My latest post for client Pitney Bowes on localizing for Canada.
As they begin their global expansion, American companies often select Canada first under the assumption that the market will be easier to succeed in than more distant and culturally unfamiliar markets such as Germany or Japan.
However, physical and cultural proximity should not be confused with ease of market entry or ease of website localization. Every country is a new market with unique cultures, laws, and ways of doing business. This article highlights a few key tips to consider as you head to the “great white north.”
My latest post for client Pitney Bowes on going global (or not).
An excerpt — Two reasons NOT to go global:
1. You don’t have realistic expectations (and budgets).
The most common mistake companies make when going global is expecting too much success too early. Doing so not only sets unrealistic expectations, but it also creates a short-term mentality, along with short-term budget commitments. Companies that succeed in new markets typically start small, set achievable and realistic goals, and set longer-term (3-5 year) budgetary commitments.
2. Your staff isn’t ready to go global.
While I believe that the best way to learn something is to do something, you also need to be as prepared as you can be before getting started. Too often, companies don’t have people who are even aware of the complexities of going global. Regularly reading this blog, for example, is something every employee should undertake to start getting a feel for the opportunities and challenges of going global. You want your colleagues to be inherently curious about the world, about cultures, and, ultimately, about customers who may speak any number of languages.
My latest post for client Pitney Bowes includes tips for creating “world ready” visuals.
Don’t Send the Wrong (Hand) Signal
Gestures are culturally specific and, while some gestures have gone global, there are variations on these gestures and hand signals, in addition to locally unique signals, that you’ll need to know. The peace sign may be globally ubiquitous, but if you were to rotate your hand around, it suddenly becomes an offensive gesture in countries such as the UK and Australia. President George H.W. Bush was widely ridiculed in Australia when he visited in 1992 and gave the peace sign in reverse.
Image courtesy of Danilo Rizzut] / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
The OK sign may be perfectly “OK” in the US, but it can be quite offensive in countries such as Turkey and Brazil. And it can be taken to mean “zero” in France.
Avoid visual pitfalls.
By editing the text to be world-ready, you’re halfway towards avoiding any “international incidents.” But you also need to take a close at your visuals. All cultures have their “hot button” visuals that, at a minimum, be controversial, but at worst inflame customers. Hand gestures, for example, carry significant cultural meaning. The two-finger peace sign is a popular and peaceful hand gesture, but if you reverse that sign, you send a very negative message in many countries. (See 10 Things that Americans Don’t Realize Are Offensive to Brits.)
Tip: Avoid stock photos of people. For example, hand gestures, postures, and clothing can all offend someone somewhere. So if you can avoid using stock photos of people on your website, do so. If you must feature photos of people, focus on creating locally relevant photos so as to truly appeal to the market.
Thinking globally requires stepping outside of your own cultures and viewing your website and content through the eyes of people who have an entirely different cultural background.