How SME's can overcome language barriers to overseas expansion 

 June 04, 2020
Your international expansion is going to require a budget. Work to cut any unnecessary spending and make processes as lean as possible so you can divert funds to essential elements of expansion like training or innovation. This was key to Canadian SME Imprint Plus’ growth into other markets.

Make the most of your existing network and take advantage of any opportunities government agencies offer SME’s to foster growth overseas. Contacts always matter in business, but they become essential when trying to move into new markets while navigating a language barrier. You may already know someone in another business successfully selling there who can provide you with guidance or pitfalls to watch out for.  

Tip: don’t forget your own team members, survey employees to see if anyone speaks multiple languages.

Key to success when it comes to moving into new markets, especially those with a language barrier, is not to do too much too soon. Focus on one or two key markets where you have the most business relationships. This will enable you to take a focused approach to the language and cultural requirements of your new market before moving on.

Take the time to have some content on your website properly translated into your target language. Do not rely on free online tools like Google Translate for this. They will translate language literally which may not be correct in all instances. 

Work with a professional translation agency or native speaker to translate and localise website and marketing content in the right way. Poor translations may negatively affect your first impression on your new customer base.  

It is always worthwhile knowing the basics of any language your business is trading in. Complete a beginner’s course online so you can greet and thank new contacts or staff members in their native language. 

Depending on your business, it may be a good idea for you to set up an office in your chosen foreign market. Once you have acquired some customers, you may need to support them during local hours, or you may wish to access a workforce of native speakers. 

Whatever the reason, it is important that a leader from head office moves to the new location to assist in establishing your business there. Most often they travel on expat assignment. This will ensure your new office is an extension of your existing business which may not happen if you rely on local hires entirely. 

Taking the time to overcome language barriers will be well worth it once your products and services are helping to meet the needs of international customers.

Once you decide to open a local office in your new market, protect your expat employees on the ground with International Health Insurance for Small and Mid Size Business. With our modular international healthcare plans for small and medium sized businesses you can build your plan to suit the needs of your employees and your budget.