The Global Policy Forum reported as far back as the year 2000 that the pace of globalization — the process by which organizations start operating or influencing internationally — was quickening. Technological advances have been key to this change of pace. Globalization is not without its drawbacks, but many leading economists and business analysts believe it is better than the alternative. Indeed, Deloitte reports that after the global financial crisis in 2008, leaders around the world pledged to avoid protectionist measures to boost growth and speed up the global financial recovery.
The global environment we now live in poses both challenges and opportunities for new businesses. Startups today have a wider audience at their fingertips than ever before. A vast international customer base awaits those with the vision and courage to reach out to it. Technology can help with this, and the next issue of MultiLingual, on startups, will cover this when it goes live in a few days.
But the human element is still essential. Let’s look at language as an example of this.
Microsoft has just announced its latest machine translation (MT) success: achieving parity with the quality of human translation for the Chinese-English language pairing on 2,000 sentences in a test environment. However, there is still an incredibly long way to go before MT can rival human translation services. As such, startups that want to promote their products globally are reliant on professional human translators in order to assist them.
Adaptation and localization services are also essential. An image that is perfectly acceptable in one country can cause sufficient offense for arrest warrants to be issued in another. Any business with global aspirations therefore needs to use specialist local knowledge when globalizing its brand. Doing so does take time, but the rewards can be well worth the effort.
Our company, for example, recently launched 11 new websites targeting clients in various new countries as part of its globalization strategy. The French site is targeted to customers in France, Belgium, Canada and other French-speaking countries. Meanwhile, the German site is aimed at German-speaking territories, such as Germany, Switzerland and Austria.
The choice of languages for the new sites was the result of extensive research. Supply and demand were the cornerstones of the research. The demand front covered the number of speakers of the languages being considered, local business activity, size of potential customer base and search engine statistics (anchors, keyword volumes and more). On the supply side, we investigated competition and concurrency in the relevant markets, availability of local translation and localization experts, cost of advertising, cost of pay per click/SEO and similar parameters.
For companies just starting out, global dominance may seem a tall order. However, the right product can have almost boundless appeal. Have you heard of Slack? If you haven’t, you’re behind the curve. Founded less than a decade ago, the business messaging system is now available in more than 100 countries around the world. Meanwhile, TV network Netflix, founded in 1997, is available in all but four countries (China, Crimea, North Korea and Syria).[bctt tweet=”For companies just starting out, global dominance may seem a tall order. However, the right product can have almost boundless appeal.” via=”no”]
Not every startup will want to go global. However, even the smallest of ideas can go a long way in the global environment in which we live. You might dream of simply running a local coffee shop, but that’s how Starbucks started too. The world’s largest coffee company, it now operates in 62 countries.
Whatever your business niche, it’s likely that there’s money to be made by turning globalization to your advantage. A carefully devised strategy, based on appropriate research, is the starting point. Identifying target countries and languages through a measured approach will ensure that time and money are both used efficiently when it comes to international expansion plans.
If you have a great product or service, the world really can be your oyster.