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Four things you’ll probably need to translate when you start exporting

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So you’ve decided to make the leap into trading abroad. Amongst the whirlwind of things you need to consider when you start exporting, here are the things you’ll probably need to translate if you want to be successful:

  1. Your website

Done properly, translating your website is the most effective way of reaching your chosen foreign market. Consider buying a domain in the country you’re targeting, such as for Germany or for Spain.

This way it’s more likely that your domain will be crawled by local search engines, although it’s just as important to get your content translated by someone who understands search engine optimisation (SEO). Just because a term is searched for thousands of times in the UK, it doesn’t mean its direct translation will get you to the top of Google in another language.

If you’re serious about reaching as many people as possible online, hire a translation company who can research and produce SEO-friendly copy in your target language.

  1. Your customs and logistics documentation

If you want to ensure that you get paid and your customer receives what they purchased, your customs and logistics documentation needs to be absolutely watertight.

That means making sure it’s properly translated according to the laws of your target country. This could include the bill of lading, your insurance policy, customs value declaration and commercial invoice, amongst several other documents.

The bill of lading is a legal document that acts as a receipt that the goods have been loaded for transport; it contains the terms of the contract for transportation and serves as a document of title that permits the sale of the goods. It contains very specific terminology that should be translated by a professional with experience of logistics, your industry and your target country’s legal system.

The same is true for the rest of your documentation – having someone who speaks the language is not enough. Make sure you use an expert.

  1. Your contracts and legal disclaimers

Whether it’s a joint venture or a simple agreement between importer and exporter, getting your contracts properly translated should be one of the first things you do.

The same caveat applies as with your customs and freight documentation – get the translations done by a legal expert with experience in your particular industry and a deep understanding of each country’s legal system. It also makes sense for both parties to agree to a single neutral translation firm to do the work. That way there can be no accusations of bias should a dispute arise.

If you’ve got a web presence, in addition to SEO-friendly customer content, you should also include a properly translated version of your privacy policy, terms and conditions, guarantees, returns and refunds policy and any aftersales service. Don’t forget to highlight if these policies don’t apply to overseas customers.

  1. Your packaging material and instructions

Whether you’re exporting anything from textiles to cosmetics, the EU says countries can stipulate that labels are translated into their national language. The rules are even stricter when it comes to food. From allergen warnings to nutritional information, make sure you’ve translated all the mandatory details. If you’re exporting to lots of EU countries at once you can choose to include all the necessary translations on the packaging or use labels, but you need to make sure the information is legible.

But beyond the legal requirements, you also need to consider whether or not you will translate the brand messaging on the packaging itself. According to Common Sense Advisory research, almost three quarters of overseas customers would prefer to buy products that speak to them in their own language. And more than half consider the language to be more important than price.

The upshot is that your sales are heavily dependent on whether you’re speaking to your customers on their own terms. Getting the marketing messages right means effective localisation from an in-country marketing and translation expert. Word-for-word translations are not going to have the same effect in different countries, whether they are produced by a human or via machine translation. Creating equally strong messages in a new language is called transcreation and it’s a discipline all of its own.

Just like any business venture, exporting abroad requires a huge amount of research and preparation. It also involves an unavoidable amount of trial and error. As you progress you’ll find other things that need translating, but as long as you have covered the legal, logistic, packaging and marketing messages, you will have a strong foundation to start from.

And if you want any translation advice on how to prepare your business for exporting abroad, contact one of our project managers today.