Lately on the blog, we have been all about manufacturing and exporting. We’ve been diving deep into all the research we can get our hands on to bring you the most valuable information on how to grow your export business.
The recent post, “How to create a thriving export business” is an A to Z guide on the benefits of exporting, from how to get started by identifying potential new markets all the way through post-sale customer support.
But, here’s the thing:
In all the research that we have been conducting, we’ve been surprised to see that no one is talking about a huge elephant in the room…
What are we referring to?
Language and communication, of course!
Sure, there is some mention of business etiquette and some mention of language but overall, it’s an afterthought.
Considering the importance of communication, relationship building, and legal regulations around paperwork, we find it strange that something so crucial could be ignored until the last minute.
I’m sure you’re wondering:
In the complex and time intensive process of becoming established in a new market, what do you need to take into consideration as far as language is concerned? How can professional language services support you in your export journey?
Through this article we will identify all interpretation and translation considerations throughout the export process and how professional language services can support your team.
In a perfect world, you would hire bilingual speakers and employees in the new market, but that’s not realistic at the beginning until you start seeing enough returns to do so.
When this is the case, language services are the perfect support system to help you get integrated into the new market.
Export: Phase 1 – Market Research + Relationship Building
The very first step in developing an export strategy involves choosing which country you want to conduct business. There are many ways to choose a viable new market so choose one that makes strategic sense for your company.
Once you’ve researched the target market, you’ll want to establish relationships with partners, distributors, and of course, clients. A popular tactic for exploring the new market is to attend a trade show in the chosen country.
Whatever your strategy entails, it is going to involve getting feet on the ground and meeting new people.
Naturally, due to proximity, Mexico and Canada are the United States’ two largest trading partners. After that many manufacturers look towards Central and South America.
Don’t let language be a deterrent in your export strategy.
Let it be an asset – while other manufacturing firms may shy away from countries with a drastically different culture, you’ll be there to fill the gap and grasp the opportunity, and profit, for yourself.
How do you meet people and begin to build new business relationships with a market where you don’t speak the language?
It will be beneficial to have a partner with some fluency of English for basic conversations but we don’t recommend relying on them for all language and communication needs.
If your export strategy involves a strict degree of control over every aspect of the export process then you’ll want to have a language communication strategy in place in the background.
I’m sure you’re wondering:
How and what types of language services will support me with establishing relationships abroad?
Many people assume that translation agencies just want to sell their services to whoever will buy them and move on to the next customer. While that may be true for some companies, it is certainly not the case for all.
For a long-term export strategy, you’ll want a language solution partner. Not so much an “agency” who works on a project by project basis but a partner that will deliver innovative and flexible solutions to enable you in your cross-border expansion.
Phase 1 Communication Strategies
In this phase, the main goal is to establish a relationship. Communication may be in person or remotely over the phone, email, or video. You will most likely need to communicate with groups of people, who may or may not have English speaking skills.
Language solutions that can support you through this phase include:
In person interpreting
Have you considered hiring a professional interpreter to attend trade shows with you?
Traveling with an interpreter has many benefits. They can help you get around the country, converse with individuals you otherwise may not be able to communicate with, and all the time spent together ensures that the interpreter gains a full understanding of your business, strategy, and goals.
The better they understand you and your business, the better they will be able to convey communication between you and others.
Over the phone interpreting or Video remote interpreting
Communication must continue no matter where you are in the world. When distance is a factor, as it so often is these days, over the phone interpreting and video remote interpreting will be your saving grace.
Access an interpreter over the phone in under 30 seconds or have a simultaneous interpreter on hand for video conferences, conference calls, or webinars.
Export: Phase 2 – Sales & Marketing
Let’s talk about sales and marketing.
You’ve established a partnership in your new target market and are ready to market your products/services and start making sales.
If you somehow managed to work in English alone up to this point then congratulations but now is when you’re seriously going to need some linguistic support.
Sales and marketing is all about conveying your value. Marketing brings prospects to you and sales converts prospects into clients.
For a successful sales and marketing strategy, you must speak your client’s language. Literally and figuratively!
While interpreting services will certainly be beneficial in phase 2, this is mainly where translation services will come into play in a big way.
Phase 2: The Importance of Professional Translation Services
Just because everyone has the ability to take photos on a whim through their phone, does not mean that everyone is now a professional photographer. Would you trust just anyone with an iPhone to document an important event such as a wedding?
No, you wouldn’t. If you really cared about the outcome quality then you would hire a professional.
Likewise, you shouldn’t leave something as important as translating your website or legal contracts to someone who says that are fluent in both languages.
We can’t stress this enough: Just because someone is bilingual, does not make them a translator.
Translation is a specialized skill set that individuals invest years of schooling and training into. Translators are constantly studying and sharpening their skills.
Don’t let the media fool you, translation isn’t as simple as typing out a sentence and clicking a “Translate Now!” button…
There are many different types of documents that you may need translated. Whether it be your website and various marketing brochures to purchase orders, contracts, and export documentation.
Don’t rely on your partner to translate for you in any capacity. Take control and leave it to the professionals. However, your partner can be a great resource for reviewing translations. It is always helpful to have a second eye on them especially by someone who is directly in the industry and more importantly, working closely with your business.
This phase is how your business, products, and services, will be represented and portrayed in the new market. Don’t take translation lightly and leave it to just anyone. It can either hurt you or be your great competitive advantage.
Take HSBC Bank as an example:
They attempted to bring their successful “Assume Nothing” marketing campaign to the global stage. However, this slogan was translated into “Do Nothing” in many countries. This led to a forced re-branding costing them millions of dollars over a 5 year period!
A mistranslation in your marketing may not cost you millions like it did for HSBC but it could cost you a new client or two which can add up quickly!
Learn from others mistakes and perform your due diligence in all aspects of your business. Choose the right translation agency to partner with, proofread your materials, and work closely with your partner to ensure everything is correct and culturally appropriate.
Better to spend a little more up front then a lot more later to correct mistakes and rescue your reputation.
Coca-Cola went as far as to create a new brand name for the Chinese market when they realized that their original translation of “Coca-Cola” was not resonating.
They created a brand name that both sounded like the English-language name and also conveyed a positive meaning to Chinese customers. The new name roughly translates to “Delicious happiness” back into English.
We call that an international marketing win!
Export: Phase 3 – Post-Sale Customer Service
We’ve made it! You’ve successfully established yourself in your market of choice, are building a solid client base, and products are selling consistently.
But, wait… a client has a question or is having issues that needs to be addressed.
You start receiving phone calls and emails…and they are not in English.
What do you do?!
Eventually, if the market is profitable enough you’ll want to hire employees in country or at least native speakers in your US headquarters.
Until that time, it’s interpreter and translation services to the rescue once again.
For phone calls, an over the phone interpreting account will connect you with an interpreter in under 30 seconds. For emails and anything written online, translation services will bridge the gap between your team and your clients.
Keys to Success: A Solution-Oriented Partner
For language services to be successful and seamlessly integrated into your business processes, we can’t stress enough how important it is to have a close relationship with your language service partner.
This partnership will ensure that they have a firm understanding of your business, how it’s operating, and how they can set you up with the best resources possible to address any challenge that comes your way.
A great language solution partner will have a dedicated team of account managers, project managers, interpreters and translators for your company so that there is no down time in re-explaining each and every situation.
When a customer service call comes in, an interpreter will be able to seamlessly facilitate the conversation.
Need a purchase order translated in a hurry? The language solution partner can get it done in a flash.
You won’t need to worry about quality because they know your company, have a glossary set up for industry and company specific terminology, and understand what your processes and timelines look like.
We hope this helps to give you an overall picture of how professional language services fit into export strategies and will support and enable your growth into new markets.
While this is a rather simplistic breakdown of the export process, we realize that reality is not so black and white with one perfect stage after the next. Life is more fluid and often times you will be juggling many different challenges at once.
Because the real world is much more complex than we could ever convey in one blog post, we believe this is even more of a reason to have language solution partner on your side.
A partner you can trust when you need an email translated in the middle of the night or need an interpreter for an important meeting on the other side of the globe with a few days’ notice.
No matter which stage your company may be at, we hope that you now feel empowered to make the best decisions to set yourself up for success on the global stage. It may not be easy, but it sure will be rewarding.
Want to help your business prepare for translation services? Download our free checklist by clicking the photo below!