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The International Entrepreneur – How to Create International B2B Buyer Personas

International Entrepreneur - How to create international B2B Buyer Personas

?We?re going to want to expand into some new international markets next year as part of our growth strategy. Will the marketing team be ready for that?? asks your company CEO.

?Absolutely?, you quickly reply. As Chief Marketing Officer, you deserve part of the credit for your company?s successful revenue rise. You have built a strong engagement marketing program, attracting and nurturing leads. And really, how hard can it be to translate the website into a handful of key languages?

 

Using the Right Marketing Measuring Stick

The Truth: Translation and even website localization only scratch the surface of foreign market penetration. Every country and region around the world operates on a different set of business rules. This includes both regulations as well as cultural rules that can come in the form of assumptions, beliefs, expectations or values.

Put another way…if someone markets to you in English, do they automatically understand your buyer motivations?

 

The Right Measure: The only true marketing measures are quantitative results. Does your marketing program yield cost-effective results that are at or above levels needed to grow your company to stakeholder expectations? Are you able to deliver qualified leads into your sales process?

Today?s marketers are expected to deliver these outcomes. Gone are the days of unaccountable marketing expenditures for advertising, PR, and other low-return channels. That brings us to Buyer Personas?

Buyer personas serve as a focal point for marketing messaging and content development. I use a buyer persona (Bob, the American mid-market CMO) to focus my writing towards one specific (imaginary) person who represents an important market segment for my consulting practice. It helps those who discover your product to self-select as to whether they belong in your target market. In contrast, choosing NOT to develop market-specific buyer personas gives your local competition a distinct competitive advantage.

 

Types of Motivators That Can Differ

Here are some areas that may be different than in your well-known home market. All of these factors should influence the development of your marketing team?s buyer personas.

 

Decision Makers/Influencers – Knowing who actually makes the decisions and who influences those decisions is key in marketing. For example, large purchase decisions are more likely group decisions in Sweden compared with France where the leader makes the decisions. Gatekeepers who keep sales and marketing contact away from their bosses may be more selective in Malaysia than in Canada.

 

Logic and Emotional Appeals – Marketing normally uses persuasion. But which appeals are the most effective? Again, it varies by culture. The Germans want mainly logic (strategy) to justify decisions. Australians tend to focus heavily on financial justification over all else. Parts of Latin America can rely on a mix that includes emotion-based decision-making.

 

Organization and Personal Motivations – While it is impossible to predict what will motivate a specific person, there are some cultural influences that can have strong effects. For instance, Chinese companies often have a long time horizon for strategic initiatives compared especially with American companies. On the personal side, the English often choose to keep professional and personal lives separate. In Mexico, the feeling is the opposite. Personal and professional lives are often overlapped.

 

Developing International Buyer Personas

If foreign markets are important to your company?s growth plan, then every market needs to have its own set of buyer personas representing ?all key players in the buying process. The sets often include personas for a leader, technical expert, business expert, and the initial gatekeeper (leader?s assistant). The more complex and expensive the product, then usually the more people involved in its selection process. Most companies name their personas (Mr. Wang, Maria, Sven, etc.).

 

Step 1: Ask questions from local industry contacts to gain perspective.

We are looking specifically for what might be different between your home country?s approach and the approach needed in each target market. Two great sources are (1) any in-country representatives you may be working with and (2) in-country industry association contacts. Ask questions to help flush out information that contradicts your own cultural assumptions. ?Who are the normal decision makers and influencers in this type of sale?? ?How does someone in this country search for information on products in this industry?? ?What role does each person play in selection?? If anything said contradicts your assumptions, follow up with additional questions to better understand.

 

Step 2: Create Named Personas for Each Player in the Buying Process

Most B2B personas I have seen and/or developed for clients can be described in one page. It tells about this fictional person?s likely general background (education, work experience, age, etc.). It describes their role in relation to the rest of the company. Personas include the person?s motivations in their professional life including any possible fears (ex. fear of failure or embarrassment) or aspirations (ex. future promotions based on success). If should include the persona?s likely familiarity with your company?s product category and experience level in working with foreign companies like yours. If your company does business in France, India and Mexico, you should persona sets for buying processes in all three countries.

 

Step 3: Buyer Persona Validation and Improvement

Once you have created your foreign market buyer personas, each set should be reviewed by a trusted source who has worked extensively in that market. Make adjustments accordingly. Over time, new information from experiences in market should help to continually refine your buyer personas.

 

I hope this helps your marketing team to create more effective global marketing programs!

 

Onward & upward,

 

Becky DeStigter

The International Entrepreneur

The International Entrepreneur Interviewed – How to Become an International Entrepreneur w/ Becky DeStigter

Becky DeStigter interview podcast by VerbaccinoReaders,

This week I want to share a great interview and conversation I had with?Kathrin Bussmann, host of The Worldly Marketer Podcast Series. For those of you who don’t know Kathrin yet, she is the Founder of Verbaccino and the Creator of International & Global Marketing Strategies for the Digital Age. Kathrin asked me a variety of questions related to early-stage global business?expansion. I hope you enjoy!

https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/twm-001-how-to-become-international/id1114738776?i=1000368858535&mt=2

Best wishes,
Becky

The International Entrepreneur ? Selecting the Right International Trade Shows

international, trade show, B2B marketing

Image courtesy of wikipedia & Taiwan World Trade Center

I was talking recently with the Vice President of Marketing at one of these B2B technology Silicon-Valley-wanna-be companies. If you have spent time in any tech industries, I think you might know the type ? lots of curious employee perks and silly team-building games, reinventing core business functions in some unique way that doesn?t conform to how the rest of the world does it, and of course a workspace that any teenager would aspire to work in.

The VP and I were talking about marketing channels for B2B enterprise software markets. But when I brought up the time-tested international marketing channel of trade shows, he balked at my old-fashioned notion. Instead, the VP wanted to double his investment in paid media. Here?s my perspective:

B2B marketing and sales all basically boil down to having the right conversations with the right people at the right time. These conversations can be with one of your commission-based channel partners, with a current client, with one of your marketing staff on a social media platform, or in a sales call. The higher the price and commitment of your product or service, then the higher the level of trust needs to be to complete the sale. That is even more true for international markets, where NOTHING happens without an existing trusted business relationship.

Industry trade shows are a great venue to meet in person many potential clients within a short time. Face-to-face conversations GREATLY speed up the trust-building process and deepen the chances of a long, fruitful business relationship. In international markets, marketing messaging and other communications can easily be misinterpreted. In person conversations allow you to gauge the reaction of the listener. You can clear up any misunderstandings immediately and in many cases just continue on towards success.

Those of us who have made a career in marketing know that trade shows are not necessarily the most budget-friendly channel. So here are my tips on how to not only pick the right trade shows, but to ensure that they fit your budget:

  • Find trade shows in markets where you want to target. This may sound obvious, but many companies get caught up in the expectations of going to certain tradeshows. If you have no prospects in your home state or country, you don?t have to show your local ties. If you see great potential in the Indian market, search for Indian events. It may sound obvious, but on a limited marketing budget every show has to generate results ? leads, partners, etc.
  • Choose events where the primary audience are your key decision makers. Nothing is more frustrating than doing a great job of cultivating a relationship with a potential client only to find out that their role has nothing to do with your product or service purchase. Everyone loves a product champion in an account, but a decision-making champion signs the contract and authorizes payments.
  • Do your homework on the conferences. Conferences and conventions are BIG BUSINESS. As such, they market heavily to both potential attendees and exhibitors. Definitely talk with others in your industry to find out how well the event is run and any hidden charges. Anecdotal evidence should support the statistics provided by the event organizers.
  • Size your event investment on the show?s potential (and your budget). I once worked with a software company that literally could trace 30% of their revenue to the HIMSS conference. With this knowledge, they would rent a large exhibiting booth space, sponsor a dinner for clients and prospects, a meeting suite, and other investments to capitalize on this large healthcare informatics event. At least in the beginning, the investments are likely smaller ? a smaller booth, or even a few attendee tickets for key company staff to meet potential clients.
  • Use local language/cultural resources. If your company already has a local presence in the form of local reps or staff, you should try to include them in the trade show staff. This helps with the language issue as well as any local cultural nuances as most attendees come from the region around the event location. If this country is new to you, consider hiring a pair of professional interpreters. This will allow your staff to build rapport faster crossing language boundaries.
  • Don’t forget to meet the press!?Most of event preparations focus on leads, clients and partners. But trade shows normally have a contingency of journalists writing for industry media. Even smaller exhibitors can often take advantage of this with the right media messages and interviews. Plan accordingly.
  • Prepare a game plan, schedule meetings and for gosh sakes ? send the right people. Trade show time is expensive and fleeting, so have a plan on what your staff is going to do there. Are they able to attend conference sessions and meet people in other rooms? Can meetings be scheduled with key prospects? Ideally you are sending your best networkers ? the staff who can talk with anyone and build instant rapport. The worst are the booths manned by a junior staffer consumed by his mobile phone while potential clients walk by ignored. Setting expectations is a key part of preparations.

 

As far as the trade-show-avoiding VP of Marketing goes, I hope that he and others trying to automate away face-to-face interaction always work for the competition. For the rest of us, a well-planned international trade show marketing program has the potential to accelerate our entry and potential in new B2B international markets!

For more Tips and Tools from The International Entrepreneur, please join our International Trade Tribe here.

The International Entrepreneur – What You Need to Know for Smarter Multi-Lingual Business Expansion

Amsterdam, International Entrepreneur, International Business

I was recently pondering a question as I sat in a cafe drinking a cup of hot tea next to the Prinsengracht in Amsterdam: What’s the best advice for a company that is considering expanding into new language markets?

Amsterdam often brings home this question for me. Walking among the crowds and down any central street in this old capital fills your ears with several languages. The Dutch shop owners seem to effortlessly switch between their own language and a multitude of others.

I find many companies are resistant to any expansion that takes them away from the safety of the home language. Even when there is evidence of a great market or group of markets in Spanish, German or Chinese, having company representatives conducting business in other languages takes away some of the control over day-to-day operations. And that is scary for many company leaders. In its extreme version, there’s even a term for fear of foreign languages: xenoglossophobia. Now that’s a word no kid wants to have on his or her spelling test!

There is so much to say on this subject. By the time I would be done, my tea would be cold and all of the tour boats on the Amsterdam canals would have anchored for the night. But let me hit some of the more important points:

 

Take Stock of Your Company’s Current Cultural & Linguistic Skills

You may be further along in multi-lingual capabilities than you realize. There may be an Arabic speaker in accounting and a Russian speaker in marketing. Staff members’ past experiences and upbringing can be the source of hidden talent. Now that said, not all language experience is created equal. Someone may be able to speak to his grandmother in German but still not be very helpful initially in business transactions. Also, reading and listening are passive language activities. They tend to be more advanced than active tasks like writing or speaking. Definitely get the details on staff language skills and international work experiences.

When checking internally for language skills, also ask outside key resources like your accounting firm and primary law firm for an inventory of their international capabilities. Going international often shifts a company?s professional resources from local firms to mid-to-large firms with international competencies and offices.

 

Consider Language when Choosing your Entry Mode

The easiest answer to selling in foreign language markets is to use local representatives. The local rep speaks the local language and understands how to do business in that environment. The rep then converses solely in your language for reporting, materials, support, etc. It’s perfect, right?

If your international markets are not much more than a passing concern, then this approach. Another shortcut method is where you take orders for foreign clients IF they find you through your English-only website and are willing to do business in English only. BUT if your company truly wants to globally dominate your market and maximize its potential, then you’ll need to plan for a more hands-on approach to your international markets that may include setting up sales offices and other operations overseas, developing joint ventures or buying local competitors and yes, interfacing with other languages and business cultures.

 

Expand on Core Competencies & Competitive Advantages

Over time, your company should have developed some strong core competencies. It may be a set of product features. It could be your staff?s talent in customer support. It could be fierce defense of company intellectual property. It could be your traffic-driving high-ranking website. Whatever your core competencies are as a company, you should strive to make them consistently strong in all markets and languages where you do business. This way, your company’s competitive advantages including your brand reputation can consistently build worldwide.

 

Invest in a Company-Wide Global Mindset

I see it in almost every company I have worked for or with the company leadership understands the global potential of expansion and see the value of incoming international leads. But workers carrying day-to-day operations complain about odd phone numbers and hard-to-pronounce names. It’s awkward and challenging for staff compared to an English-only client base. What’s more, leads aren’t followed up with the same level of diligence and customers with issues are prioritized lower. A attitude of US vs. THEM grows.

The short-term answer to this issue is outward shows of leadership commitment to international markets AND cross-cultural training. There are great trainers in this growing field and I highly recommend having any front-facing staff take the training.

The long-term answer is to strategically hire new staff who already come with a global mindset and hopefully relevant language skills. When enough employees embrace global opportunities, then the company tips toward one more competitive advantage, a truly global workforce.

Back in Amsterdam I enjoy the rest of my tea and get ready for the next international business challenge. Hint: Try the Dutch stroopwafels. They’re delicious!

 

I hope you enjoyed this article. In addition to writing articles on international business for growing technology and professional services companies, I provide training on international business topics and present at industry and Export Council conferences. I can be reached at [email protected].

The International Entrepreneur – Localizing Websites for International Markets

international website, international strategy, international business, international entrepreneur“SmartCodeSoftware” Company was like many other firms that evolved into international markets. They started with a few international clients that found the company through industry trade shows and online. Then international representatives offered their services to the company. The company created a distributor network. When the company started to uncover its international market potential, they started opening up foreign sales offices and operations.

So how does the company’s website keep up with this evolving international expansion?

My Advice: Match Website Approach to Your International Strategy

You’d be surprised how often website development is relegated to either IT or Marketing without thought to the company’s overall business strategy. Here are some strategic considerations:

Level of Localization– If you sell scientific equipment there is minimal localization. Marketing can even be similar, using the same online sales process, same type of decision makers, one call to action, coordinating with the same set of marketing channels.

But certain business process automation products can be radically different from market to market. Ask yourself: how different are the buying processes between our markets? Would a separate country-specific website help you to tailor to separate sales processes and other market-specific traits?

Country of Origin Effects –How is your home country perceived in your industry? For instance, if “SmartCodeSoftware” Company is based in Silicon Valley, there is a perceived advantage in innovation and industry connections. But what happens when the company is based in a small city in Bolivia? The location of a company’s headquarters can be an advantage or disadvantage. This can be played up or downplayed online depending on whether location helps.

Market Entry Mode – Entry mode is key to international strategy and your website should reflect the mode you’ve chosen. Entry modes vary from indirect exporting such as using representatives to wholly-owned subsidiaries. Other entry modes include: direct exporting, licensing, franchising, local sales offices, joint ventures, foreign mergers and acquisitions.

On the low risk side, there is a laser engraving company based in Colorado that has a highly developed network of 60+ local distributors. They have built their entire company around optimizing this network. Their website reflects that approach by supporting that network and quickly referring clients on to the local reps.

Near the other end of the Entry Mode spectrum of options is Mergers and Acquisitions. After acquiring a local competitor, it may make sense to keep the new subsidiary’s website. Locally they understand the buying process, language, etc. It helps to reevaluate branding and core messaging. Changes can enhance what is already on the site rather than automatically replacing it.

Risk Tolerance – Managing multiple websites in various languages represents additional risks. Additional resources are spent to figure what is needed to serve new markets. Then company staff must maintain or pay for others to maintain the localized structure and content. The company leaders must reconcile:

  • What happens if we make mistakes?
  • Are we staying consistent to our strategy and branding?

Company leaders need to ask themselves about their company’s cultural comfort with getting into overseas markets. Oftentimes the best-laid plans are undermined by those in the company tasked with implementing changes to the company’s website(s) for international markets.

Website redesigns take significant effort. It’s so important to start first with strategy and then decide on website structural, content and design choices that will optimize the company’s results in all markets!

Onward & upward
Becky DeStigter

The International Entrepreneur – Structuring Your Website for International Markets

 

url, international website, international business, international entrepreneurIn today’s business world, a website is your company’s front door. And with few exceptions, effective search engine optimization (SEO) and a well-branded experience are the difference between long-term success and bankruptcy. Managing the transition of a website into international markets can be crucial.

Most companies initially set up their websites in one of two ways. One is to create a website with a generic Top Level Domain (TLD) such as www.company-name.com. The second is to choose a domain and TLD that’s specific to their home market (ex. www.britishcompany.co.uk). But there comes a time in a company’s foray into international markets when decisions about structural changes should be made. Company leaders ask:

Do we ignore differences between markets & leave our website strategy alone?

OR… Develop a sub-domain structure or subdirectory structure within our company site to accommodate for the new foreign markets?

OR…. Localize with TLD Country Codes to create market-specific sites?

As with most international business questions, the answer is, it depends!

 

The Main Website Internationalization Options

  1. Leave the Website Alone

Let’s start with the easiest option, which is essentially to do nothing fundamentally different with the website structure. The typical international fix is include an international contacts page listing local distributors. If I had a company called “Great Idea”, then my company website domain might be www.GreatIdea.com in order to stay geographically neutral.

  1. Develop a Sub-Domain and/or Sub-Directory Structure within Your Website

Some companies choose to manage their websites all within the same TLD. Websites with Sub-Domains are actually considered separate from their parent sites. In the Great Idea Company, a subdomain could be www.french.GreatIdea.com or www.France.GreatIdea.com.

A Sub-Directory Structure would involve a directory structure like: www.GreatIdea.com/France/ or www.GreatIdea.com/french/. What some companies don’t realize is that sub-domains and sub-directories can be used together, if the situation is right.

  1. Localize with TLD Country Codes

In this approach, your company would create separate sites for each market. For Great Idea Company, I would create a site for each of my key markets: www.greatidea.com, www.greatidea.co.uk, www.greatidea.cn, www.greatidea.de, etc. You would also have the option to rebrand your product or subsidiary name locally: www.buenidea.es, www.goedidee.nl, www.brilliantconcept.co.uk , etc.

What are the Trade Offs Between Approaches?

There’s no right answer about which approach is best, only that certain situations call for one approach over another. I have been working with a Canadian services company with a company.ca TLD. As they look to expand into first the American market and then further into European markets, their Canadian country code TLD will become increasingly confusing to their markets. They will need to decide how to move forward. Here are some of the trade offs that this company and all internationalizing organizations should consider:

  • Better In-Country SEO – This is one of the top reasons to add country-specific sites. The SEO for Google.fr, Google.ca, etc. is much higher for TLDs with Country Codes. There is some benefit for the sub-domains and sub-directories. And non-altered sites get very little in-country SEO.
  • Control Over Localized Customer Experience – Customers in other countries may approach the buying process in completely different ways than in your home market. There may be different influencers, a different level of comfort with online sales, and different motivations for buying. With separate sites, and to some extent sub-domains and sub-directories, you can tailor this experience.
  • More Websites to Manage – Additional websites with TLDs varying country codes OR new sub-domains will take more effort to manage than sticking with your original single website. There are staffing time considerations.
  • More Expensive to Register and Maintain – Multiple sites mean more domain registrations. There may even be cyber squatters who have registered your brand’s domain name under other country codes. (This has actually happened to my domain name in Hong Kong and Mainland China.)
  • Local Market Expectations – Do foreign market customers look for your type of product or service mainly in their own language and country code? A recent survey by Smartling found that 9 out of 10 of B2B industry professionals only looked for products and services in their own language.
  • Local Support Expectations – When the website TLD is country specific, there can be an expectation that customer support is local and that support is in the local language.

These are just a few considerations when deciding how to structure your website to support international markets. If your company has not yet chosen an international website approach) keep in mind the future so as to not create extra work developing a domestic-only site without the flexibility to expand into the world.

The International Entrepreneur – Getting Started with Internationalizing Your Website

Website Internationalization, Mistranslated SignsTaking your company international is often a business milestone. To do it right, it takes research and planning. It often is a long-term growth accelerator. But skip the planning; you could be either wasting resources or worse – damaging your company’s brands and bottom line.

As part of international, it’s time to plan out your website internationalization. Some companies assume that adding a list of international distributors makes their site international enough to reach a global audience. To put this into perspective, Smartling (a website localization automation company) surveyed B2B companies around the world. Their study found that 9 out of 10 B2B professionals look for resources to solve their business challenges online only in their own native language. That means that those companies without a translated and localized site could be missing out on 90% of their international markets.

Here’s some advice to help your company to get started in internationalizing your website:

Balance Website Costs with Long-term Opportunities

When done right any website internationalization can be costly, so have a strategy that is sustainable and scalable in terms of staff time and expenses. And while the average global company increased their online supported languages from 12 in 2005 to 29 in 2014, that doesn’t mean that these companies launched with all languages at one time. Consider adding one language at a time based on the overall priority of the group of countries where each language is spoken. So for instance, Colombia may be a smaller potential market than Brazil. But add in the opportunities in all Spanish-speaking markets and Spanish may rise towards the top of the priority list!

Don’t Use Translator Widgets

I have met with more companies than I’d like to admit who have added a translator widget to their site and assume that their website is now international. Nothing could be further from the truth! In fact, on several occasions I see it often causing harm. Companies using these widgets look like amateurs, with damage done to their brand in the other language thanks to poor translations and no localization.

Choose International Content Wisely

Since it is costly to translate and localize website pages, you can choose to focus on key pages instead of the whole site. For instance, the product pages might be important to all. Therefore it’s worth the investment to have those pages translated/localized. But there may be other pages, which are less crucial. These might not be included in, say the German or Chinese versions. Also consider content marketing. Will you translate each new blog post into multiple languages? You could do this, but it would get very expensive very quickly. Instead, choose the most important blog posts to translate instead of all of them. As part of the editorial calendar, consider which topics would apply better to your best international markets.

Lastly, Learn the SEO Rules for Internationalization

Google has specific ways that they want site owners to structure their multi-lingual sites. If you set up the structure in one of a few ways, you’ll boost SEO in your international markets. This structure allows for choosing both language AND country for every specific market targeting. For instance, pt-BR means Portuguese in the Brazilian market. But pt-PT would be the Portuguese spoken in Portugal. In the end, it allows the customer to choose the language and country of their choice!

I hope you found this article interesting. I encourage you to read more from The International Entrepreneur Blog.

The International Entrepreneur -Following a Shifting Set of Rules

Masai with cellphonesAs an American coming from a culture that appreciates the structure and stability that our legal system often gives, sometimes it’s challenging to understand and accept the constant changing landscape of international business. Regulations on the local, regional and national levels can change depending on the political climate. Currencies fluctuate. Markets expectations change over time. Sometimes it feels like it’s all a moving target, and it is.

Someone from Finland asked me earlier this year for any recommended books on the current environment of international business. I was at a bit of a loss. There are certainly classic books that I think are worth reading like Riding the Waves of Culture by Fons Trompenaars and of course anything written by Thomas Friedman. But international business and trade is evolving much too quickly to publish. Blogs keep a more up-to-date perspective on global developments in commerce. The truth is that those of us working in international company roles are witness to one of the largest economic shifts that the world has ever seen.

So how do Americans, Canadians, Swiss and other rule-centered business cultures adjust to a more fluid system in much of the rest of the world?

Let In-Country Partners Take the Lead

It’s normal for business people to make assumptions about how things work. What works much better is to assume that there are differences that can’t be anticipated. I once worked with a Lebanese national who tried problem solving in the U.S. the way she would in Lebanon. It was a complete disaster. She burned relationships in every conflict situation. Likewise, I shouldn’t go to Lebanon and assume that my conflict resolution skills based on American culture will meet any greater success. Instead, spend the necessary time to cultivate close relationships with your in-country partners. Then heed their counsel.

?Regulations Are Reactionary

Rules are normally made when a government body sees either a problem or an opportunity that’s developed. Those of us in high-tech industries know this all too well. Any new industry niche starts out with minimal regulations. If the niche grows enough to attract attention, then normally a regulating agency sees the new area as their domain and then new rules follow. Another set of reactionary rules that I’m currently dealing with is the process around bringing a Chinese investor into the United States to look at high-tech investment opportunities. My contact is a reputable private equity firm owner, but she has the burden of proof to show that she will not illegally immigrate to the U.S. during her visit. Since much of regulation is reactionary, you can either anticipate what is likely to be a new rule or try to influence the legislative process. If you can, do the latter.

Change = Opportunities

As markets around the world experience change, I like to approach these changes as potential opportunities. Even negative changes are ones that the entire market must contend with. What helps is to accept the changes instead of resisting, and then to figure out how this new development can be dealt with. Your employees will thank you, but most importantly, your customers will thank you too.

Please contact me for more information about change management and navigating international markets. Good luck in all of your international business efforts!

The International Entrepreneur – Valuing Translation and Interpreters

As the Latin American technology markets heat up, the rest of the world is engaging and trying to make inroads into these potentially lucrative markets. Decreased communication and travel costs combined with lower trade barriers in recent years have make it infinitely more cost effective to enter markets like Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Panama and Mexico. But the one aspect of doing business in Latin America or anywhere else where there are no short cuts is TRANSLATION.

Let’s look at the areas where troubles can sprout:

Shortchanging Critical Branding in Marketing Copy

Marketing copy is key to a company’s branding. There are a variety of free tools that will translate your website pages into many languages. These free tools are never geared towards industry terminology. The translation is oftentimes incorrect for the situation. What this says about your company in other languages is that your company is careless and cheap. I don’t know of many companies looking to include these traits in their branding.

Google Translate as a Starting Point, Not the End Point, for Key Communications

Free online translation tools like Google Translate can be very helpful when translating basic information. But when used incorrectly, it can cause misunderstandings as well. For any important written communications in another language with partners, clients and potential clients, consult with a trusted professional translation resource to verify what you are about to send.

Hire Two Local Interpreters Instead of One

This may sound like overkill, but constant interpreting between two languages takes an enormous amount of energy. If your business dealings will require more than two hours’ worth of interpreting, hire a second interpreter so that the pair can take turns. Also, it is not unusual for the listening interpreter to catch mistakes. Ideally, the interpreters will not only speak the local dialect, but also have familiarity with your industry’s terminology. It is also helpful if your interpreter has cross-cultural experience with your culture and the one you are visiting. The classic example of this came from U.S. President Nixon’s first envoy to China. The Chinese famously compliment others but,deflect any compliments returned. The common reply to a compliment is “Where? Where?” (meaning who are you giving this compliment to – because it certainly couldn’t be me who is being called smart, handsome, clever, etc.) The Nixon team was continually confused by the where question. A translator familiar with both cultures might have clarified the misunderstanding sooner.

Dialect Changes Everything

In the U.S., we all chuckle when a European visits our office and asks for a rubber. A rubber in Europe is a pencil eraser and a rubber in the American dialect. Good-natured professionals from both sides of the Atlantic usually consider this to be a humorous situation. The other common English dialect pitfall is the word “root”. In the U.S., we root for a team to win a game (root = cheer). In Australia and New Zealand, it has a much more vulgar meaning. I leave you to translate that situation with a trusted Aussie friend. Nuances of dialect are like walking through a minefield. Spanish, in particular, has widely varied word usage. A translator must be familiar with ALL of the dialects to avoid being misinterpreted. A professionally certified translator will significantly lower your risk of looking foolish at best and incompetent at worst.

Most growing companies need to make do on shoestring-sized product marketing and business development budgets. There are many places where a company can cut corners without many consequences, but translation and interpretation should not be among your corner-cutting options.

The International Entrepreneur ? Cultural Tips on Brazil: an Interview with Cristina Silva

This week Cristina Silva shares her insights into Brazilian business culture. Cristina is a native of Brazil who currently lives and works in the United States. She has a Masters Degree in Translation and helps companies conduct cross-border business particularly?with Brazil and Latin America.

What do you see as unique cultural characteristics of Brazilians that comes out in Brazil?s business culture?

As spontaneous as Carnival, as creative as soccer, as enticing as caipirinhas, so is Brazil?s business culture. My top tips for doing business with Brazilians are:

1. Do your homework on what kind of industry regulations affect your sector. And yes, although I want to disclose up front that you should be ready for a lot of red tape, once you get used to the way things work; you?ll be ready to succeed.

2. Go local to go global. Be ready to recruit on-the-ground support, in the name of attorneys, and back and front office.

3. Develop deep relationships with your contacts. If I invited you for coffee at Starbucks, you probably say: ?Yes, sure!,? but you probably wouldn?t take me up on it. But when a Brazilian invites you for a cafezinho, you?d better go. This is the beginning of a promising and long-lasting relationship.

4. Be flexible with your time and accept that meetings will often start and finish late and that a schedule requiring 2 meetings/ day may not be feasible.

5. Don?t assume that everybody speaks English and/or Spanish, especially out of big cities. Be sure to have your materials translated into Portuguese and recruit a local qualified interpreter for your meetings.

6. Most Brazilians are on-your-face personal. Brazilians are expressive, use a lot of body language, stand relatively close to their interlocutors and kiss and hug. And even the kissing is geographically or based on the situation. When you get to a meeting, the greeting may be very warm, with a wrap-around hug. After a few days of interaction, the warm hug may become a kiss. Or one, or two, or three…you?ll learn from the situation.

7. Appearance is important to Brazilians, as we tend to follow European fashion styles. This means that men wear leather and suits and women dress to impress.

8. Brazilians value spontaneity, improvisation, creativity. Don?t be upset that the discussion during the meeting deviated from the firm agenda that you so carefully prepared. Think openly and evaluate whether the overall goal was achieved.

9. Socializing and spending time with one another is highly valued. Think of this as a collective, closely-knit, social culture. During business meetings, this socialization will happen around the lunch hour and coffee breaks.

What are Brazil?s most competitive industries in world markets?

Over the past few years, Brazil has moved from being a ?promising country sometime in the future? to being seen as one of the hottest business opportunities in the world. Of course, this came from a more stable political system and currency, which helped the following industries:

? Renewable fuels: Brazil is a champion in ethanol and wind energy and a lot of money is being invested in not so renewable fuels for deep-sea oil production, remote sensing.

? Natural resources such as lumber, iron, ore, tin and other minerals put Brazil is a competitive position of stocking the needs of the rest of the world.

? Agriculture: accounting for 36% of Brazilian exports, and making good use of the perfect climate, this is poised to be a great are for investment.

? Brazil is also a regional leader in science and technology and the government is very open to the development of an environment that is more supportive of innovation, and promoting laboratories and sales.

? Brazil?s other diverse industries encompass automobiles and parts, machinery and equipment, textiles, shoes, cement, computers and technology, aircraft and consumer durables.

What?s the best way to find potential Brazilian business contacts?

Definitely connect with the Brazilian Chambers of Commerce in Florida and New York, and then hire someone to do extra market research on hot leads. Also, don?t underestimate the value of LinkedIn, which opened the first office in my home town, S?o Paulo, last year. Then, when you arrive in Brazil, you?ll be more informed, prepared and ready to make local connections.

What do you wish people knew about doing business in Brazil before they arrive in country?

Portuguese! As incredibly international as Rio and S?o Paulo are, knowing the language will give you an incredible bargaining and negotiation power that you won?t have negotiating in English or hoping that your high school Spanish is well understood (of course, this is meant to be a joke, as some Brazilians may resent being spoken to in Spanish). Remember that Brazilians are proud of being one of the few countries in South America that do not speak Spanish.

Second, I?d caution any serious investor to truly understand what it takes to open a business in Brazil, from registration to opening doors. Although there are no shortcuts, being familiar with the 10-15 steps necessary to open a business, from checking the company name with the State Commercial Registry Office, registering the company, getting all the operations permits, opening a fund for unemployment account in the bank, through registration with the unions will definitely give you an edge.

From your perspective, what?s the business climate like for entrepreneurs (supportive vs. unsupported, culturally accepted profession vs. not accepted, etc.)?
I?d say that the business climate is very welcoming and positive and many opportunities are already being created and even more will be created by the Olympic Games and the World Game. Overall, our government recognizes that we still have a long way to go and is open to bilateral agreements and is encouraging foreign initiative and presence, especially in very professional fields.

About Cristina Silva
Cris Silva is a Portuguese Translator and Interpreter based in Boulder, Colorado. A Brazilian native from S?o Paulo, she started her studies at the Universidade de S?o Paulo and then received an M.A.in Translation from Kent State University, in Ohio. She has worked as an in-house and freelance translator, simultaneous conference interpreter, voice-over talent and owns a small boutique company, http://ALLinPortuguese.com – you guessed it ? ALL in Portuguese. She also teaches translation at the School for Professional and Continuing Studies at New York University and at University College at the University of Denver. Besides Portuguese, she speaks Spanish and French fluently and loves the Rocky Mountains. Please visit her at http://www.ALLinPortuguese.com/blog to find out what she?s up to and connect with her via e-mail, at [email protected] .

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