By expanding internationally, American companies can increase their revenue by as much as 50%. Many companies have understood and realized the growth potential for themselves, though the actual rate of growth may be different for different companies. But the journey is not smooth for everyone.
What, then, do US companies going global need to keep in mind? These three tips will help.
It’s not that America is monolingual – far from it. However, when compared to European companies, for instance, their American counterparts have a lot to learn about language and how it influences business.
In Europe, translation is required by law. Manufacturing companies must obtain the CE mark to be able to trade throughout Europe. This mark mandates that the product has been translated into all the official languages of the European Economic Area.
Latin America, one of today’s growth hubs, speaks many languages and dialects. While 60% of the Latin American population speaks Spanish, 30% speak Portuguese, and another 6% speak other languages such as Mayan. Though there may not be strict regulations that require translation, the overwhleming non-Anglophone populations should make it pretty obvious.
In China, of course, you wouldn’t dare sell without translation. All goods sold in China must be labelled in the Chinese language with accurate descriptions of their contents, goods, production date, and expiration date.
But it’s not just these important geographies of global business. It’s generally the rule of thumb that if you don’t speak the customer’s language, your chances of succeeding reduce drastically. Research backs that up, too: More than 60% of a sample of 300 consumers reported that they only buy from websites in their own language. Consumers with low-English skills are six times more likely not to purchase a product on an English-only website.
All-American Marketing Tactics? No Way!
While product exhibitions and conferences may be somewhat passé in the Western market, they are considered essential to breaking into the Chinese market. In China, conferences are seen as a physical demonstration of a company’s commitment to the market, therefore gaining the trust of the consumer.
Stay away from using marketing tactics centered around American holiday seasons in international markets. While Americans prepare for the Christmas shopping rush, the Chinese are busy with their December Solstice holiday. Marketing campaigns around the Chinese New Year are going to resonate better in China than Valentine’s Day which follows close behind.
Similarly, Europe too has its own set of holidays like May Day, Bastille Day, and the Summer Solstice, so don’t simply export Fourth of July holiday themes.
Cultural Sensitivity A Must-Have
Translated content must be culturally sensitive to the targeted market. Colors, for example, carry different meanings and connotations in different culture.
While purple in the Western world generally represents royalty, in China, it is used in Taoist symbolism, and thus is regarded with reverence. While white represents purity in the Western world, it is often the color worn to funerals in Chinese culture. Marketing with white colors in China is ill-advised, as it is associated with death and loss.
Numbers also carry different meanings in other cultures. In Japan, marketers do not usually include the numbers 4 or 9, as they are associated with death and suffering. In China, the number 250 can mean ‘imbecile’ and could be interpreted as an insult. While in America the number 13 is considered unlucky, it’s just the opposite in Italy. But the number ’17’ does give them the shivers.
All of this may make international marketing sound very complicated, and that is partly true. However, you can still win at it if you study local market practices and adopt scalable growth strategies.