By Arek Estall

How relevant is language when exporting?

There may be certain companies who have exported abroad and kept their website in English, but there are far more success stories concerning companies who translate.  Translating shows respect and commitment to the market you’re going into and potential customers will believe you are in it for the long-haul.

Research from Common Sense Advisory shows that 72% of customers would rather buy products that provide information in their own language – which is a pretty sizeable amount.

And crucially 56% from the same survey say that having information in their own language is more important than price.  Margins are crucial to any business, and having the right languages could be a good way of increasing your ROI.

The question about culture

Translation is just part of the equation.

If you’re looking to target new countries with your website or marketing materials, it’s important to consider not just the language but the culture too.  Localisation is the next step which helps along the way to achieving that, and it involves making sure your message has cultural context.

A good example of where localisation would have been useful is a story one of our clients came to us with recently.  They produced hand tools for use in the construction industry, and this was their first foray into foreign markets.  They had hired a freelance translator to translate their website into Arabic, looking to capitalise on the construction industry in the Middle East.  The client spent money on Google AdWords, advertising in trade magazines and went to exhibitions, and while they secured some deals from people they met at exhibitions they sensed a resistance.  They came to us to proofread their content to see if it was inaccurate.
While the content was accurate the original translator hadn’t taken into account the value of localisation.  We chose new images for him based on tastes in the Saudi Arabian market (for example he had images of women using the tools, which wasn’t appropriate for the market) and our localisation team worked on a series of new slogans and metaphors that better described the products.

The client saw a gradual increase in orders, and for a relatively small investment of around £1,500 they increased their sales from around £100,000 to £500,000 from one year to the next.

There is also transcreation to consider.  A literal translation of your marketing materials and websites will not have the same emotional impact in a new language.  Make sure you use a transcreation service by a professional company who also employ translators with marketing experience. You want to make sure your message will be culturally relevant and impactful.

Handling enquiries?

When it comes to dealing with enquiries many countries will be happy to talk in English.  For some cultures, going that extra step of translating your email correspondence or hiring an interpreter for face-to-face meetings is a great sign of respect and could help you land the deal.  Interpreters are useful because they can also advise on the culture and guide you through your experience.  We recently provided interpreters to a bank that was expanding into Qatar, and they became a valuable part of the business team. You could also consider telephone interpreting which might be a cheaper option.

Another of our clients was trading with Germany in English, and they were achieving sales of £7,500 a week.  When they engaged us to translate their emails with their client base, after six months the figure had risen to £7,500 a day, an increase of 500%.

Language isn’t enough on its own, but it is a good start.  We’d recommend in-depth research and support when going into any new country, to avoid any faux pas – even English speaking ones.

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