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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 have never really put much thought into 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 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 that country for a successful launch, so learning a little about proper business etiquette there can really go a long way. Your meetings could be face-to-face, via email, video chat, or over the phone. If you are trying to launch your brand in multiple countries, it will be important to familiarize yourself with each of the areas. It is not necessary to learn each and every custom in every location, 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.

We recently had a client request the translation of his business card into Japanese. This is also a sign of respect for the Japanese speaker who receives the card. We did remind the client that he should add the country code to the beginning of his telephone number and to avoid using the extra toll-free 800 number, as it would not work outside of the United States. Remember, it's important to make it easy for your potential clients to reach you!

Since there is no global standard of business etiquette, we recommend always researching the area you’re travelling 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 on them 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.

Should you Localize your Smartphone Applications?

If your company has recently launched a Smartphone app, or even if you’ve had an app that’s been out for quite some time, you may be wondering if it would be worth your while to localize that app. Localization, in this sense, basically entails adapting your product to another market or set of markets. This could mean language translation, but it could also mean adapting some of the images or audio files within the app, or even the marketing materials you use to promote it. All of this would fall under localization.

If you’ve ever heard the saying, “There’s an app for that,” then you may have an understanding of just how important apps have become in our society. People use them for just about everything. Having a Smartphone application puts your business, quite literally, in the palm of someone’s hand. If developed well, it’s convenient for the consumer to use and helps build brand loyalty and trust by delivering the information they need quickly and easily via their phone or other handheld device, just as they need or want it.

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Users are most likely to be drawn to an app designed for their native languages. If your business markets itself toward different demographics, then it is important that these demographics be represented in all facets of your business, including in the use of your Smartphone app. In fact, according to a 2012 report from Distimo, The Impact of App Translations, a study of 200 iPhone apps that launched in different native languages saw a 128% increase in downloads the week following that launch, and a 26% increase in revenue from these downloads. Applications localized into Chinese, Japanese, and Korean saw the most growth from this update.

Although the US/English app market is still the most dominant market to date, other markets are growing at an impressive rate (namely the Japanese and South Korean markets, but there is also quite a bit of growth in countries such as Brazil, Russia, India and China. Since a user feels most secure reading something in his or her own native tongue, the potential to actively engage and reach these users through a properly localized app can increase exponentially. If a user is interested in your brand and has a basic understanding of English, he may download your non-localized application. However, if he cannot decipher the language of the app well enough to make purchases, he may become hesitant to use it on a long-term basis, like he would an app in his own language. This can easily cause one to delete the app and disengage with a brand entirely.

Users value content in their native tongue, and the above statistics help demonstrate the impact that localizing a Smartphone application can have both on your business’ visibility, as well as on your potential revenue. If you are actively working to expand into other markets and demographics, then Smartphone application localization is definitely something worth investigating.