By Greig Holbrook, Managing Director, Oban Multilingual

When going global you need to remember that it is about markets and people – not just languages. As long as that is at the heart of everything you do, you are already one step closer to kicking off your international business.

Remember, one size does not fit all. The markets you choose to expand into should be relevant to your business – and your business should be extremely relevant to the selected regions.

International expansion throws up a minefield of considerations and obstacles – a completely different country will exhibit different behaviours to those you may be used to. For these reasons, it’s highly advisable to start with just a few markets first and grow on success rather than try to target twenty at once. Don’t ‘collect’ countries; make a good job of a few first.

Look at the online sophistication, local platform preferences, logistics and size of the markets you are dealing with and consider what you might need to cater for. If you understand the environment within that region it will help you to expand your business globally online.

You cannot, and should not, rely on translation. In order to engage authentically with your audience and be visible in the right spaces, you need to understand how people in that market (not language) really talk about and search for a particular product, service or solution.

Even the big brands get it wrong sometimes:

• The Italian campaign for Schweppes didn’t go down too well, which is not surprising as, when translated, they were advertising ‘Schweppes Toilet Water’

• The US Dairy Association had huge success with the ‘Got Milk’ campaign. So good they rolled it out to Mexico, where the translated slogan read “Are you lactating?”

• The ‘Pepsi brings you back to life’ campaign was launched in China… …Although the translation suggested it would ‘bring your ancestors back from the dead’!

Ensure all foreign copy is accurate and authentic. As your website will be the public face of your company in a foreign country, it is worth doing well. French users hate it when their language is used incorrectly and are particularly repelled by bad construct and grammar. German users are going to lose trust very quickly in a site which has used poor language. Think about your own trust levels when finding a website in ‘pidgin English’.

Local knowledge is essential. Research, research, research. Take your time and research the markets you want to move in to. The secret to success will come down to understanding the linguistic and cultural differences that attract and convert new customers.