Breaking cultural barriers: how to position your business for international success.

Author:Virk, Mostansar

Many organizations in Southeast Michigan provide assistance on managing and establishing businesses. Some even provide guidance on how to obtain funding and customers or how to properly market businesses. These are great resources if you're keeping your business in the U.S., but if you're looking to expand the business overseas to other markets, there's a lot more to consider.


Executing a business strategy in the international marketplace is a much different phenomenon than doing so in the national market, and it's even further removed from strategies used in the local market. Preparing content in order for businesses to successfully position themselves in the international marketplace is so complex, companies usually don't think about it until the 11th hour. Businesses end up rushing, and in the process, make mistakes that cost not just dollars, but position in the international marketplace.

Assuming a business has exportable goods or services, has decided what country to expand to and has obtained all the necessary business licenses, the following is a list of activities a business should do before competing in the international marketplace:

1 Web site Localization

There is a misconception that web users all over the world are comfortable with the English language. This might be true for purely informational Web sites not holding a lot of value. When selling products or services, providing product documentation and manuals or interacting with customers online, Web site localization to the language of the targeted country is imperative.

Research dating back to 1998 indicates "a high propensity for people to buy in their own language," Therefore, it is natural for people to spend more time and money on Web sites localized in their own language. Another study done in 2007 of more than 2000 web users from eight different countries found the "vast majority (85.3 percent) of the respondents feel that having pre-purchase information in their own language is a critical factor in buying insurance and other financial services." In the same study, over two-thirds (67.4 percent) visit English-language sites monthly, but just a quarter (25.5 percent) actually purchased goods or services from those Web sites. Localizing Web sites might be the single most valuable investment with the highest possible return in the international marketplace. There are various components to Web site localization that deserve a mention:

  1. Rewrite the...

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