Do you ever give your customers international business advice?

If you had a seat around the executive table, what advice would you give your international clients? As a Localization Pro, I have dealt with customers who are expanding into the European market, where I was born, for over 22 years. One of the toughest tasks has been to bite my tongue when advice falls outside of the linguistic realm. Luckily, I have close relationships with a lot of my business partners, so I occasionally contribute to their success with some key recommendations. What are some of the things you wish you could consult your clientele about when it comes to starting an international expansion? Here are some of mine:

Just because your business is on all cylinders at home does not mean your product automatically can be sold abroad. It takes time and effort to build an international brand, and it really pays to do your homework. Are you sure you have a receptive audience abroad? Is there a demand already? Great! For international expansion, local customer references are key. You should turn your early customer successes into case studies where possible. If you don’t have any yourself to lean on maybe there are some local studies or testimonials that can be translated in the vertical. Do your homework up front! It is key!

How localized is your marketing approach? For so many companies expanding abroad, the Achilles heel turns out to be marketing. It’s understandable that the primary focus often is on sales, but without a localized marketing presence it is tough to generate propulsion for that sales effort.

Even when cultures don’t seem that far apart, differences can be far more substantial than appear on the surface. It’s a mystery to me why companies don’t find a local guide to help them get familiar. Would you climb mount Everest without a Sherpa? Make sure you have someone who can guide you through the gullies and crevasses, an expert who is familiar with the terrain, the local laws, and business culture.

One of the core reasons companies have struggled with international expansion in the past had nothing to do with culture, language or regulations. Traditionally companies have always been very HQ-centric. Covid-19 turned all that upside down. Employees are suddenly working from home in large quantities. As we emerge from almost two years of entrenchment because of the pandemic, the New Year presents us with a unique international opportunity. With so many working from home already, physical distance has suddenly become much less of an obstacle to globalization! Going forward, international companies will be much more apt to have distributed worldwide leadership. It’s as if we have been baking global cooperation into the cake.

So many of us in the language field have business experience in many places around the world. It’s probably one of the most undervalued benefits of working with our industry. As a Loc Pro, what is some of the best advice you have for companies that are looking to expand abroad?

Stefan Huyghe
Stefan Huyghe is Vice President of Localization at Communicaid Inc. where he focuses on running high-level operations, workflow optimization, database development, social selling and community building. He has over 20 years of experience working in the language industry is fluent in Dutch, French, German, and English.


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