Thoughts for New Exporters – How to Start Communicating with non-English speaking Customers and Prospects

Having identified a clear need for their goods and services in a neighbouring - but non-English speaking - European country, a client recently asked us to translate some social media posts. These would attract enquiries from continental consumers, who would then visit the company web site…but which had not yet been localised or translated to their language, so a sale may be lost.

This is a very common issue – your starting point is ‘passive exporting’ where enthusiastic early adopters find your product from overseas. You see a clear opportunity, but it becomes obvious that sales would grow only if you communicate in the language spoken in that market. A starting point for being more proactive might well be a social media post – but what happens next if the client responds in a language that you do not speak?

Here are some thoughts on how new exporters working to a tight budget might initially handle both outbound and inbound written communications:

Tips for budget first inbound communications:

  1. Consider starting with a single translated landing page on your web site. Look to use this to ask clients to fill in a standard form so that information is standardised and can be processed by a non-linguist. This might cover basic enquiry information such as product requirements, product quantity and contact information. Your standard form should be professionally translated for credibility.
  2. Outside your controlled web site environment, use free machine translation tools such as Google Translate to screen whether inbound enquiries should be pursued.
  3. Following screening, decide whether you need to invest in professional translation of serious enquiries into English so that you respond correctly.

Tips for first outgoing communications:

  1. Professional translation of social media posts, Newsletters, trade show marketing materials - all with a call to action to link to the translated area of your web site...
  2. Web site – as above, including a professionally translated landing page to link to for marketing messages with a standard form to standardise information received.
  3. Create a series of standard outgoing messages and templates e.g. marketing messages, quotations, order confirmation, delivery details etc and have these professionally translated so that you have a template for standard communications that can be used by all staff.

You might take advice on marketing overseas from your local international trade advisor, and look at the interactive tools for new exporters from the Department for International Trade - and indeed see our own Blog post on 5 tips for UK exporters to consider. Your local Chamber of Commerce is a great resource for international business, or go to Chamber International, and look at the resources on the web site of the Institute of Export and International Trade.

You’ll note that we mention ‘professional translation’ for customer-facing communications out of English and business-critical information into English. Professional translators work into their mother tongue only, ensuring that your outgoing message reads as clearly as your original in English. Your credibility is at stake here! A good translation company will work with mother tongue translators only, ensure that they understand the terminology used in your market, and use translation technology sensibly to provide a high-quality and cost-effective service.

Finally, there will come a point on your growth journey when you do need linguists in your sales office – but you may still need professional translators for that polished outgoing message on web pages, or technical and legal information.

Choosing the Right Translation Company

For professional translation, it’s essential that your chosen translation company fulfil the above criteria as a bare minimum. Translators should be open and honest about services available, as well as experience and existing knowledge.

Alexika provides translators working into their mother tongue with industry-specific experience to work on your project. Get in touch with our team today to discuss your brief.

Mark Robinson, December 2021