With the development of new communication technologies and personal brands becoming more prominent, globalization is no longer a thing for large corporations. As it turns out, over 58% of small businesses have international customers, and the number is growing!
Moreover, the gig economy made it easier for companies to extend the search for talented employees over the borders of their office’s location. In fact, the search can now be extended to the whole world, since we no longer need employees to be at the same physical location as their manager.
Of course, the reasons for going international vary from finding better business partners and collaborators, to looking for unexploited economies and cheaper workforce. Still, regardless of reason, there are language and cultural barriers to consider.
Why Should You Care about Language and Cultural Barriers?
There are multiple reasons to include language and cultural barriers in your expansion calculations, but here are the ones that stand out:
- Connect with high-end customers and business partners
- Improve communication
- Avoid costly mistakes (check out our article on the problems that arise from poorly-done proofreading jobs alone)
- Create a strong local network
- Make employees feel cared for in your company
It’s important to understand that your company is the one trying to penetrate a new market and not the other way around. So, regardless of how powerful you think your product is, a lack of respect towards the locals is never the recipe for success!
5 Tips to Improve Communication with Local Business Representatives
Whether they become your partners or not, it’s good practice to be on the good side of local business representatives in your niche. They may recommend your company to friends and partners, or they may help spread the word that you practice an open-minded and communication-oriented business model.
#1: Show Respect Towards Local Customs
Each region of the world has its unique and wonderful customs. Now, some may clash with your own culture and habits, but you must be respectful towards the local ones (even if you don’t agree)!
For instance, in some parts of the world, it is considered rude to address women directly, without checking in with their husband or father first. This is an outrageous concept for Europeans and Western civilizations, but if you don’t want to lose customers, you must follow the custom.
In other countries, businesses negotiation is part of a lengthy and tiring ritual that includes bonding with the possible local partners. Now, this may be frustrating for people who are used to doing business quickly and smoothly but doing otherwise is disrespectful and downright unacceptable.
So, before you get serious about investing in a new market, it’s best to talk to a specialist in the local culture and customs.
#2: Know Which Language is Spoken in Your Market
There are many countries in the world with several official languages, such as Canada (French and English), Singapore (English, Malay, Mandarin, and Tamil), Switzerland (German, French, Italian, and Romansh), or South Africa with 11.
So, knowing which language is most common in your market niche is crucial for successful marketing campaigns, communication with local suppliers and possible partners.
#3: Hire Specialists to Translate Documents & More
Overcoming language and cultural barriers can be difficult without specialized help. This becomes especially true when we’re talking about legal matters such as hiring local employees, renting office space, or simply creating your organization’s culture.
#4: Be Mindful when Speaking with your Team Overseas
Not everyone speaks English (or your native language) at perfection, so it’s recommended to be mindful of this aspect. So, if you manage to hire local managers who understand and speak your language, make sure to avoid slang, jargon or idioms that may be difficult to understand.
Also, it helps to speak at a slower pace and give them a chance to ask questions if some terms are confusing.
It may be slightly frustrating for you, but it will improve communication and create a trust-based relationship. These aspects are important in any team, but they become crucial when you’re using technology to keep updated on the progress and communicate tasks.
#5: Learn the Local Language
If you’re planning on growing a powerful business in a new country, it doesn’t hurt to learn a bit of the language used in your niche.
First of all, it shows respect and interest for the local employees and business partners, but it’s also helpful when it comes to avoiding confusion. Moreover, if you learn the basics, you won’t need to have an interpreter following you around every time there’s a meeting or a negotiation!
Whether you are representing a large corporation or a small business, language, and cultural barriers should never be ignored!
When you put in the effort to understand how the market works and how the people think about certain aspects of life, you also gain insight into their shopping and spending habits, family customs, and more.