When we started our company two years ago, we also thought funding was a huge obstacle to global expansion. But today, we’re drawing revenue streams from various corners of the globe. How so? Well, we never actually set up international offices nor did we recruit a big team. We localized services and connected with local markets to globalize our startup instead.
So how can you tap into some of the world’s most lucrative markets without having to wait at the mercy of your next investment round? Here are some tips:
Connect with foreign markets with a multilingual approach
Whilst 55% of content on the internet is in English, only 27% of internet users speak English. This means you can target the 73% who are not catered for and grow your user base drastically with little expenditure.
What’s more, you make yourself way more appealing. International studies have shown that as many as 72.4% of consumers would be more likely to buy a product with information in their own language, and 56.2% said that their own language is more important than price.
That’s why from day one, we prepared ourselves for global expansion; we built our company from the ground up in English, French and Spanish to focus on connecting with foreign markets.
You can take advantage of incredible marketing opportunities across the world and rapidly expand your market range simply by translating your product or service.
Take that in Latin America there are a total of 378 million internet users with 139 million in Brazil alone. Imagine the added opportunities of offering your service or product in Spanish and/or Portuguese; featuring in Latin American search engines; or even something as simple as getting a review on a relevant Latin American blog with millions of readers.
Just listing an English product in Latin America, however, is unlikely to reach this audience. In countries, such as Brazil, for example, 95% of the population do not speak English.
So in translating your product, you’re making yourself more accessible to a global audience.
With various companies now offering professional website translation on a large scale, you can also be sure that you get a good end result without it being too costly. Multilingual website plugins such as WPML are also available to help you to build your multilingual websites on a real shoestring budget.
Do not just translate - invest in localization and win your global audience
While translation is a good first step, it does not take into account cultural nuances that could be the difference between you winning or losing a foreign market.
Although localization and translation are sometimes used interchangeably, localization, is in fact the wider process of adapting your web content, product or applications specifically for regional or local consumption. Basically, it helps you engage with your global audience.
Minor details of your product such as colours, shapes, sizes and styles may initially seem unimportant, but when taken in their cultural context they can have a significant impact on the appeal of your product overseas. The colour red, for example, is a particularly powerful color in Indian culture and holds many important meanings - often being associated with purity and the Hindu goddess, Durga. In the Middle East, however, red can evoke feelings of danger and caution. Some consider it to be evil.
You also need to consider functional context, such as date and time formats, phone numbers, weights, measurements and geographical references. When designing your product for a foreign market, these small details make a huge difference when trying to really hone in on your target market.
A personal example of this is our badge generation feature. In Europe, our users generate e-badges that they print themselves before going to an event. In the US and Latin America, however, our users prefer to print name tags on site. So we support both preferences to keep our international audience happy.
It’s also important to consider listing your product on a local app store, adapting your website tags and SEO in another language to gain visibility, and which coding languages you use.
Like an increasing number of businesses, we decided to avoid hardcoding our platform in English. Instead made it multilingual from the very beginning to maximise our chances of global success. After all, the last thing any founder wants to do when they start gaining international attraction is have to recode.
All in all, translating your website does not make it global. There’s tons of factors to consider, to make sure to take the time in planning stages, and build your company from the ground up with a global vision.
Hire multilingual teams
To really connect with this audience and sell your product, you need to understand and leverage a deeper cultural understanding. Every country and continent has different needs. Only by understanding the language, consumer culture and business culture, can you succeed. One way to do this is establishing your team internationally.
If like us you do not have the budget to establish offices and recruit teams internationally, consider making your team remote. This way, you can dispatch your best minds to different corners of the globe to connect with local cultures without incurring high expenses.
And this doesn’t only boost your understanding of foreign markets. It also offers inherent advantages for your team performance overall.
A Deloitte study on multicultural teams found diversity at work positively contributes to people’s professional and personal enjoyment of the project, as well as a project’s outcome. It also indirectly encourages project members to rethink their usual working habits and expectations - behaving with “fewer assumptions about the ‘right’ way to address an issue.” More, it reduces bias.
Thus, creating a multilingual, international team is a win-win. Not only are you more likely to conquer foreign markets, you can also improve happiness in the workplace and even change the way your team members think and approach their work.
Making your startup global on a budget is not easy, but it can be done. By translating your product, localizing, and hiring multinational remote teams, you can boost your global appeal - and more, soar past competition.
Guest post written by Mauricio Palacio
Mauricio Palacio is co-founder of Eventtia, an all-in-one event management software platform