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September 28, 2009 by  
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Multicultural Marketing – 3 Easy Steps to Attract International Business Through Your Website

Your online business can have global visibility. But is your message getting across to different cultures as you expect it? Are you able to adapt quickly to global market opportunities you see pop up? Or would you like to know how to quickly target different international audiences, with little investment on your part?

With a little thought and some careful preparation you can have an effective international presence through your current local business. Sure, language skills can help you open doors. But careful consideration to different cultures can give you a great advantage.

Get more business from non-native English speakers

Today there are more non-native English speakers in the global web market than there are native English speakers. And the e-businesses in many foreign language countries is expanding rapidly.

Today you need to know if your sales message is getting through to everyone, everywhere they have a market. You need to nurture communication with each specific cultural market.

A lot of foreigners do speak English. But most don’t. And the people who do speak English as a second language, do not have the same level of understanding as native English speakers do. The problem is your international readers have different levels of English language skills.

Language is only part of the complexity in multicultural communication. There are also the whole set of cultural differences in mindset, in habits, and in other aspects of communication as a whole. Miscommunication in some form or other happens very easily. Sometimes without either parties realizing they are not of the same understanding.

Written English also has its pitfalls in cross-cultural communication. Of course people have more time to understand when reading. But the person writing can’t tell the effect his writing is having on the reader. Is the reader understanding what the writer intended in the first place? Is he even interested?

Step 1 – Internationalize Your English

Avoiding miscommunication requires constant awareness at all stages of communication. The process is fairly easy:

1. Acknowledge constant risk of miscommunication

- Be prepared to be patient and forgiving.

2. Clear communication

- Use plain English; avoid slang and local or national expressions
- Give clear explanations.
- Always go through processes slowly, methodically, logically.
- Give full explanations; don’t assume everyone does things like you do
- Speak slightly above your listener’s level of English.

3. Stay calm – Question your own communication first.

- If your gut reaction is to respond aggressively, keep this in check and respond slowly.
- Do not jump to conclusions quickly.

4. Listen actively to everything.

- Adjust your communication accordingly

The most difficult part is in the beginning, in training yourself to keep this open mindset constantly.

Practice brings you enriching experiences. The more practice you have in becoming familiar with communicating with other cultures, the better you become at establishing and maintaining effective communication cross-culturally.

The first two steps of this process can be applied directly to your written communication. Don’t forget to be even more patient and to communicate clearly when you do get feedback from your readers. And listen attentively to what your readers have to say.

By paying close attention and adjusting your written communication to your readers’ responses you will get your message across better. Your communication with your international clients and prospects will evolve and you will become more familiar with how your business is perceived abroad. You will be in a better position to take advantage of global business opportunities.

Step 2 – Create Localized Websites In English

Developing an international company can be made in steps.Once you get to know your different international markets, you can develop localized websites for individual countries. Cultural differences in non-native English speaking countries are often strong enough to merit adapting your English language website to each country.

This would also give you the time to get to know your particular marketing strengths in each country before investing in full blown multilingual sales and marketing efforts…and making mistakes.

An English language website targeted for the specific needs of each different culture will bring you better results than one main website in your home territory serving the world. What is considered polite in one country can be offensive in another. What is considered normal sales practices in one culture can come across as a very aggressive intrusion by another culture.

The best way to quickly grasp what makes your international clients tick, is to be interested in them. Have a look at some of their local websites. Don’t worry about not understanding them. Just notice how different they look in general. How do the graphics affect you? If there is any audio online, what is the general sound? Try to identify different tastes.

Be interested in reading about anything from that particular culture. Ask questions. Keep an open mind. Show your interest. And then listen to any feedback you have from your clients.

Before long you will see recurring questions. You may even be able to identify misunderstandings as they arise. Return to your website and try to answer these questions simply and clearly.

Adapt each localized English language website for your message to be understood as best as possible by your native readers. This will limit the risk of cultural misinterpretation as much as possible.

Your sales message may not be as strong as if it were in the reader’s native language. But it is often easier and quicker to adapt your English language website to the cultural specificities of your local target market. Your adapted, localized English language website will also convey a stronger message than a bad translation.

This process will also give you credibility within each different cultural group. People often do web search first in their own country search engines. People are not stupid. It will be hard to hide the fact you are a foreign company. But they will recognize your willingness to make an effort in understanding them and appreciate you for it.

Step 3 – Multilingual Websites

Of course, with a little bit of effort you will develop your market in each individual country. You will begin to understand any differences in buying habits, tastes, difficulties. At this stage you will ask yourself if you could get more business with a website in your readers’ native language.

Going through the first two processes of making your website Non Native English Speaker friendly and localized will save you a lot of time when it comes to the writing of your website into different materials. You will probably understand how the differences in your markets will require material specifically written for each market. You will be able to evaluate whether you can get away with simple translations of your current website and sales materials or not.

Part English – Part Multilingual

Depending on your particular market you may decide to translate parts of your website, all of it, or only translate parts of specific local marketing campaigns.

There are various tactics companies use. The choice really depends on your market. Two of the options are:

- Keep your main localized website in English and have a direct sales page online in the local language, with email campaigns in local languages
- A specific area of your localized website in local languages to provide key information to your international clients in their own language.

Thought should be given to strengthen you cross-cultural communication at its weakest points.

Fully Multilingual Presence

Localized websites in solely in native languages are ideal for international business. They are the longest program to implement, and carry the highest risk of making your company look bad. The reason is because translations do not do the job. Full cultural customization comes with an intimate understanding of the local market for your products and services.

The writing of a website for a different culture and in a different language needs to be written by someone with all three of the following criteria:

- Intimate local market knowledge, to be able to write to the target audience
- Understanding for both cultures, to understand the differences in messages to be delivered and change them when appropriate.
- Native speaker

Having your website written by someone who meets all three of these qualifications will give you a good website. The trouble is it will take you time to find the right person for the job. And you need to find a different person to write your website for each different language.

To give all of your readers a great multilingual experience and ensure your company’s superior international presence, you also need someone to coordinate the writing of all websites. This person will cover branding issues, and consistency. Simple things such as specific industry vocabulary need to be coordinated throughout all languages.

A fully integrated multicultural strategy is a great benefit to international business. It will also keep you from cultural blunders.

Global Market Communication Takes Time And Practice

Don’t let your own lack of language skills stop you. It is more about building relationships.

Show your willingness to do business internationally. Listen attentively to any feedback you get. Your product or service may have a brand new market in a different cultural environment. You may need to adapt your services or your product.

With increased multicultural marketing experience you will develop new opportunities in unthought-of places.

Are you committed to speeding up your international sales cycles?

Learn how to combine cross-cultural marketing tools and international sales strategies for faster sales.

Join us on the International Sales Road Map.

Would you like to develop your international business?
Are you a beginner at international sales and marketing?
Read the Beginners Guide Discover Your International Business.

About the Author

Cindy King
Cross-Cultural Marketer & International Sales Specialist

Over 25 years field experience in aligning cultural offers for international sales.

International content strategy
Custom publishing in English to build international markets B2B international lead generation

40km south of Paris, France – GMT+1
Cell: +33 6 98 91 86 11
Follow me on Twitter
Get International Clients

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