LOCALIZATION STRATEGY FOR YOUR INTERNATIONAL GROWTH
If you have been thinking about expanding your business internationally, the decision to move overseas is both challenging and rewarding. Whether it has always been part of your long-term business plan or you are responding to a current international opportunity, there are critical considerations you need to make for your project to be successful.
Much like a typical student, Going Global 101 learners have to do their homework when creating a localization strategy. Clichés aside, no successful global company is built in a day! It would help if you were intentional with every step to conquer the foreign marketplace successfully.
Don’t overdo your course-load by entering fifty countries spanning three oceans and four continents all at once – start small! It is even smarter, sticking closer to home. For example, if you are a Canadian business, why not venture into the US market right next door?
WHAT GLOBALIZATION LOOKS LIKE FOR YOUR COMPANY
While language translation matters when venturing abroad, it is just the first of several vital traits that expanding businesses should analyze when exploring new global markets. Things like cultural awareness, tone, local laws and regulations, and digital medium preferences are also important for your localization strategy.
The first step to globalization is to analyze what it looks like for your company. Does your business have a globally consistent brand? Are you planning to resonate within a local community?
To prioritize global consistency, you need to remain faithful to your original content and word choice. This is especially important if you are broadly aiming to give your product the largest possible global reach. With over 7,000 global languages, localizing all of them could easily drown any organization in excessive translation work.
By striving for local relevance, you can adapt content to a specific market’s norms. As a result, you can optimize your localization strategy by targeting focused regions. This is especially true if you are venturing into markets like Latin America, where each country speaks a different Spanish dialect.
With all these complexities to navigate, it is worth working with an expert localization company to help you through the process of globalization. Overall, here are some areas to evaluate when deciding to expand your business internationally:
1. CHOOSE A COUNTRY INTO WHICH TO EXPAND
It is often tempting for business owners to choose a country they are familiar with or have heard about from close friends or business partners. Unfortunately, this is not always the best indicator of an ideal fit for your company.
Deciding on what country to move into requires research, strategic thinking, and a systematic approach. Start with market research by assessing the need, appetite, and readiness of the market for your product or service.
Here are some key questions to ask yourself before launching in a new country:
- Does your product or service answers to a specific need in that market?
- Is there interest in your product or service?
- Are there any aspects of your product or service that you need to adapt to fit local needs?
Next, dig deeper into the new market landscape and see if the country has the necessary infrastructure and distribution networks to sell your product or service. Investigate whether you have competitors there already and how strong their brand is. If there is a gap in what your competitor has to offer, investigate if there are any ways you can exploit it.
The insights from your market research should help you make an informed decision on the viability of moving into a specific country. Once you have settled on a country, figure out your entry strategy. You can either dedicate a substantial amount of resources to go full-scale or enter the market gradually, depending on what fits your international expansion plan.
2. UNDERSTAND LOCAL LAWS AND REGULATIONS
Getting to know your target market involves understanding local legislation as well. Do this as part of your risk assessment process during the initial stages of your global expansion plan. Think tax laws, customs laws, corporate laws, liability laws, restrictions on imports and exports, intellectual property, etc.
As a Canadian business venturing into the EU market, be sure to learn all the export/import legislation, including customs, product and chemical safety, packaging and labelling, consumer rights, intellectual property, and business travel.
For example, the EU energy label on a product gives the consumer information concerning a product’s energy efficiency. Energy labels are mandatory for all-electric appliances and other energy-related products.
Energy labels should provide information about your product’s:
- Energy efficiency rating
- Noise emissions
- Consumption of water and energy
For electrical and electronic equipment, you must include an image showing the European Commission symbol indicating that the equipment should not be disposed of in the standard waste stream.
The Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) directive applies to a wide range of electrical and electronic appliances and certain professional equipment. Some standard equipment that is subject to the WEEE directive include:
- Large and small household appliances
- Lighting equipment
- IT and telecommunications equipment
- Toys, sports, and leisure equipment
- Consumer equipment and photovoltaic panels
- Electrical and electronic tools (except large-scale industrial tools)
- Medical devices (except all implanted and infected products)
- Automatic dispensers
- Monitoring and controlling instruments
In terms of intellectual property rights, the regulations are territorial, which means that Canada’s registration of intellectual property does not provide any protection in Europe. If you are planning to export to the EU, it is vital to seek professional advice on how to protect your intellectual property rights best abroad.
3. LEVERAGE THE LOCAL WORKFORCE
Legal frameworks and requirements for every aspect of your business can vary significantly from one country to the next and should not be overlooked for your localization strategy. It is wise to hire local experts early in the process to provide guidance on the ins and outs of the local laws, procedures, timelines, recourses, etc. They also should be able to advise you regarding the workings of the local laws and be able to foresee what could ensue in any legal situation you may find yourself in.
Involving the local workforce can also help you appreciate local customs. In the UAE, for example, it is critical to have a local sponsor to do business as a foreigner or foreign company. Such a sponsor represents your business in different ways and into the government.
4. ALIGN YOUR GLOBAL MARKETING WITH THE LOCAL CULTURE
Expanding your business internationally can get even more complicated when cultural differences come into play. Many multinationals have experienced marketing gone wrong due to ill-chosen names or packaging that had not been appropriately adapted.
When approaching a new marketplace, look at how language and culture intersect. Let’s assume you’re an American video game developer looking to expand abroad. A slogan like “America, Get Your Game On” will need localization on multiple levels. First, the name “America” should be replaced by that of the target country.
Next, analyze whether your tone is appropriate to the target market. In some regions, it may sound too brusque. How about the subject? All these aspects of your business must be analyzed and aligned with the local culture.
5. LANGUAGES AND YOUR LOCALIZATION STRATEGY
Working with in-country marketing experts could make all the difference between a successful launch and a total failure. The same is true for language translators, as you will need to localize your website, your documentation, and your packaging if you want the target market to adopt your products or services.
Localization goes beyond merely translating texts from one language to another. Your translators need to look at the more significant cultural picture in which you want your brand to be situated. It also means analyzing details such as graphics and icons, since the meanings of symbols can vary from one culture to another.
Unfortunately, localization often comes as an afterthought for many businesses going global. Insufficient or inaccurate language translation and localization can severely impact your planned launch, its costs, and the quality of the output.
An excellent example of such negative impacts of inaccurate localization is when HSBC, a giant American bank, took its marketing campaign overseas. In 2009, they had to rebrand its entire global private banking operations by scraping its “Assume Nothing” slogan when problems arose abroad. In most countries, the tagline was translated as “Do Nothing.” The bank had to spend $10 million to change it to “The world’s private bank,” which provides a much simpler translation.
Localization is a holistic process that involves linguists, programmers, and marketing experts working together to ensure that your product or service is translated effectively and accurately for an entire target region and/or culture. It ties elements such as imagery, tone, and subject matter together. Therefore, a well-thought-out localization strategy is vital for your international growth.
Given the complexities of adapting your business’s product or service internationally, it is essential that you work with a reputable language service provider with the right tools and in-country resources to conduct comprehensive studies of your target cultures. Specialized linguists understand the cultures of specific regions inside and out, down to the current slang and popular memes. Art One Translations is a localization company that helps clients with their international expansion by providing accurate website localization, mobile app localization, software localization, multimedia localization, and foreign language transcription, among other services.
A clear localization strategy for your international growth takes time and resources. Since it is a long-term activity, it might be challenging for many growing enterprises to slow down and plan it all out. Remember that strategy is the forest, and tactics or production elements are the trees. Both are vital for your success in a foreign market, as tacticians know the right answers while strategists know the right ways to ask questions (and get them answered).
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