The Olympia Business Show is a mine of information for any British SME looking to expand. While translators were absent from the presentations in the 2017 edition, the program provided a fantastic 360° view of international expansion, with a few tips on localisation. Here is what I learnt (it might come in handy)…
When in Rome
‘Localisation is the process of adapting a content to a target country or a regional variant.’
It will be news to nobody that digital marketing is one of the most effective ways of creating awareness – as long as it is done well. Managing director of WBS Agnieszka Szrubkowska started her talk with a reminder that languages play a key part in an international marketing strategy. Though it is easier for a British company to expand to the US, Canada or Australia than to non English-speaking markets,
- 70% of global search queries are not made in English and
- 90% of EU internet users visit websites in their own languages.
Localization is about building trust in your brand. Before you localise, you have to know who you are addressing. This is why market research is paramount to proper localisation. Ms. Szrubkowska listed a few questions worth asking in order to unfold an appropriate digital marketing strategy: is your target audience the same in the new country as in your home country? What are your target’s habits and behaviour? What is the online competition in the new country? What is their online strategy?
In keeping with the idea that companies should go global with a local approach, Ms. Szrubkowska generally emphasized that there are cultural differences in Internet usage, which have design implications. Localising a website involves rethinking URLs, images, meta elements, and more. Contact details and tariffs should be relevant to the local market. For example, when addressing a Canadian audience, your prices should be in Canadian dollars and you should show contact details in Canada.
Similarly, popular search engines or social media may differ from one country to another. That should be taken into account in the digital market strategy for the new market. Once you know what the dominant search engine(s) and social media are, research popular keywords for your industry. And while business expansion requires a very diverse skillset, it is paramount for the company to get help from a native speaker for its content strategy in order to create language-specific campaigns.
Finally, localisation does not stop offline. It is important to know the local laws for your industry, particularly advertising regulations, and to set up a good logistic chain by creating a dedicated customer service for the region and using time differences to your advantage.
The Hare and the Tortoise
Expanding into Europe in Uncertain Times
Ms. Szrubkowska gave a few timing tips, advising to set goals and plan over six months to one year only, monitoring results weekly, monthly, and adapting on the go. Time management was also central to the presentation by Gonçalo De Vasconcelos, the founder of investment platform SyndicateRoom. He asserted that timing is key and that many companies generally expand too soon. Challenging the idea that one should speed up their expansion process before Brexit kicks in, Mr. De Vasconcelos argued that by the time you have launched, Brexit has happened and you have to adapt anyway.
London used to be the landing point to set up headquarters when expanding to the EU. Post-Brexit, that may no longer be the case. For example, Goldman Sachs is already considering having two headquarters, one in the United Kingdom and one in mainland Europe. Some sectors, like financial services, are suffering huge uncertainties arising from Brexit.
His advice was to approach expansion step by step, starting with making sure that you have a strong position in your home market before expanding and then taking into account timing on the market where you are expanding. He recommends taking advantage of markets where your sector is taking off, having a close look at the economic context for your industry.
A flawless expansion strategy involves a careful process. Gonçalo De Vasconcelos took the example of Uber, whose rapid expansion followed a set pattern. Like Ms. Szrubkowska, he emphasised the need to be aware of local legislation and to surround oneself with people who know the local market and feel passionate about the company and the field.
Tackling the challenges of the French market
France was the focus of the talk given by Patrick Maupard, the CEO of accounting firm Maupard Fiduciaire. Before providing a few insights on how to successfully enter the French market, Mr. Maupard reminded his audience of what makes France an attractive market. France is the 6th largest economy in the world and that it has similar GDP as the United Kingdom and Germany, an indicator of similarities in these markets. The French are historic allies to Britain and, due to its geography, France could act as a hub to the EU for British companies after Brexit.
As Mr. De Vasconcelos advised on Brexit, Mr. Maupard’s #1 tip was to have a slow approach to do things right. The way to successfully expand to the French market is to understand a different way of doing things. For example, France has the highest corporate tax rate in the European Union. Comparatively, the UK’s corporate tax is historically stable around 20% and Great Britain attracts the most Foreign Direct Investment in the EU. However, Mr. Maupard added, France has implemented tax credits and impatriate exemption – the only R&D tax credit higher than the French one (30%) in the world is Australia (40%). This shows the ambivalence of the French system, which is very bureaucratic.
The silver lining to all the presentations was that the only way to succeed expansion is by taking the time to adapt to a different culture. The Business Show offers tips on how to implement the appropriate strategy. In my case, it is an opportunity for me to stay current and reminding myself how my work fits in the bigger picture: expansion accounts for a great part of translated contents. If you are interested in localisation itself, you can always learn more about it on my dedicated page.