Translation is far more than a comprehension exercise – use it to generate new business

The manufacturing industry in the UK is being urged by the Government to grow its way out of the recession. But how can manufacturers grow when there’s limited reach in the UK market?

In order to compete, businesses need to expand their reach into Europe and beyond, to grow their own market and start to rebalance the economy. Many have the manufacturing ability to do this, but that’s not enough. How can they market themselves successfully to overseas customers, agents and distributors?

Let customers come to you

With so many companies operating online, and so many customers searching for products via the Internet, this is certainly the best place for many to start. But English is not necessarily the lingua franca of the online world: in fact, it only accounts for 26.8% of all Internet language use,[1] and a recent Eurobarometer survey has shown that a massive 90% of European web-users will always visit a site in their own language if offered the choice.[2]

Furthermore, companies that do not provide multilingual versions of their website run the risk of not being found at all! The table below is based on research we recently did for a Midlands-based manufacturer of wiring harnesses; in all four of the company’s key markets, there are considerably more searches per month in the foreign language for its product than in English.

Average monthly search volumes by country for ‘wiring harness’ and equivalent translations[3]
Germany wiring harness 1,600
Kabelbaum 40,500
France wiring harness 720
faisceau électrique 9,900
Netherlands wiring harness 720
kabelboom 6,600
Poland wiring harness 320
wiązka elektryczna 1,600

Don’t ruin your chances

At this point, a word of warning: translation is much more difficult than it looks. Many companies spend hours deliberating over the precise wording of their sales literature to ensure maximum impact. Yet, the very same companies often blithely entrust the task of translation to a non-native speaker, a student or, worse still, a machine! When you realise, though, that 56.2 per cent of customers consider information in their own language to be more important than price,[4] you realise that the job is best left to a professional company that will show the same level of care and skill when recreating your message in the foreign language.

Professional translators will also guide you through the cultural minefield. Recently, a leading educational publisher came to us to get a mailshot translated into various languages. The letter being sent to teachers in Norway included the following sentence: “September will be here before you know it. Order today and you’ll receive your product ready for the start of the new academic year.” Language-wise, the sentence was fairly straightforward. However, it is a great example of cultural differences; the school year in Norway actually starts in August! Dot Comma flagged this point up to the client, who would have otherwise not realised, and advised changing September to August. This ensured the client’s letter achieved the maximum intended impact, and avoided any customer complaints on the grounds that the product arrived a month late!

UK companies need to realise that translation is more than just a comprehension exercise; it should be a key part of their export strategy. Our own clients have reported increases of up to 25% in the number of enquires they received after translating their website and marketing materials. Products that had been otherwise invisible to audiences speaking another language were now both visible and viable, and their horizons were immediately broadened.

[1]  “Top 10 Internet Languages”,
[2]  “User Language Preferences Online”, Flash Eurobarometer Series #313 (2011)
[3]  Google AdWords Keyword Statistics; Dot Comma research
[4]  “Can’t Read, Won’t Buy: Why Language Matters on Global Websites”, Common Sense Advisory (2006)

Sectors: Manufacturing, Marketing Services, and Professional Services
Topics: Getting Started and Sales & Marketing
Export Action Plan