Before you Translate your Website, Are you Ready to Export?

Website translation is often viewed by exporters as a quick and relatively easy way of breaking into a new market. The chances are you would have come across countless articles, blog posts and press releases encouraging businesses to translate their websites. “Going global” via your website is without doubt an effective means of exporting your goods or services; however, sometimes its effectiveness can be just as damaging as it is an opportunity. Why?
Exposure within foreign search engines in the local language will result in enquiries; however these enquiries will more than likely also be in a foreign language. Are you actually capable of dealing with these orders or enquiries?

Many companies are being hoodwinked into believing a website translation is the goal when it comes to export or international sales. It isn’t.

Having a website translated is and has to be only one part of an international sales or business development strategy – it is not the end game. It’s the end game for the translation company and/or website design agency. Their goal, the majority of the time, will be on delivering your website in German, French, Arabic or whatever the language may be. Full stop.

A website on its own is never going to drive sales in France, Germany or South Korea. A website educates the users on what you do or what you sell.  It is the functionality of that business or company that will truly drive sales and by this I mean clear processes, procedures and structures which support sales and customer service.

Prior to committing any investment to translating a website with the goal of export, ask yourself, “Are we ready to sell to this country?” Are you capable of answering emails or phone calls in the language? Can you deliver there? How do you accept payments? These are some of the many operational questions a business needs to ask itself if it wants to succeed in the export game.

Here are some ideas on how to build capacity into your business to allow your website to convert enquiries into sales and then into customers.

Local Partners.
Having a local partner is a very robust way of dealing with local enquiries, sales, marketing and deliveries. This could be through a joint-venture, distributor or a sales agent. The responsibility to deal with the local market is externalised and put into the hands of someone who knows the local market.  A lack of control as well as lower margins may however put some businesses off using this model.

If you plan on targeting a specific market, say France, then why not consider hiring someone French to work in-house? They could either be specifically responsible for operations within France or this could be a part of their role where they act as an advisor or pitch in with phone calls or emails. Having someone in-house gives you control and speed as well as that al-important local know-how.

Test the Market.
If you want to export to a new marketplace, rather than go in all guns blazing, why not test the market out at arm’s reach? Rather than outsourcing or hiring someone in-house, look at using a service such as a virtual assistant. This person works remotely, ideally in the target country but without the expense of an office, etc. They can act as your representative in the country, dealing with enquiries and generally helping the export side of the business. Once you are sure that the new market will pay its way you can then embark upon investing in full time staff or a local office.

One way of reducing the work or time it takes to deal with customer enquiries or orders is to localise your website.  Website translation is all about converting the text from one language into another. Localisation is about making it work according to local expectations, i.e. using the right measurements, having your navigation set up properly or having the right information online such as FAQ pages. Reducing the issues or questions users have with your site means less for you to deal with in the office.

A simple way or reducing your administrative burden is through automation of communication such as emails, phone messages, manuals and the like.  Having these in foreign languages, i.e. template emails or help videos, speeds up the communication process as well as allowing for consistency. Identify the main areas you need to consistently talk about with your users or customers and draw up a plan as to what can be automated. This may not be 100% ideal, but it’s an economical, practical and functional way of overcoming the language barrier.

If you’d like further information on how to prepare your business for export, ask people like UKTI, your chamber of commerce or even this website. Alternatively, check out our website for further information.

Topics: Business Development, E-commerce, Export Concept, Export Planning, Export Process, Getting Started, Localisation, Market Research, Operations, and Sales & Marketing
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