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It’s confusing if you can’t read the manual.

When companies consider B2B selling in foreign markets, the process of “localization,” broadly defined, comes up immediately. First, the target market is researched. Is the product needed in a particular market? Who is likely to use it? Are there competing products? The decision to expand into this market depends on the answers to these inquiries. Once the decision is made, more localization questions arise. If the product is an application or uses software, like much of today’s merchandise and equipment, the code and user interface will need to be translated and localized to ensure that users can understand it. And, depending on the nature of the product, you may need to apply to a regulatory agency for approval (for medical devices, for example). In addition, you may have reached an agreement with a partner or distributor. These interactions may have required translation services as well. Once these steps are taken, you might feel like you are ready to go, and more translation seems like an unnecessary expense. After all, most of the business people you’ll be dealing with can read English, and if you are partnering with an in-country sales team, they can make the pitch for you. However, there are still very compelling reasons to continue working with a language services partner:

  • Compliance with regulations. You may be required by law to translate certain information on the packaging as well as information packaged with the project. Ikea may excel in providing wordless instructions through illustrations and diagrams, but most instruction booklets require translation, especially if they are enclosed with medical devices or pharmaceuticals. On the plus side, you may have already translated some of the customer-facing information when you applied for permission to sell in that market. But over time, rules might change and you’ll need to add more information. A translation memory can help you re-use those translations.
  • Marketing. When given a choice of products, people will purchase the one that’s marketed in their native language, even in a country or industry with high English literacy. This is why it is so important to translate consumer websites when entering a foreign market, regardless of whether your product is sold in stores or online. For business buyers, the same principle applies. Buyers will look more favorably on sales information in their own language. The bias is emotional as well as cognitive: when a fluent speaker of a language evaluates a choice that has been described in a second language, critical skills come to the fore and emotional considerations are weakened. Translation is necessary for winning the hearts and minds of your business customers. In addition, if you do not provide your in-country sales team or distributor with native language materials, they may develop their own, and these may be inadequate to support your brand. Translation and transcreation of marketing and advertising materials allows you to connect with potential buyers while maintaining control of your brand.
  • Customer support. Being able to provide customer service after a purchase is essential. Facing a language barrier here would be frustrating to the customer and damaging to your brand. Whether support is available live via chat or in the form of FAQs, it’s important to be able to help your customer in their own language. If the product is highly technical, even a reader with strong English skills will feel the cognitive strain of absorbing difficult information in a foreign language.

Overall, it’s been proven time and again that customers around the globe will gravitate toward products and solutions that “speak their own language.” Even if all the initial localization work is finished, an ongoing relationship with a language services partner is a key support for success in foreign markets