A successful business is one that is supported by its customers because it meets a need, however needs are determined by geography, culture, ethnicity and language. A success here doesn’t necessarily mean success everywhere or indeed anywhere else.
Your grown business is in fact a mere baby in a foreign market where it must go back to basics. So before stepping out to capture a market outside of your own geography, language, culture or ethnicity, you must make the first two baby steps;
LEARN TO TALK
Babies learn to talk long before they learn the walk, and the same is true in business. Before you take your product or service to foreign markets translate everything so that you’re understood. This includes translating your web domain and setting up a sub-domain based on the language group. Smart organisations do this with a search engine friendly subdomain like www.domain.com/en or www.en.domain.com.
Once this is done, your domain can be equipped to detect the language of the person reading but if this is not possible, you can always offer your customers a manual choice of language. This should be sensitive not only to the language and script but also the direction of reading. Arabic for example is read the opposite to English, or right to left. Chinese (Mandarin and Cantonese) can be read not only right to left, but also vertically top-down. This is an important consideration as discovered by an online customer service technician who instead of advertising ‘I am Live - Tips ’ in reverse translated to ‘I’m A Evil Spit’.
LEARN TO WALK
Learning to walk, or rather learning how not to fall, is a result of a child’s desire to mirror its surroundings and explore. Businesses likewise should mirror their surroundings and explore the unfamiliar. This may mean upgrading policies to accommodate the local traditions. You may have a strict no-credit policy with your customers at home, but in places like eastern Europe local stores keep a black book of local residents and their purchase accounts. Cash, card, trade, barter and other methods of payment vary between communities based on accessibility to transaction technology and local tradition.
Similarly, localise all your values. Do not advertise your home currency in a foreign market, especially when you have access to free and real-time exchange rates at www.xe.com, more importantly be aware of metric, imperial and other measurement standards in the target market. How frustrating is it when you walk into a store where a shirt size you’re familiar with suddenly doesn’t fit because the country or brand uses a different measure. Worse yet, instead of numbers, being faced with letters or descriptions like ‘petite’ and ‘big momma’.
Now that you’ve learned to walk and talk, one of things you’ll need to do to accommodate a global footprint is upgrade your technology. The increased traffic and rate of enquiries will mean that instead of spikes, you will have a 24 hour steady flow that will need to be accommodated with appropriate bandwidth, memory and speed. Include in this upgrade a mirror host of your domain on another continent, this is typically available at a fraction of the upgrade cost and will achieve those same objectives.