How to build your business overseas

As economic conditions get tougher in the UK, more businesses are looking to develop overseas markets. A professional and courteous approach is essential to success.

Two factors are leading more and more UK businesses to broaden their horizons. The increasingly difficult economic conditions at home are forcing many businesses to consider international trade for the first time.

The strength of the pound also offers a positive incentive, with UK goods and services more affordable than ever before.

What are the first steps to successful international trading? How do you raise your company’s profile in an unfamiliar culture?

According to David Nichols, international trade consultant and a Director of The Translation People, the answer is to adopt a structured and professional approach.

And, crucially, to avoid being complacent by expecting the world to do business in your language.

“Don’t fall into the trap of thinking ‘they all speak English’. If you don’t adapt and translate your website and marketing materials, your business won’t be taken seriously as an international player,” he says.

“With more UK businesses looking to expand overseas, a professional approach – respecting the language and culture of your target market – is the only way to succeed.”

The Translation People offers the following tips for businesses looking to take their first steps overseas:

Focus your efforts
Don’t try to take on the whole world. When identifying potential markets, it\’s usually unrealistic to expect to target more than three countries for your first push.

Do your homework
Detailed market research for each country is essential. As well as identifying potential customers, think about what local support you might need (for example, agents or distributors). It’s also vital to investigate any legal issues such as duties/tariffs and local regulations.

Understand the culture
Try to understand what the cultural issues are around doing business in your new market so that you make the best possible impression; for example, in Germany business people usually don’t address each other by their first name.

Talk the customer’s language
No-one likes complacency in business. Making an effort to provide your marketing literature, letters and emails in the local language will pay huge dividends. It\’s all about creating the right shop window; if you want to be taken seriously as an international business, you have to look like one.

Get your website right
Your website is your primary bridgehead to any new market. It is essential to adapt it to suit your target markets, to have it professionally translated into the local language and to have it hosted locally (this will substantially improve your in-country search engine rankings).

Your first visit
First impressions count, so when you set up your first meetings with overseas prospects, think about using a professional interpreter. Even for customers with strong English skills, an hour’s business negotiations in their non-native tongue can be a strain.

Follow-up is critical
As with all business, the golden rule for success overseas is to ensure timely follow-up to meetings. Geographical distance is no excuse for a slow response. Ideally, you should confirm any agreement reached in the customer\’s own language.

Don’t forget pricing
Using the right currency in pricing is essential; customers in the Euro and Dollar areas frequently expect pricing in their own currency and they may no longer accept quotations in £sterling.

UK Trade & Investment has a very helpful website on all aspects of international trade ( It also offers expert advice and in some cases financial support.

For more information on professional translation, interpreting and website localisation support, contact us now

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