In today’s globalised business environment, effective cross-cultural communication and competence is more important than ever before. With the economic downturn and opportunities created by the web, many businesses that previously lacked the infrastructure to expand are now venturing into new markets overseas.
A business’ ability to communicate across cultural divides is key to the level of success it can expect to achieve in foreign markets. While expansion into Western Europe or North America may provide linguistic divides, the cultural diversity at play is relatively minimal. However, cast your eyes further afield, to Asia, Eastern Europe or South America, and there’s a cultural chasm that can lead to misunderstandings and damaging blunders that can cost you prospective customers and clients.
The barriers to cross-cultural communication
Cultural generalisations and stereotypes can present a huge challenge for businesses with international aspirations. A simple choice such as a translation service rather than a full transcreation of your website can alienate prospective customers and limit the success of your expansion overseas.
In many cases there are cross-cultural communication ‘rules’ a business will not know exist. Then there are the nuances of language that a simple translation will not account for. The recreation of your website by a mother-tongue linguist who lives in the target country will ensure your marketing communications take account of the relevant linguistic and cultural conventions.
The evolution of language
Companies that successfully make their mark on overseas markets pay attention to the trends and evolution present in language. The introduction of social media presents both a challenge and an opportunity for overseas companies. While this platform levels the playing field by allowing new entrants with minimal budgets to compete with established, domestic based businesses, the colloquial language on social media can make if difficult for non-domestic businesses to build a following.
Improving your cross-cultural communication skills
Your level of domestic communication and people skills count for nothing when you set foot in new markets. Of course, an organisation’s ability to communicate effectively overseas will improve with international experience and increased exposure to different cultures. However, if you want to hit the ground running, here are a few methods of improving your cross-cultural communication.
• A simple telephone interpretation service can help you communicate with foreign clients and customers from the off. Fast, effective communication allows you to bypass language barriers and cross cultural divides without having to invest heavily in a foreign language customer service team.
• Foreign language copywriting allows you to market to overseas customers in an authentic and believable way. Creating native marketing materials can convince overseas customers they are dealing with a domestic supplier.
• Businesses based in the UK can pay a small fee for a native business address and phone number to win the trust of overseas customers. An overseas business address and phone number is a thinly veiled façade if your website is written in English, but if you’ve gone to the trouble of transcreating your website under a foreign URL, a native address and phone number are the perfect finishing touch.
Has your business borne the brunt of any cross-cultural communication blunders? Perhaps you’re currently expanding into new markets overseas? Either way, we’d love to hear from you, so please share your experiences in the comments section below.