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Global Business Etiquette for Your Brand

If your company is based in the United States, you are likely familiar with business etiquette here in North America. It would be normal for you to arrive on time (or better… early!) and shake someone’s hand when you greet them during a business meeting, for example, or to even invite fellow associates out for dinner to both discuss the agenda and socialize with your colleagues.

If you’ve never given thought to globalization and expanding your business to an international market, it is likely you might also not have considered how business etiquette may differ in other countries and how adapting to these differences could vastly impact your ability to perform well in a global market.

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Translating and/or localizing your product and services are a great first step to entering the global market. You can read more about the importance of localizing your product here. However, localization isn’t the only step in moving your business forward in a foreign culture. It’s probable that you will need to work directly with other business associates in the target country for a successful launch, so learning a little about proper business etiquette there can really go a long way. It is not necessary to learn each and every custom in every location where you plan to do business, but it will help if you have a basic understanding of how business etiquette works in each one.

If you are holding a business meeting in Mexico, for instance, it would not be uncommon for the meeting to begin a little late, and for your colleagues to engage in an embrace as a greeting, instead of a handshake, once a perceived friendship is established. Conversely, if you are conducting business in Germany, arriving late is considered rude and business meetings are very formal (always shake hands and greet someone as Herr [Mister] last name even when you know them well).

In China, it can be inappropriate to begin your meeting by discussing the deal you want to close directly. This may be considered rude, and you may come home without the deal you had hoped for. Instead, it is more appropriate to develop a relationship with your business partner and avoid interrupting him/her at all costs! When handing your business card to someone in China, or receiving one from a potential business partner, do so with both hands. This is considered a sign of respect.

Since there is no global standard of business etiquette, we recommend always researching the area you’re traveling to (or speaking with) to ensure you are abiding by that country’s customs and standards. This shows respect for your business associates abroad and makes a good impression for your products and services. Being prepared shows that you are dedicated to doing business in that area and will greatly improve your chance of success when launching your localized product or service.

Your Website is Translated... Now What?

If you’ve recently translated your website, then you’ve taken a huge first step in terms of growing your marketing demographic! However, you may notice that your customer base does not necessarily grow right off the bat just based on the translated website alone. Your goal to expand your customer base into other cultures is a great one, and here are some steps to help drive traffic to your newly translated website and continue along the path of reaching this new demographic.

  • Create marketing plans aimed at bringing in your new target demographic. Advertise your content in sources relevant to this group, localizing your advertisements to reach these new customers. If your customers do not realize that there is an entire web page designed with them in mind, you won’t see the full benefit of its creation!
  • Use social media to your advantage! Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube are just a few popular social media channels that can help you reach more people faster. Know which social media platforms you’d like your company to start with, and focus on those. Learn what drives customer engagement across these channels and begin to implement these. Create a Facebook business page specific to your company’s niche within this target market. Point people to the content on your site whenever it’s relevant to send people there so that they engage with you where you’d like them to end up. Ensure your social media pages are easily identifiable as your own brand, but specific to your new market. If your company’s brand is typically associated with being carefree, make sure your new page adapts that perception, but tailor it to your audience. You might, for example, have someone run a “Business Name_Mexico” Instagram page to ensure the content is relevant. Such relevant and engaging content will drive your customers from social media to your website.
  • Engage with target customers on review sites when possible. This lets them know their voice is heard and that your company is serious about engaging with them in their own language on topics that are important to them.

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Once you’ve driven traffic to your website, it is important to keep these customers engaged to avoid losing them. Make your website visually appealing and tailor it to your target market. Be sure the first things your customers see when they visit the site are relevant to their needs. If it is not visually appealing or puts the customer off in any way, you run the risk of them leaving the website and not returning. You can also get feedback by surveying your customers while they’re using the site. Many people will gladly share their opinion and may help you identify any potential issues on the site as it relates to that culture (or in general!) and how you could possibly fix that going forward. This newly translated website is a great step in ensuring you are reaching your new customer base, and with the right focus on demographic going forward, you should see your website’s traffic increase along the way.

When translating marketing materials makes sense for your company

If your company uses marketing materials to reach potential customers, you may have already considered translating these materials into other languages, and wondered what the benefits could be for your company if you do so. Deciding whether or not translating these materials would benefit your company is a big decision, and we understand it may not be something you take lightly. There are a few things to keep in mind when making this decision:

-        Who is your target market? If your business is located in an area with a larger population of Limited English Proficient (LEP) speakers, it may make sense to target this demographic as potential customers. Translating marketing materials into a customer’s native language can help the customer feel appreciated and also help him or her fully understand your business. A customer who does not understand your advertisements is less likely to feel engaged with your brand. According to the 2010 Census, 12.4% of Americans speak Spanish as their main language, 3.7% speak other Indo-European languages, and 3% speak Asian and Pacific languages. Take a look at the US Census for further detail as to language use in your specific area. This is a great tool to help determine the need for translated materials and what languages make the most sense for your company.

-        How does it fit into your budget? Although translating your marketing materials may seem like an unnecessary cost up front, especially if you have a large number of materials to translate, it could easily mean a full return on your investment (and then some) in a short amount of time. If your translations help to attract new clients, it will earn your company new business. If these customers feel appreciated and fully understand how your business works, they will be more likely to become repeat customers, which is wonderful news for your bottom line. Moreover, you may not need to translate all of your materials at once. Prioritize those that will be most effective for this target market. Other materials can always be translated at a later date.

A professional translator will understand how best to deliver your specific brand and message to the desired demographic and provide that translation for these new customers. If the potential client base is there, whether in the U.S. or overseas, we certainly recommend making the initial investment to translate your marketing materials. The long-term payoff for your company is well worth the initial cost to start the translation process. For a free quote, contact us today.