How to overcome language and cultural barriers when expanding overseas

Many companies have the want and need to expand overseas; however many fear the potential language and cultural challenges that can arise. Thankfully there are proven tips and tricks that can be used to address these concerns. Read on to find out the five tips we feel are key to starting your move into a new market.

1) Start the international venture in a country like your own

All countries have different business environments, but there are always a few that will share similarities to your own. For instance, a business in Australia has significant language and cultural parallels to New Zealand or the United Kingdom. Similarly, a company in Spain could look to Mexico or parts of South America thanks to the common spoken language.

By moving into somewhere similar, companies can relax a little on the language or cultural front and focus on other areas making the process a touch less daunting.  

2) There are many different modes of entry

It’s important to remember that there are also a variety of ways to enter a new market. These range from exporting or licensing which can be likened to dipping your toes into the market.  With this approach you will be getting a feel for the reception of the product or service with limited adaptation required.

Then there are the more involved concepts such as franchising or acquisition that will allow for the handling of linguistic and cultural concerns by locals already present in the market. It’s important to weigh up all the pros and cons for each method as the correct approach can really ease an otherwise intimidating process.

3) Find a local partner that can provide the local know -how

Partnerships can come in all shapes and sizes. You can use an existing global vendor or contact to assist with set-up, or opt for an in-depth agreement where you can piggyback off another’s success and know-how. A great example of this is the partnership between Dominos and Coca Cola, as by providing their drinks range, Dominos get to become a brand of choice in new markets as they are linked to Coca Cola’s widespread reputation and trust.

So, don’t forget to look within your current network as you might already have someone who can help to ease this process!

4) Do your research

This is almost a no-brainer but it is critical to do the right research and apply it effectively. For instance, it is recommended that time is spent in the region you want to expand to. Not only will this allow you to see where your business will operate, but also provide you with first-hand insight into the culture, environment and norms of the region.

By doing relevant research you will be able to identify any potential hiccups, such as countries with multiple main languages, as well as establish your edge over the local competitors. Proper research allows for proper planning and allows you to prepare contingency plans in case any mishaps arise from the differences between languages and cultures.  

5) Be creative with your delivery

Not all aspects of your business need to be in writing and therefore language barriers can be navigated through getting creative.

AirBnB operate in many regions with multiple languages and have therefore brought in video to help ease the communication challenge. They create a video that will feature across a variety of regions and then source a local voice-over for key languages. This removes the need for too much written translation, while also helping you to ease into different cultures through the use of a local voice.

By thinking outside of the box you can find solutions that can be cross-cultural and still convey the message effectively.

There you have it – five tips that can help you get started on moving into a new global market. They each aim to reduce the fear around language and cultural differences, as well as highlight the need to consistently have the new ‘local’ at the centre of your expansion plans.

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