Small world. How often does that phrase come up these days? And how true it is.
Today, we’re exporting more and more across the globe.
Years ago, export was a time-consuming, costly process – masses of paperwork, endless bureaucracy, expensive flights to take meetings – it was only a game for the big boys, with most SMEs staying far away.
These days, the process has become easier and, in some cases, cost free. I won’t patronise you with the details. You must know about email, Skype and Twitter by now.
But with this ease of doing international business has come a pressing need. The need to be understood.
In a world with so many languages and cultural differences, it’s easy to lose customers simply by not being clear enough.
And judging by the efforts of some companies, it’s like they’re on a mission to shed as much global business as they can. If you want to join them*, simply follow these rules.
- Write in Colloquial English
We native English speakers love our idioms and cultural references. For example, when we are being concise, we like to explain things ‘in a nutshell’.
It’s only natural that your second language customers will take most of what you write literally. So, unless you are actually talking about nuts, it’s better to say ‘in brief’.
- Write plenty of long, complicated sentences
Even a few native speakers have a hard time understanding a sentence with more than two clauses. To really get your customer’s head in a spin, write long meandering sentences with too much information, commas, semi-colons and dashes.
Or you could make them shorter. And easier to understand.
- Use plenty of industry-specific jargon and ‘business speak’
So, your company provides ‘solutions’ does it? Make sure you mention this word plenty of times in order to keep your information as vague as possible. And whilst you’re at it, throw in a few words that only you and a few of your esteemed colleagues know about. That way, you can look smart, right?
Actually, you’ve just left your potential customer bewildered. Want to keep them? In short (‘a nutshell’?), cut it out.
- Ignore cultural differences and taboos
If you are keen on keeping as few of your global customers as possible, make sure you do virtually no research into the culture of your target market. Lots of business has been lost this way, because people fail to appreciate the other’s way of thinking or break cultural taboos. If you just blindly expect everyone to do as you do, then losing customers is virtually guaranteed.
But you don’t really want to lose them, so how about checking with someone in the local market that what you’re putting out there is relevant and unlikely to cause offence?
- Don’t think local
You provide exactly the same products or services wherever you are delivering them, so there’s no need to adapt your message, right? Just have everything you have put on your website directly translated and that will do.
Probably not. Better to get all your content localised, as in adapt your content to your target market. People will be much more engaged, have more confidence, and ultimately will be more likely to buy from you.
*Of course, if you don’t follow these rules – and take the advice in italics – you’ll have a much better chance of being understood. Perhaps you won’t lose quite so many international customers.
You might even make more money.
Shameless plug: Voxtree deliver courses on writing in International English. Get in touch if you’d like to know more.