Exporting: the golden gift that gets lost in translating

There is little not to like about the concept of exporting. A huge new market waiting to be taken is an attractive concept. But for several reasons, it can go horribly wrong and end up costing you dear

Exporting: the golden gift that gets lost in translating

Careful and in-depth research is a crucial start. I remember years ago we had been exporting goods via middlemen for a while and a picture of possible products and companies was starting to emerge.   I commissioned a report from the DTI which came back advising us to try three companies that we knew were just about as unlikely for us to ever sell in as was possible. I am sure that is not usually the case, but it proved a good reminder to take nothing at face value.  

Always use several sources and check for consistent patterns. Companies such as Euromonitor will help you establish if there really is a market for what you do and how big that market may be. You will be able to carry out competitor analysis in the usual way. While it is no different from an expansion into a new area at home, expanding into a new area overseas is potentially a lot more expensive if it goes wrong.  Spending time and money at this stage will help protect you from a bigger loss.

Contacts are always important in business but when you are aiming to penetrate new markets, they are crucial. Agents are expensive and not to be leapt at till you know more about the possible return, and indeed about the agents. Quality varies. It may be more viable to do the hard grind and lift the phone, and delve through LinkedIn to make initial contacts yourself. 

Treat them well. They can furnish you with the insider information and market subtleties that you will not access from the outside and could vastly increase your chances of defining a relevant audience. Only when you have accumulated both contacts and research data, is it worth testing the markets in some small way. A trade show is ideal. You can meet your contacts face to face and develop the relationships further, as well as monitor all the feedback, good and bad, that you get from potential buyers.

It is unwise to throw everything you do at a new market. These steps you have helped you 

gain an insight into which product or small number of products to lead with at the shows. The choice will not necessarily be the same in each country.  

Pricing will need to be thought through in advance. Carriage costs – and reliability – explored, to say nothing of currency fluctuations where you will need expert advice and even then, build a buffer into your pricing strategy so that you are not left too exposed. This is just one of the reasons to only consider countries with stable economies.  

Different countries will need different IPs on both your brand assets and goods if relevant before you start to invest in marketing. Legalities in your marketing can also be a nightmare. The laws on what you can and cannot say will vary from country to country, state to state sometimes.   

Then, of course, there is the marketing itself. The challenge will be to get heard in a new market.  Launching digitally first can be a cost-effective way of brand building and establishing yourself in a new market. When you start selling through retailers or agents, they will not only need finding but training to a level that you will be happy to represent your brand which will be a much bigger step.

Whichever route you chose, it is wise to work with a carefully researched and chosen local marketing company. They can help to ensure your marketing content will match the preferences and characteristics of your local target market, aware of nuances that you might otherwise miss in order to make those vital emotional connections.

When it comes to the marketing cope, this is no time to rely on Google Translate. Firstly, it is often not possible to effectively achieve a direct translation. Far wiser to concentrate on preserving the original brand image and tone. Event these can go wrong. Your brand name, which might seem original and innocent at home, may have a very different local meaning. Gerber baby food slipped up by not discovering the name translates to vomit in French.  

History is awash with marketing messages that have failed to directly translate. Parkers’ Pen’s strapline of “won’t leak in your pocket and embarrass you” morphed in Mexican to a promise of not leaking in your pocket nor impregnate you. Pepsi fell into a similar trap with its making you come alive slogan in China. This purportedly reappeared as a promise that Pepsi would bring your ancestors back from the grave. There are endless stories where companies have suffered a brand or product described as something even more offensive.

Exporting is full of new challenges and not for the faint-hearted. But for those who get it right, it brings not only global success but a diversity of markets which has to be welcome in these uncertain times.  

Jan Cavelle
Jan Cavelle

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