your industry, can give you a much better understanding of how the business works internationally. For instance, they may also want to know more about the ins and outs of your mutual industry in your home country, making it a beneficial process for both parties. And if it also helps you find new hires once you’re ready to establish an HQ abroad, so much the better!
Simon Davies is a freelance journalist interested in marketing, tech and small business. Follow him at @SimonTheoDavies.