Adapting your export strategy for each local market will enable your business to reach its global ambitions.
If you are looking to grow your business beyond its local borders, a localisation strategy for each target region will be a fundamental part of your overall export strategy. Put simply, to be successful on a global scale, you will need to think local. In the localisation world this is often referred to as your “glocal” strategy: global + local.
Localisation is far more than just translation.
Many people believe that localisation means translating your website, your marketing materials and campaigns into the language of the target region. If only it were that simple! Certainly, as 95% of the world’s population speaks a language other than English, translation will be a big part of your localisation efforts, but it’s only one part of a much bigger picture.
In terms of marketing your product or service, localisation – as defined by the Cambridge dictionary – is “the process of making a product or service more suitable for a particular country, area”. Let’s take that a little further and apply the same formula to your company, your people, your brand, your communications, your pricing and ultimately your adapted local strategy. What exactly does that boil down to and what should it address? The following will endeavour to answer this question.
What is a localisation strategy?
Diversity exists across international markets. In Europe alone there are about 50 countries, each country having its own language, unique culture, customs and behaviours. Consequently, a one-size-fits-all approach will not bring you very far. In fact, adopting such a standardised strategy without considering local and cultural aspects could have severe consequences on your business and your brand. This article, “Cultural epic fails: brands gone wrong, and what brands can learn from KFC, Mercedes Benz and Pepsi (In China)?” is well worth a glance. Before embarking on your journey to new horizons, make sure you gain a clear understanding of your target market, and adapt your business and marketing strategies accordingly and with absolute confidence.
What should my localisation strategy include?
Your strategy must be specific for your target region, customer groups and the market you function in. The information that you will need for a B2B product will differ from what you’ll need to unearth for a B2C product. However, the tips below will steer you in the right direction to help kick-start an in-depth and bespoke strategy.
PHASE 1: MARKET AND CULTURAL UNDERSTANDING
Research the market and calculate your potential market size
“Research is formalized curiosity. It is poking and prying with a purpose.” – Zora Neale Hurston
Let’s say that you are an Irish software company wanting to enter the Italian marketplace. You have a solution that has been hugely successful across the Irish and the UK market and now it’s time to expand into other regions. You’ve already purchased some high-level reports on the European marketplace with particular emphasis on the technology sector your company operates in. The facts and figures are promising, reporting an upward trend for the coming five years, especially in Italy and Spain. You do your maths and conclude that if you win only a tiny percentage of this market, your company could potentially earn upward of €2.5 million per annum. As you know of a few companies in Italy that could do with implementing your software, you have briefly met with some people at industry trade events and are lucky to have two members of staff who speak Italian, amd you feel that Italy would be a good place to start. What other poking and prying do you need to do now?
High-level figures are great, but they’re not enough and will not give you a clear indication of the potential market size for your solution. It’s important to dig deeper, taking into consideration key facts such as the total market size for this technology, similar technologies that can solve the same problem as your solution (direct and in-direct competition), pricing, and so on. This will give you a clear snapshot of the entire ecosystem from low-end providers right up to high-end complete solutions. To learn more about calculating your Serviceable Obtainable Market (SOM) through realistic estimations of your market size, and percentage sales your company could aim to achieve, read this blog.
Understand the market dynamics through a PESTEL analysis
Entering a new market with no real idea of the dynamics of that market is a recipe for disaster. This is where the PESTEL business analysis tool comes in. This tool is used by companies to track the environment they’re operating in or are planning to launch a new product in. PESTEL is an acronym which stands for: political, economic, socio-cultural, technological, environmental and legal-regulatory. It enables you to get a bird’s eye view of the whole environment from many different angles so that you can make a fully informed decision. For example, it may not be a great idea to launch your software product in a market where there are too many political and regulatory barriers to overcome.
Perform a SWOT analysis specific to your target region
Many are aware of the SWOT analysis when it comes to researching and benchmarking our competitors but what about a SWOT analysis on your company and product within the context of this new market? SWOT stands for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. It allows a company to summarise its current positioning and be more prepared for the future.
When reflecting on the opportunities and threats within your target market be sure to take into consideration the outcomes of your PESTEL analysis. Consider such things as currency exchange (if outside the EU), local partnerships, current relationships, languages and regional dialects (e.g. in Spain you’ll require both Spanish and Catalan – a language which is spoken by 40% of the population) product localisation (have you tested it?, how about language and interface localisation), purchasing habits (particularly in a B2C context), as well as regulatory and censorship requirements (especially in Asia and the Middle East).
PHASE 2: LOCAL EXPERIENCE AND RESOURCES
Keeping Italy as our example, Italian customers like to speak and do business in their native tongue which is one of the primary barriers you will need to address. Other than in the business hubs such as Milan and Turin, knowledge and use of the English language is minimal. For that reason, building cross-cultural cooperation with local partners and arranging local resources will be key to your success within your target region. Depending on your product offering and route to market, this will mean recruiting a trusted team of distributors, agents, salespeople, marketing and after-sales/customer care professionals. Their deep understanding of business practices as well as their networks of relationships will be critical to your business.
PHASE 3: BRANDING & INTERCULTURAL COMMUNICATIONS
Before launching your brand into any foreign market make sure that you have done your homework on your branding, messaging and communications. Your local partners will be able to give you some feedback, but it might be worth hiring a well-established local communications/marketing consultant to advise you. Things to consider would be your brand name (will it mean anything in the translated language?), messaging and communications (might any of it be offensive to this culture) and brand colours (e.g. in Italy the colour purple is considered unlucky, linked with mourning and death).
For your content to connect with your local audience, it is critical that your professional translation/localisation partner is extremely familiar with the target region and holds a profound knowledge of the local customs, phrases, accents and dialects. You will also need to localise your content strategy to cater specifically to your local audience. Make sure that all your correspondence, product sheets, brochures, sales presentations, RFP’s, blogs, case studies and marketing materials are all translated by professionals. If you are using video, ensure that the voice-overs are performed by a local dubbing agency and that subtitles are professionally adapted and translated.
Don’t forget that your digital and social strategy will also need to be localised. If it makes business sense, try to purchase the URL extension for a local website (e.g. for Italy .it) or have part of your corporate .com website translated into that language. SEO work in the target language is vital to ensure that it is optimised for regional search engines.
As mentioned at the beginning of this article, the above tips outline some of the main items to consider when preparing your localisation strategy, but every region and every audience differ so be sure to find professional support from a localisation company. The Globalization and Localization Association (GALA) is an association that serves an international community of organisations and individuals to enable communication and business across languages and cultures. This might be a good place to start when looking for your localisation and translation partner.
At IMS Marketing we have over 14 years’ experience in helping our clients with their international and European export strategies. Denise is among the IMS team of Business Advisor Consultants for Enterprise Ireland’s Enter the Eurozone Programme. She has also lived and worked throughout Europe and internationally and has a keen understanding of intercultural communications.