The digital world has created an ever-growing global community where companies of all shapes and sizes can expand internationally. And that includes start-ups.

Back before the digital era really took hold, companies needed to plough their time and money into going global, but these days the whole world’s online. And global markets are much more accessible to companies of all sizes, including start-ups.

So why do businesses need to think about localisation right from the start?

When it comes to start-ups, many – especially those in the tech industry – are international from the get-go.

Global crowdfunding campaigns are one reason for this. Early supporters of a start-up often become brand aficionados. And they create a buzz about this new product, service or app among their peers, no matter where in the world they may be.

But it’s not just crowdfunded start-ups that are open to an international audience from the off.

Selling a product or service on a website, being on social media, and producing content across various platforms automatically connects your business to an international audience. International customers have the opportunity to purchase products and services no matter where your business is based.

And don’t forget, your company won’t always be a start-up.

You might not need your website translated and localised into foreign languages now, but as your customer base develops you will need to be ready to take this step. Especially as we know that 60% of foreign-language customers rarely or never buy from English-language sites.

But it’s not all about translation. Cultural differences, website design and foreign social media all need to be thought about too.

7 global marketing tips to make your start-up localisation-ready

There are plenty of things you can do now so that your business is ready to go global later. Here are our 7 global marketing tips for start-ups.

1. Get your content translation-ready

By producing content that’s ready for translation now, you avoid lengthy revisions and editing in the future.

We’ve written a whole how-to guide on producing translation-ready content, but here are some basics to get you started.

• Produce a style guide so each writer conforms to the same tone of voice and brand style.
• Create a glossary of technical and niche terminology so the same terms are used consistently.
• Proofread and edit all content to avoid any inaccuracies and typos.
• Avoid idioms, colloquialisms and cultural references. These will only have to be adapted (with much debate) later on.

2. Design your website with localisation in mind

Website localisation can be a highly technical process, but there are some things you can do from the start to make sure your site is ready to be adapted to overseas markets.

• Think about using a design template that’s easily adapted to all languages. (Bear in mind that text often expands when translated from English, and not all languages read left-to-right.)
• Research the cultural connotations of colour. Colours are interpreted differently by various cultures. (For example, in Iran the colour blue is linked to mourning.)
• Ensure that foreign character sets are supported.
• Ensure that different date, time and currency formats are supported.
• Create localisation-ready visual content and graphics without embedded text. (The text may need to be translated later.)

There are lots of elements to foreign-language website design. If you’d like to know more, here are nine of the most important ones.

3. Work with professional localisation experts and translators

You may have employees who are fluent in foreign languages, but translation of on-brand marketing materials, technical documents and corporate communications should be left to professional translators. And so should website translation and localisation.

Whether you choose to employ a freelancer or a translation company, make sure they are absolute professionals and experts in their fields. You want your content to be engaging, so it needs to be relevant to your target audience. Native-speaking in-country translators will actually live within your target market, and adapt your text for this audience while taking into account any cultural differences.

4. Research which international markets to target first

Often your developing international sales will guide your global marketing efforts. But sometimes it’s not so clear-cut.

If that’s the case then you need to research which international markets to target first. Our top 7 languages for 2016 should help. But if you’re unsure where to start, you might want to look at these major international markets first.

German for business dominance in Europe. (78 million speakers across 18 countries)
Arabic as a gateway into the Middle East. (242 million speakers across 60 countries)
French as a major European marketplace. (80 million speakers across 51 countries)
Spanish for dominance in Central and South America, and the USA. (400 million speakers across 31 countries)
Mandarin Chinese as an entry point into China. (848 million speakers across 12 countries)
Portuguese to open up the Brazilian market. (203 million speakers, mostly in Brazil and Portugal)
Japanese for a foot into Japan’s soaring retail sector. (128 million speakers, mostly in Japan)
Russian for the political sector, and oil and gas industry. (166 million speakers across 16 countries)

And if you’re still in doubt, here’s an insight into the top language choices for start-ups.

5. Make your brand internationally relevant

By making your brand relevant for global markets from the start, you’ll find it easier to gain recognition in foreign marketplaces.

Simple things like celebrating holidays, recognising international events and noting differences between cultures can help make your brand globally appealing.

Plus if your employees start thinking internationally from the off, it will be an easier transition when it really matters.

6. Consider international SEO

SEO might seem like a mind-boggling task, but there are a few simple things you can do to make your content better optimised for international search engines.

• Use the correct spelling variations. e.g. British English vs. US English
• Make sure the date format is correct for that country
• Use meta tags to signal the correct language to search engines
• Use inbound links from target countries
• Ensure your site appears on overseas search engines, including Baidu for China and Yandex for Russia

7. Check out overseas social media

Certain social media sites have more or less influence in different marketplaces. Be sure to research the most relevant social media for your business in your target market.

Some countries have popular social media sites that you might not have even heard of. Consider adding Xing for German markets and sharing product videos on Tudou in China.

Also, be sure to take note whether a social media site is blocked or censored in the target country.

And when you’re ready to communicate with your customers in foreign languages, think about creating a social media page for each language.

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Sure Languages is a professional translation company based in the UK. We help businesses from all sectors communicate in over 100 languages through our specialised translation, interpreting and voiceover services.