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Why Localisation May Be the Secret to SME Success

Rather than spreading yourself thin by tackling a national or international market, you can focus on small markets that are currently underserved. 

Unless you’re a small local business that only serves in-person clients, you are competing on a national or international scale against some of the biggest brands in your industry. This is, understandably, daunting and makes it hard for SMEs to break into the market.

It’s possible to come up with a unique idea that catches the wave of a growing trend, but as business expert Mike Michalowicz discusses in his book Surge, it’s not something you can predict.

So, what’s the answer? How can your SME breakthrough and start gaining serious traction?

The answer is localisation.

What is localisation?

Localisation is the process of adapting your messaging and marketing to meet the expectations of a specific local market. Localisation involves ensuring your marketing and offers meet the expectations of that market. At its most simple, it may look like presenting your marketing in Spanish in Spain, instead of rolling out the same English ads you’ve used in English-speaking countries. Of course, localisation goes beyond simple translation - you need to get the cultural and linguistic nuances of the region to successfully use localisation for your business.

What are the benefits of localisation for SMEs?

After hearing that definition, you’re likely wondering how exactly a business of your size is supposed to tackle something like this. If you’re thinking that it sounds expensive (all those extra team members?!) and it’s just not going to be possible for a business of your size, think again. Localisation is a worthwhile investment, here’s why:

Consumers respond strongly to quality localisation efforts

A 2014 Common Sense Advisory report found that 75% of consumers were more likely to buy from companies if the information for the product or service was in their native language.

You can establish yourself in a new market faster than ever before

Often when we think about marketing, we think about how we can cast the widest net possible. But, as you likely well know, niching down and focusing on a market gives you more power to focus your efforts and become a big fish in a small pond.

Localisation is key to customer trust and loyalty

Have you ever tried to shop on a website that has been badly translated into English (or your native language)? How confident did you feel about ordering from them? Likely, not very. When language isn’t clear, we feel naturally distrustful and are worried that something hasn’t made it through translation correctly, or even worry that it’s a scam.

When localisation is done well, customers won’t think twice about buying from you and if they know you serve other locations, will think you’re a bigger and more trustworthy company. Similarly, if you’re one of the only companies serving a niche market, those customers will be more loyal to you, even if other companies later enter the market.

You can reach your SEO goals faster

It’s much easier to rank a website for a local keyword than a general one because there’s simply less competition. Organic traffic should be the backbone of your marketing strategy - it’s what will give you the longest-lasting results and the best ROI over time.

It’s much easier to do than you’d think

We’ll forgive you if you think that localisation involves having native or bilingual team members working for you on the ground in other localities, but you don’t have to overcomplicate it. Localisation can look as simple as ensuring there are regional terms or references on relevant website pages that appeal to your target audience and making sure the graphics and images resonate (if you have pictures of people, do they look like the people in this new-to-you area?).

Other things you can do to localise is to convert prices into the currency used there and allow them to pay in their currency, converting dates to their format, and using a local domain, if necessary.

Global shipping is accessible (and getting easier all the time)

It used to be that shipping to other countries was a prohibitively expensive exercise. If you were willing to do it, the customer would likely have to pay upwards of £20 for shipping and there were customer service headaches abound.

While this still hasn’t changed completely, things are easier and more importantly, they’re getting easier all the time. Logistics companies know that customers are willing to order what they want from anywhere in the world and so they’re developing better systems to facilitate global shipping.

With the addition of fulfilment services (this goes beyond Amazon’s FBA) you can benefit from national and international logistics infrastructure without having to do it all in-house or try to get all the different moving pieces in place.

Will localisation work for my business?

If you have the ability to set up a location in another locality, can serve them online, or can ship to their area, there’s no reason why you can’t make localisation work and start dominating smaller markets. Rather than spreading yourself thin by tackling a national or international market, you can focus on small markets that are currently underserved. 

The one thing you need to consider is if you currently have the funds to get it right. A quick Google will return hundreds of localisation fails - for example, Pepsi failed to capture their “We bring you back to life” slogan when they translated it into Chinese as “We bring your ancestors back from the grave”. Yeah, that’s probably not what you want when you crack open a can of Pepsi.

That said, don’t let the fact that some brand giants get it wrong scare you away from jumping into localisation in other languages. You can avoid this mistake by working with a company that specialises in localisation services, or even just one or two trusted native speakers.

Start Small

The journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step, so think about that first step for your business. If you want to compete with the biggest brands out there, try competing with them on a smaller stage first (or better yet, somewhere they neglect). When you first tackle localisation, don’t bite off more than you can chew - translate your website to German, French, or Spanish first, to best suit your second-biggest market, rather than trying to have it translated into all three at once.

If you need to think smaller, try a different region of the country or a different city, first. Marketing in Brighton and Birmingham can be two very different ventures, depending on your business.

To find out more about how we can support your business, click here. Don’t forget about our monthly competition to win some branding support if you are an SME. Sign up now to be in with the chance to win a branding package or a set of social media templates!

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