Why businesses should know their customers before investing in translation

16/01/2019 | Rebecca Twose

Did you know that 25% of B2B marketers admit that their organisations aren’t customer-centric? Knowing your customers and understanding what their goals are is the best way that businesses can maximise their success with their market. Businesses need to know what makes their customers tick, what are their buying habits? What are the best platforms to reach them on and what would encourage them to buy that product?  

The importance of knowing and understanding customers’ needs becomes even more crucial when a business is looking to expand its target market internationally. Any business that wants to expand into foreign markets will require some form of translation whether that be website translation or document translation. Translation can be a costly investment for businesses so it essential that they understand their customers, and how their international markets operate before they spend money in translating materials that may not be suitable for that market.

Here are some things that businesses need to know about their customers before investing in translation…

Who is the customer?

Every business should at least have a basic understanding of who their customers are in terms of what demographics they fit into for example age, gender, income and more. Businesses who are looking at expanding internationally need to know how these demographics are impacting the language that will need to be used when targeting that particular demographic, and how this relates to translation. If a business has identified that it’s customers are teenagers aged 12-18 then this will mean that the language used to target that demographic will need to be understandable by a younger audience and so overly technical phrases will need to be left out. Customer demographics can also give an insight into the level of formality that is required when communicating with that audience for example 40-50 year old legal professionals may expect a different level of formality compared to teenagers. Furthermore, the language that is used may need to sound cool and on trend, so that it matches the language used by teenagers as this will engage them more, but of course this depends on the formality of the content.

Recognising the customer’s demographics and how these plays into the language used to communicate with the customers is essential before businesses invest in translation. By having a clear idea of who your customers are and what style of language needs to be used to engage them, your translation provider can make sure the translated version of your content also reflects the same style as your original so that you are just as engaging with your foreign audience as you are with your domestic one.

What engages the customer?

With any business that is looking to grow internationally, they need to know what their customers in that foreign market want and what is the best way to give them that. Therefore all businesses should have carried some sort of market research to see if their product or service will be successful with its international customers because a product that sells well in the UK market may not be successful abroad. Businesses also need to consider whether or not the time of year will impact the success of their product in the foreign market, is the product more likely to sell better just before Christmas for example? If so it would make sense to launch it just before the festive season.

This all needs to be considered prior to investing in translation services because many translation providers will require you to book projects in advance, especially during a busy Q4. If you don’t provide your provider with enough notice then the best scenario is that can manage to fit you in but worst case is that they are fully booked and you are left with two options – either wait until after the busy season is over and they can fit you in (which would mean you miss the optimum time to launch your product), or you can go to another provider who can fit you in with no problem (there will probably be a good reason for this) and risk getting a poor quality translation of your content which could compromise the success of your product in the foreign market and your reputation.

Customer buying habits

Once a business has identified who its customers are and how to engage them, the next thing they need to know is their customer’s buying habits. There have been plenty of examples where businesses have tried to launch into a new foreign market and the product has flopped. It is isn’t even small to medium businesses that this happens to either, Starbucks was a recent victim when they tried to launch in Australia. Like many businesses who want to expand abroad, Starbucks assumed that because they had been successful in many other markets, they did not need to adapt their business model for the Australian market. They went into Australia all guns blazing and opened too many stores before testing whether or not there was a want from Australian consumers which led to them having to embarrassingly retreat from the Australian market and close two-thirds of its stores. Businesses should learn from Starbuck’s mistakes that not all markets are the same and consumers indifferent international markets should be treated individually.

McDonald’s are good example of how to do this as they have recognised that different countries have different demands and therefore they tailor their menu to suit these needs, for example, cafes are a large part of French culture and so the McCafé section of McDonald’s is a lot more developed in France than it is in the UK and in France they have a McCafé where you can’t get a BigMac!  Businesses also need to identify which platforms are best for communicating with their foreign customers. In the UK social media sites like Instagram and Linked In are becoming the best sites for businesses to reach their consumers, but not all consumers will use these platforms especially if they are located in a foreign country where they have their own versions of social media sites, like XING in Germany.

Businesses, therefore, need to know if there is a gap in the foreign market for their product and if there is then they need to know what is the best way to engage customers with their product. Investing in translation and multilingual social media is only advisable once a business knows what it’s customers want and the best ways to give them that or else a Starbucks scenario might occur and the money spent on translation would be for nothing.

Will the investment be returned?

This is perhaps the most important thing a business needs to know before they invest in translation, will the money spent on investing in translation have any benefits? Most businesses who are looking to expand internationally want to break into their new market as soon as possible and that is quite understandable. However, there is no point getting every piece of content the business has translated into German just because they are targeting the German market, and if your translation provider has the business’ best interests at heart they will tell you this. Instead, businesses need to know what type of content is worth translating for their German consumers, and it might be a case of needing brand new content to engage new consumers instead of translating existing content that isn’t relevant.

At Language Insight we know how important it is for businesses to get it right first time when entering new markets, and for us; your customers are our customers. Our teams will guide you along the way and make sure that when you invest in our translation services, you get the best results. To get started on your translation journey contact us here.

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