If your small business plans to market to consumers in foreign markets or establish business operations overseas, it will be crucial to adapt to each market. Each country, and sometimes individual regions with the same country, has its own particular culture, complete with norms for language, religion, behavior, gender roles and business practices. If you don't adapt business practices to specific cultures, you could offend target consumers.
If you plan to travel to foreign countries and participate in business meetings, negotiations, training or scouting locations for a potential expansion, count on being judged for how appropriate your behavior is by local counterparts. What might be acceptable at home can have a different impact overseas. This requires adapting to local business norms. For example, an American boss might have to give feedback to Japanese employees using a more indirect style than she would use to workers at home.
In marketing to people of other language backgrounds abroad, it's not sufficient to translate written communications using a language translation tool to produce copy like an updated label. Hire someone to translate messages who understands both languages and cultures, so that messages representing your brand will be appropriate to the foreign culture. Translating requires cultural intelligence, which is the ability to understand the differences between two cultures and a general understanding of how cultures operate. For example, a skilled translator avoids using concepts specific to a home market that do not have an equivalent in the foreign culture, such as slang words and colloquialisms.
If your business model uses the web and website content to market to consumers in other cultures, it's important to customize that content so each audience gets the same general message. This is not just about translating written content with sensitivity to language differences. It's about adapting webpage styles, fonts, images, music clips, videos, emoticons, artwork and other types of content to the foreign culture. This means you may have to create a different version of your website for each country. If you create a video message and have it translated into another language and dubbed in as the audio, you still might use gestures in that video that are offensive to a particular country's viewers.
With respect to your business behavior, including written, oral and nonverbal communication, remember making assumptions can get you in trouble. For example, you might assume the characteristics of your market are evident around the globe and therefore waste time with strategies that are less effective elsewhere. You could deal with the challenges of cultural adaptation when globalizing your small business by localizing consistently across every business process. For example, you might localize your approach to writing business contracts and job announcements for each new marketplace you add.