Long gone are the days when a small business had only local customers. Thanks to the internet and worldwide parcel deliveries, you don’t need to be a global corporation to reach an international market. Small and medium enterprises (SMEs) can be just as successful selling goods or services overseas. All they need is a website – in theory, that is.
|Expand your global reach with foreign language content|
In practice, things can get a bit more complicated, as my German aunt had to find out a few months ago. In fact, she almost lost her marbles over the incident.
She went to a local shop in Thuringia, Germany to buy a certain brand of handmade glass marbles as a gift for her son, who collects them. Unfortunately, at prices of £25 per marble, he seemed to be the only fan, so the shop had stopped ordering them.
However, they gave my aunt the website address of the online glass shop where she could get them from, and it happened to be a small craft centre based in Devon, England.
My aunt asked her daughter to order it for her. Despite all information being in English, she had no problem finding the marbles in question and putting them in her cart. As an avid user of online shopping and eBay, she is used to ordering bargains from all over the world with her credit card.
But when she wanted to pay, a problem occurred. The system told her: “Thank you for your order. Your card was authenticated successfully but NO money has been debited from your account. Your card will ONLY be debited when your order is fulfilled.” Even a native speaker of English might have to read this twice to get what it actually means. But for my cousin’s school English, presumably as good as an Englishman’s restaurant French, this was definitely a little too complicated to grasp.
Don’t over-complicate things
My cousin was thinking her card had not worked as NO money had been debited and tried to contact the shop. A few emails were exchanged between Devon and Thuringia, and my cousin even attempted a phone call. But they just could not get each other.
To make matters worse, my cousin ordered again thinking that the first order had not worked. Again, the system told her “Your card was authenticated successfully but NO money has been debited from your account”. So she ordered again.
Luckily, she got suspicious and phoned me just in time to prevent a massive triple marble delivery. I got on the phone to a lady from Devon with a lovely West Country accent. She was happy about the fact that I was able to solve the confusion by explaining what problem my aunt from Germany had experienced with their website, cancelled orders #2 and #3 and promised to send out the marbles straight away. But businesses cannot afford to rely on their customers’ bilingual relatives – a simple FAQ page in main languages like Spanish, French and German might do just the trick.
Open doors with foreign language content
Did you know that more people in the world speak Spanish than English? That about a third of the EU’s population speak German and more than one in four speak French? This is a huge market for small businesses to tap into online. Customers whose mother tongue isn’t English do not necessarily expect an SME’s website to be completely multilingual. With English still being the world’s main business language, most customers are able to navigate around an English website just fine.
But as my cousin’s marble case shows, it pays to think about using some foreign language content, as it will help you to actually sell your products to customers overseas.
I have found three levels to consider if you want to increase your global reach:
1. Basic level: Translate the essentials
If you offer your terms and conditions, a FAQ page or shipping information in different languages, it could make a major difference for your customers overseas to find the information they want to know. Make sure to use a professional translating agency – if you let a computer do the job, it will sound unprofessional, could be misleading and might put customers off purchasing your products.
2. Intermediate level: Get found by search engines overseas by adding evergreen content in other languages
If you add evergreen content such as product information or an “about us” page in a foreign language, it will drive traffic from Google searches to your website. For example, a glass marble collector from Germany might search for “Glasmurmeln”. You can easily attract new customers from Arabic speaking countries, from Austria or Argentina, depending which languages you offer.
3. Advanced level: Use tailored foreign language content to directly reach your customers overseas
If you want to stand out from your competition, you can actively target non-English speaking markets with foreign language content marketing. It is a very cost-effective way to attract audiences from all over the world. For example, you could post daily news updates about your industry in French. This would significantly increase the ranking of your website in relevant searches from France.
A content marketing strategy that includes foreign language content could bring you closer to your customers who don’t have English as their native language. And my aunt probably would find this simply… marbellous!
Assistant Content Manager
Foreign Language Desk