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May 26, 2011

Capture More International Business Through Website Translation

Like a needle popping a balloon, your website will be your most effective tool for exploding new, foreign markets. Website translation is an extremely powerful tool for reaching new markets. You can translate a ‘micro-site’ within a few days and with very little expense. Almost immediately you create a marketing funnel for acquiring new customers. On the other hand, if not done properly, you can just as quickly damage your companies’ reputation.

Here is some advice that will give you the framework and processes you will need to penetrate and dominate a new market by using your website as the primary vehicle for communication.

Paint your target.

One of my favorite sayings,”You can’t hit a bulls-eye if you don’t have a target” sums it up nicely. The first place to start your international website initiative is by working on your international business strategy. No sense in spending the time and money to get your website translated if you don’t have a strategy to manage the new business.

The first and most obvious part of your international strategy is to define your target markets. Surprisingly, many companies do not even get this basic step before jumping into translation. For example, say your target market is in China, are you translating into Simplified or Traditional Chinese? Another example is Spanish, are you translating for Latin Spanish or European Spanish? This seems like international business 101, but you would be surprised how many companies do not know the answers to these questions.

With the markets identified, you can define your international objectives. When entering foreign markets it is important that you establish the metrics for success.

You should have an annual budget for the project.
Including the cost of website localization, but also the site maintenance and customer support. You will have to have some method for decision making. What events would have to happen for you to increase your investment? Are your metrics going to be based on website traffic generated or on revenue from the translated site? How are you going to measure local customer satisfaction? The key question is “What are you going to measure and use as a standard for success?”

Next, plan your marketing.

How are you going to generate traffic? Are you going to employ local SEO talent? How about local advertising? Just putting a translated site up on the Internet does not guarantee any success. The same sweat, blood, and tears it took to build your business at home will be required in foreign markets.

Think about the communications required after launching your foreign website. As visitors arrive at your localized website, how are you going to manage customer service inquiries? For instance, if you have a customer in China who sends an email in Chinese how are you going to answer their questions? How are you going to support your non-English speaking customers?

What are the technical strategies you will have to employ?
Will you host your site in-country? Does your site accept payments online? Have you determined if and how your payment processor works in foreign currency? For example, in many European countries the local postal system manages many day-to-day financial transactions. The logical move would be to have your online processor use the local standard for payments.

Finally, what are the logistical needs for your foreign business?

If your business is selling physical products you will have to have distributors and the entire logistics chain in place. Selling a service is going to require the physical presence of your business in the foreign markets.

The starting point for your website translation project should begin with your international business strategy. Define your markets, set your standards for success, plan your foreign marketing, think about the communications and support required, and finally determine the technical and logistical needs of your new business. A flexible strategy will accelerate your website translation project greatly. By the way, your strategy should also alert you to when you might need to pull the plug on your international site.

The ease with which you can enter new foreign markets gives you great opportunities for growing your business. Don’t let the simplicity of entry entice you into action before you give some serious thought to the execution of your business overseas. Just like starting any new business, you will have to establish the ground rules for success.

Remember, you cannot hit a bulls-eye if you don’t have a target.

A successful website translation can launch your company into new markets and new opportunities. Russell Lundstrom has been helping companies achieve success in foreign markets for more than 20 years. You can learn exactly how to repeat these successes at and by following Russell on Twitter @gssguy.