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Top-Shelf Tip No. 060:

"If you don’t drive your business, you will be driven out of business."

B.C. Forbes

Five Tips To Take Your Business Global

No matter the size of your business, at some point it will be affected by today's global business environment. Perhaps you use overseas suppliers or you are working with overseas contractors or clients. Whether or not you plan to actually operate your business in another country, it's important to understand a few basics about taking your business global. Promotional Consultant Today shares these five tips:

1. Do your homework: We have instant access to an internet of information with a great deal of support for marketing products or services overseas. Check out the Small Business Administration's online guidelines for doing business abroad. Then search the U.S. Census Bureau's website for "U.S. exports of goods by end-use category and commodity," "services by major category," and the "top U.S. trading partners as of December 2015." These resources will lead you to plenty more so you can determine your potential in international markets.

2. Know your target markets: Once you've assessed your potential and zeroed in on some markets, you need to understand your target market so you can tailor your business to it. For example, will the names of your products and services be accepted or do you need to have them translated or transliterated? A good place to start, especially for small- and medium-sized businesses, is your local or national translators association. Professional translators are much more than linguistic experts; they also possess an intimate understanding of the business culture in the target markets in which they specialize. Most associations have online searchable directories where you can find a professional who translates from English into the language of your target market. By taking a proactive approach to your branding before entering the market, you'll avoid any potential mishaps.

3. Localize: Once you've taken a hard look at your brand, it's time to localize your entire storefront. And like your brand, this means finding professionals to translate and localize your website and marketing materials. A small team of translation professionals can likely help if your company is relatively small and only targeting a few markets, but you'll want to consider contracting a language company if you're looking at more than three or four markets. The professionals who helped you understand your target market are a great place to start. Avoid the temptation to add one of those plug-ins that automatically translate web pages and blog posts, because you're asking for trouble. Hiring professionals will ensure that your foreign-language website really reaches and resonates with consumers. Communicating with customers in their own language does wonders for relations and retention, not to mention helps avoid any cultural misunderstandings. If you really want to up your international sales potential, hire an interpreter and follow up some of those emails with a personal phone call to your target customers.

4. Know what you say and sign: Speaking your customers' language will likely go beyond your website and marketing materials and include communication supplies and/or local agents. Even if you've hired a local representative who speaks English and understands the current laws for doing business, it's still wise to have all important documents translated into English for you and your attorney to review. Taking a hard look at contracts before you sign them will save time, money and aggravation in the long run.

5. Get Paid: No matter how well you manage your brand, localization and communication, you'll need to ensure that you get paid and that getting paid doesn't cost you too much. International transactions can be an expensive enterprise, so proper preparation should be part of your expansion plan. Do you need to adjust your prices in the respective markets to account for international wire transfer or online payment portal fees? Be sure to check with your bank or other international financial consultant to make sure you choose the payment options best for you.

Do your homework and you'll be well on your way to going global and achieving international success.

Source: Anne Connor is an active member of the American Translators Association. The American Translators Association represents over 10,000 translators and interpreters across 91 countries. Along with advancing the translation and interpreting professions, ATA promotes the education and development of language services providers and consumers alike.

Compiled by Cassandra Johnson