The past 18 months have been challenging for small and medium size enterprises (SMEs) in Britain. No sooner was a Brexit deal finally agreed than a global pandemic hit. But out of the ashes new opportunities are rising.
As the dust settles, it’s beginning to look a lot like export planning.
Battered and bruised, yet by no means defeated, UK SMEs are once again engaging in trade after a period of unprecedented challenges.
For small businesses in Britain, the situation has been twice as challenging. The uncertainty prior to the Brexit deal and the preparations for a no-deal outcome already felt like a huge challenge for companies that don’t have large legal and compliance departments. Then the Coronavirus hit, complicating economic activity in markets across the globe.
Keys to recovery
All across Europe, businesses are waiting for the remaining pandemic restrictions to be lifted. It has been suggested that some restrictions will remain in place indefinitely, or will return on a seasonal basis.
What we already know is that the past 18 months have propelled businesses into a process of digital transformation that cannot be reversed. Increased digital capabilities have enabled SMEs to reduce their physical presence and venture further online.
Prior to 2020, 7 out of 10 people across Europe had already bought goods and services online. This increased further during the pandemic.
According to Eurotstat, the biggest increases in people shopping online were seen in “… Romania (+27 percentage points (pp)), Czechia and Croatia (both +25 pp) as well as Hungary (+23 pp)”. In Norway, the increase in online sales in terms of value was a staggering 27.8%!
This means that your business, wherever it is geographically, can be part of the global town square.
You could hardly ask for better conditions for expanding your business and entering international markets.
Business travel is no longer expected – on the contrary. Acceptance of virtual meetings has made it easier to get through to people who were previously out of your reach. You could hardly ask for better conditions for expanding your business and entering international markets.
The UK Minister for Exports, Graham Stuart, has said that exports is one of the keys to the country’s recovery. The Institute of Export & International Trade reports that EU exports are continuing to bounce back with an 8.6% increase from February to March 2021, despite the UK still being in lockdown at the time.
In the UK, the value of goods exported by SMEs rose from £81 billion in 2015 to almost £108 billion by 2019. An HM Revenue & Customs report from 2019 states: “Of exporting businesses, the ‘1 to 9’ employees group made the largest value increases since 2018 (up 7%).”
Exporting means growth – for your small company as well as our national economy.
Overcoming barriers through export planning
Whilst the UK government encourages and pursues international trade deals, they don’t always address a key challenge for many business owners: How do I deal with the language barrier?
A recent report by Aston University’s Business School into 415 UK SMEs from different sectors emphasises the importance of overcoming this challenge. The research leaves little room for doubt as it “reveals that SMEs making use of language capabilities are 30% more successful in exporting than those who do not.”
The research discusses SMEs’ “…motivation, preparedness and attitudes towards developing language-related capabilities, as well as the actual use of available language capabilities”. It also establishes a clear correlation between doing that and driving the company’s growth and profitability of exports.
Put simply: improved language capabilities = increased export revenue and profits.
What a language service provider can do for you
The most efficient way of tapping into language capabilities is to partner with a language service provider that tailors their services to your specific needs.
There may be a legal requirement for the material related to your product or service to be translated for your export markets.
For example, in the EU:
- The EU declaration of conformity must be translated into the language(s) of the EU country in which your product is sold
- Certain investment information needs to be translated when distributed
- The medical devices regulation defines what constitutes a medical device and what translations need to accompany it
- The food labelling regulation stipulates that the labelling must be “…easily understood by the consumers of the EU Member States where a food is marketed”
To satisfy such legal requirements, you can’t simply rely on free online translation tools. Qualified language professionals must perform these translations. Our team would be happy to do that for you.
Customer awareness and engagement
In order to reach international clients, speak to them in their own language. Publish your marketing content in their language and optimise it for search engines (SEO) in that language. We have listed five good reasons for such SEO localisation here.
Multilingual marketing is about reshaping your company’s message to fit another culture.
Marketing in a different language is not just about translating words. It is about reshaping your company’s message so that it makes sense in another culture, as we explain on this page about multilingual marketing.
Your website is the face of your business. You want it to speak to potential customers in a way that raises their awareness and encourages engagement.
That being said, your most important channel for customer engagement is probably social media. This is where you’ll be touching people’s hearts and creating a loyal following.
Even in the Scandinavian markets where many consumers speak good English, you’ll find that people prefer to engage in their own language, especially on topics that really matter to them.
Have you ever wished you had an in-country community engagement manager? A person trained and appointed to:
- Take the social media messages written for your home market
- Translate and localise their content
- Publish them in another, market-specific social media group
- Manage the responses and replies to those posts in the target language
We can set up this solution for you.
Once you have customers and business partners in other countries, you need to deal with their questions and support requests. They may wish to express these in their own language.
Do you need to hire new staff to handle those communications? Creating a number of Q&A templates that can be translated will allow you time to explore your options.
These templates can cover stock replies to frequently asked questions and you can even use them to build multilingual chatbot scenarios for online customer support. Read more about our tips on how to localise support documentation here.
Turn language from a barrier to a bridge
The Aston Business School research shows that businesses that invest in language capabilities are 30% more successful as exporters.
SMEs making use of language capabilities are 30% more successful in exporting.
You may already be taking professional advice on your export strategy in terms of pricing, customs compliance, payment methods, currency risks, insurance and packaging.
Turning to experts to learn about the role of language when entering international markets is no different. We are here to help you improve your language capabilities.
Contact us today to have a chat about where to start.